Don’t ‘politicize’ 19 kids dead because of gun laws? Politics is why we’re in denial

·3 min read
Alex Brandon/The Associated Press

Americans spent Wednesday trying to process their grief and anger following the massacre of 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas.

For the family and friends of those who died, the deep, everlasting pain defies full human understanding. The nation’s words of comfort will help, but will not change facts: At least 19 young children were brutally murdered by a teenager with an assault weapon.

At a distance from Robb Elementary School, the anguish is real, too. Millions of parents took their kids to school Wednesday, or to day care, seriously worried they might never see their children again.

Older students watched the news in horror and fear. Teachers and first responders reviewed safety plans, not knowing if their school, or church, or shopping mall would be next. The shooter, and those who enabled his murderous spree, have stolen from all of us, taking away trust, peace of mind and precious lives.

So it’s beyond grotesque that some Americans believe it’s the wrong time to talk about the bloodshed, or somehow “divisive” or “political” to think about remedies for mass shootings.

“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it,” Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday. “Now is not the time to politicize this tragedy,” said Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr, a Republican like Cruz.

Talk show magpie Tucker Carlson accused President Joe Biden of “desecrating the memory of recently murdered children with tired talking points of the Democratic Party, dividing the country in a moment of deep pain rather than uniting.”

Carlson and his ilk are astonishingly wrong. Now is precisely the time to try to prevent another mass murder. Waiting will accomplish nothing, except ensure that more kids are killed.

Denial and delay give gun fanatics an exemption that doesn’t apply to any other issue. After a plane crashes, or a boat capsizes or an amusement park fails, no one says the nation should wait to investigate the cause in the name of “unity.”

A gallon of gas costs $4. No one thinks gas prices are too political for discussion. When COVID-19 ravaged the nation in 2020, no one said we should wait a year to avoid an emotional response.

In contemporary American politics, a debate is typically impossible until there’s a crisis too big to ignore.

If you have the stomach, take a look at the pictures of the young victims from Robb Elementary. Then try to claim the nation’s addiction to guns and violence isn’t a crisis.

Americans generally agree on what to do: Universal background checks. A national red flag law to prevent guns from ending up in the hands of people at a breaking point. A ban on some multi-round weapons and high-capacity magazines. Improved enforcement of existing weapons laws.

Raising the age to buy weapons to 21 would be an important step.

Sadly, we must also accelerate efforts to secure schools and other public places from armed killers. We’ve opposed arming teachers, and schools should not resemble prisons. But reasonable security steps must be funded and implemented.

Access to mental health counseling must be improved.

Will these steps prevent all mass killings? No. But imperfection is no reason to wait. We don’t repeal DUI laws even if some people still drive while drunk. The same approach is possible with gun laws.

As several people pointed out Tuesday, it took the Senate just a few days to respond to protests outside the homes of Supreme Court judges. When the government believes someone is in danger, it can act quickly.

Every child in America is at risk for injury or death because some are obsessed with buying and selling weapons of war. Gun rights are not greater than your right to life, or liberty, or your kids’. Lawmakers must act now.

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