No need to wait for next massacre to talk common sense on guns

Forget Las Vegas.

When dawn breaks over the next killing field, impassioned arguments against any attempt to reduce the ongoing bloodshed under the reign of the great American gun machine will already be locked and loaded.

The opening salvo phase of the machine’s counteroffensive will consist of earnest-sounding suggestions by various NRA mouthpieces that now is much too soon to mention, you know, politics. How disrespectful!

The fact that bodies are still being counted while this sanctimonious political strategy is downloaded could readily be regarded as the embodiment of bad timing,  as well as disrespect for the dead.

Camera icon Courtesy: Rutgers University
Rutgers law professor Roger S. Clark says the Second Amendment does not prevent all regulation of guns.

But acknowledging ironies is verboten in a war that in the end is not about protecting the lives of regular Americans, including those who wish to own guns for normal purposes, but about privileging the lifestyles of American gun fetishists.

These extremists, who equate freedom with firearms, are all too willing to have the rest of us risk our lives so they may continue to amass their very own arsenals, no questions allowed.

“The Second Amendment … does give federal, state, and local authorities some leeway to impose reasonable restrictions in an effort to reduce the risks of mass killings,” Rutgers law professor Roger S. Clark observes from his Camden office.

“If the [Las Vegas gunman] had been required to do [nothing] more than register all of the stuff he had, would that not have raised … red flags?”

In an announcement Thursday that surprised many, the NRA announced its support for a review of federal law regulating the sort of devices — called “bump stocks” — that the alleged Las Vegas killer, Stephen Paddock, used to enable some the rifles he used to fire like machine guns.

“The NRA believes that [these] devices … should be subject to additional regulations,” the organization said.

Sounds like common sense to me, though only time will tell if this is anything more than a tactical move in the face of national outrage.

Otherwise, whatever happens with bump stocks, whenever the next mass slaughter erupts — and, sad to say, it will — the admonishment phase of the gun culture’s counterattack against common sense is sure to be deployed.

Those who in any way depart from what are deemed acceptable mourning rituals for massacre victims will be chastised for being much too emotional.

We will be advised that candles, flowers, and tributes to the bravery of first responders and civilian heroes are well and good. Which they certainly are.

But daring to question the gun lobby’s stranglehold on our politics? That’s much too emotional.

A day or so into the process that we must endure to adjust to each successive  massacre,  the instructional phase of the gun lobby’s well-drilled counterattack will begin.

We will be informed we are being much too naive if we believe that passing laws will help reduce the crime of mass murder. A rather faithless assessment of the ability of law enforcement, and another of those ironic contradictions.

Nevertheless, we will be instructed to learn (and obey) the gospel: While border walls and travel bans largely impacting people of color will help protect us from international evildoers, background checks and assault-weapons bans simply won’t work against domestic terrorism of the sort most often committed by lone white guys.

Efforts to label ordinary citizens as much too naive to have a conversation about one of the most fundamental issues of our time emanate from those who have been endowed — perhaps through some mystical communion ceremony with NRA top gun Wayne LaPierre — with a supernatural power to predict the future.

In this future, which the rest of us are much too naive to understand, nothing will ever be devised by humankind, or at least American humankind, to discourage mass shootings without fatally abrogating the Second Amendment.

“Courts [and legislatures] draw all sorts of lines with the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and so on,” says Clark. “The Second Amendment is not a talisman that totally forbids regulation.”

In my estimation, the gun lobby’s misinterpretation if not perversion of this constitutional right into something like a talisman enables potentially homicidal grudge-holders and would-be domestic terrorists to assemble private arsenals of military-level firearms unimaginable to our founders — into whose minds, it seems, only a chosen fright-wing few have access.

The latter may explain why we who are much too naive are advised during the instructional phase that any attempt to grapple with the amendment’s 21st-century ramifications is beyond our capabilities, as well as tantamount to treason. Such efforts, we are told, will inevitably lead to an America disarmed, a nation rendered helpless against the malevolent machinations of governments domestic or foreign.

Interestingly, those among us who are much too naive are nevertheless simultaneously instructed that mass disarmament can never happen, due to the sheer number of arms already in circulation.

Yet another of those contradictions about which no acknowledgment, much less discussion, is allowed.

“What is wrong with trying to stop sales to violent convicted felons, certifiably insane persons, [or] even people who have no idea how to use [firearms] safely?” asks Clark, who also believes now is the time “we should be honoring the dead by finding ways to prevent more killing.”

Seems like common sense to me.

It doesn’t sound much too soon, much too emotional, or much too naive.

Rather, it sounds like the best way to remember Las Vegas.