After the Sandy Hook massacre, I was sure that our political leaders would do something. How could they not? A crazed gunman shot and killed 22 elementary school kids in their classrooms. Surely, we, as a nation, would act. But I was wrong. 

I don’t have any illusions that the tragedy at UNC-Charlotte will lead to anything more than thoughts and prayers. We’re a nation beholden to a gun industry and its core disciples who believe the right to own guns is paramount in this nation. In their twisted world view, more guns make us safer and mass shootings are just the cost of freedom.  Few politicians have the courage to cross them.

It’s a view that’s been adopted mostly by the Republican Party. On the day following the mass shooting in Charlotte, the GOP-controlled Florida legislature passed a bill to arm teachers. More guns in the classroom will make us safer, the reasoning goes, because a good guy with gun is the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun. It’s the mutually assured destruction deterrent applied to mass shooters. I doubt the law will deter anybody deranged enough to plan an attack on a school. It will just make them shoot teachers first. 

We’ve seen a startling proliferation of guns in the country spurred by hysterical cries from the right that Democrats are here to take your guns. Eight years of Obama, including two with control of both Houses of Congress and nobody took anybody’s guns. The idea that we’re going to ban all guns in this country is nothing more than right-wing propaganda enriching the gun industry.

Maybe it’s time to start taking guns from some people, though. If it’s okay to profile people as potential terrorists who are trying to board airplanes, surely it’s okay to profile potential terrorists who are trying to buy guns for mass shootings. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of these attacks and semi-automatic weapons are far more lethal than other types, so why not require training and a psychological evaluation for anybody trying to buy a semi-automatic weapon? 

The median age of school shooters is 16 and most of them got their weapons from friends or family. Why not require adults to keep weapons in secure locations or with trigger locks that would at least deter potential shooters from getting them. Is that really too much to ask?

Republicans have won the battle over guns and their prescription has failed us. They’ve pushed policies that have made guns more accessible and ubiquitous and they’ve done nothing to reduce the number of mass shootings. On the contrary, they’ve enabled shooters. Isn’t it time to do something to try to keep guns out of the hands of shooters instead of just focusing on some sort of delusional deterrence?

Finally, Charlotte proved one thing. A good guy with a gun is not the only thing that can stop a killer. A brave person willing to put the welfare of everybody above his own personal safety can, too. Maybe we should be trying to encourage character instead of deterrence. RIP, Riley Howell. 


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