By MELINDA HENNEBERGER
The human heart cannot be broken on a weekly basis. Instead, it becomes accustomed. For what seems like forever, thatâs where we have been with gun violence.
As of last Monday, there had been 378 shootings of four or more victims in this country in 2017, eight of them in the month of November. Remember the Las Vegas slaughter of 58 country music fans all the way back in October? A month later, âItâs like it never happened,â wrote a woman who lived through it.
A month from now, will those of us who werenât touched personally by this latest affront to humanity in Sutherland Springs only vaguely recall that dude in Texas who gunned down a bunch of people in church with a Ruger AR-556? (FYI to aspiring shooters: If youâre doing this for attention, keep in mind that we will not even remember your name.)
American resilience is so much a part of our national character that you could say itâs why weâre here. And certainly all those who are suffering losses from which theyâll never fully recover need all the thoughts and prayers we can send their way. But just as âfaith without works is dead,â so too are thoughts and prayers that never inspire any other action.
On âFox and Friends,â presidential aide Kellyanne Conway argued âthe rush to judgmentâ following the Texas shooting âdoesnât help the victimsâ and is âdisrespectful to the dead.â
âThere is evil among us,â she said. There is, but whatâs truly disrespectful to the dead is to throw up our hands and pretend that thereâs nothing we can do. Since when were we so easily stumped?
Conwayâs assessment is also a bit at odds with her bossâ quick take, which was that âmental health is your problem here.â Unless Conway was conflating evil and mental illness, then what both she and the president were really saying was only this: Not now. Never now.
Itâs âa little bit soon,â for that, the president said. Itâs always the perfect time to talk about Islamic terrorism. Immediately after last weekâs attack in New York, Trump tweeted the Uzbekistan-born suspected âterrorist came into our country through what is called the âDiversity Visa Lottery Program,â a Chuck Schumer beauty.â (The New York Democrat helped create that âbeautyâ in 1990. But he also pushed for the comprehensive immigration overhaul that would have done away with it in 2013, when it never came up for a vote in the GOP-controlled House.) But why is âright this minuteâ a perpetually disrespectful time to talk about how to minimize future deaths in churches and schools and malls?
All we so far know about the mental health of the shooter, 26-year-old Devin Kelley, is that 1. Killing dozens of people is never a hallmark of wellness; and 2. He did time in the Air Force for domestic violence against his wife and child. Is it an OK time, then, to talk about the domestic violence that is a recurring backdrop to these tragedies?
The president also said this last week: âWe have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isnât a guns situation. This is a mental health problem at the highest level.â Is it an OK time to note that those who donât want anything done about guns never do anything about mental illness, either? Like expanding treatment, which costs money and which would have been further limited by Medicaid cuts in the failed GOP health care bill? Is it an OK time to mention Trump signed a bill that made it easier for those with a mental illness to buy a gun? Or that legislation that would have expanded background checks and limited gun sales to terror suspects was blocked last year? An OK time to acknowledge that a bill to ban the bump stocks that made the Las Vegas shooting so deadly does not have a single Republican co-sponsor?
Can we really not acknowledge the world of room between the massive gun confiscation that the NRA is always warning about, and the most tepid attempt to make it more difficult for the unstable and the evil alike to gun down a toddler in church? If to act is to âpoliticize it,â then letâs do. Itâs time.
Henneberger wrote this for the Kansas City Star.
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