By Andrew Pillow
America is still reeling from a school shooting in Parkland, Florida. If I had written this article 10 days ago, I could have easily substituted “Parkland, Florida” for “Oxon Hill, Maryland” in that first sentence. If I had waited to write this article next week, I probably could have substituted it for some city or small town yet unknown.
Unfortunately, this trend toward school shootings will likely continue and for a very obvious reason: We are not doing anything to fix it. I’m not being cynical. I’m just making an observation.
This doesn’t mean that people don’t care, or people don’t want change. On the contrary, nothing can be further from the truth. In the aftermath of one of the deadliest school shootings in American History, social media, and the blogosphere lit up with hot takes and think pieces touching on everything from gun control to gun culture. Clearly, people want something to be done.
The issue appears to be that the right people don’t want change. The simple truth is this: The political will does not exist to prevent school shootings.
Political will, of course, isn’t stagnant and it can change. However, we have been in this deadlock for what seems like an eternity. Here is the typical format of a school shooting:
Step One – Shooting Occurs
The shooting happens. It usually doesn’t take long for it to trend on social media depending on how bad it is.
Step Two – Questioning
“Any deaths or injuries?”
“What color is he?”
“What religion is he?”
“What is the motive?”
Step Three – Political Conversation
This is where politicians began to cite the tragedy in their arguments for their agenda. For the liberals, it is almost always a jump start for a gun control debate. For the right, it depends on the ethnic and religious identity of the shooter.
Step Four – News Cycle Passes
Yep. That’s it. We care a whole lot for a little while. Then we move on. And in spite of our “never forget” rhetoric following a tragedy, America is REALLY good at moving on.
So why is it this way? Why can’t we move past this?
1. The pro-gun lobby can weather the storm
It is impossible in America to reach critical political mass for any issue in one week. Which happens to be the extent of a news cycle. Pro-Gun republicans and the NRA can afford to take it on the chin for a week and get back to business later.
2. Liberals don’t vote against guns
Most liberals favor more gun control and will openly say that. However, because the Democratic base is so vast, and their desires so diverse, gun control tends to be an issue that gets lost in the sauce until there is a shooting.
Pro-gun conservatives make it clear to their politicians that gun rights are not just some random issue in the conservative bucket of grievances. For a lot of conservatives, it is the main issue they vote on. As long as gun legislation matters significantly more to the pro-gun crowd than the anti-gun crowd, the anti-gun crowd will lose.
3. Liberals are more likely to cater to the other side than conservatives
Go look at any election in a red state. Whatever Democrat is running is so scared to be perceived as “taking guns away” that they virtually ignore gun control altogether. Whereas conservative politicians won’t give an inch.
The people conservatives vote for will fight for gun rights. The people liberals vote for will claim they want more gun control in closed circles but deny it in mixed company.
None of these things have to be this way. Gun control has to become as important to liberals as “gun rights” are to conservatives. Liberals have to extend the debate beyond the news cycle. Democrats have to come out as gun control advocates and stay out. All of these things can be done. But we’ve been here before…and if history is any indication, we will be having this same conversation next week.