Oh, well, shoot (as they say). I don’t know.

We’ve got a problem with guns. We don’t agree what it is, but no matter who you are, you have to admit we do a lot of shooting in this country. We blast away. Most of us don’t, but this is one of those areas where one person can have an outsized effect. And the fact is, other nations in the world do not experience the gun violence that we do here in the U. S. of A. You know, unless they’re in a war. Something’s going on. Can’t keep pretending not.

So we have a situation in which otherwise reasonable people, people I know and love, people who will never perpetrate a crime, who merely want the ability to defend their home and family in the way they feel comfortable with, and maybe pop a deer every now and then, are so horrified by the utterly absurd prospect that someone is going to try to take away their guns, their protection, that they have drawn a line: and the line is All weapons, Always. They might not need a military assault weapon capable of mowing down a crowd of people, personally, but they will now defend to the death someone else’s right to have it. Preferably someone else’s death. Shall we own mortars? Anti-aircraft missiles? Where, on the continuum that began with muskets in the Revolutionary War, do we draw the line?

Charles Harvey Brewster

It is the National Rifle Association that suggested this confiscation scenario to them, of course. The NRA used to be a gun-safety and responsibility organization, not averse to some regulation, but pivoted hard in the ‘70s and now is primarily an engine to energize far-right voters and drive gun sales. It has been wildly successful on both counts.

God’s commandments crumble before the Second Amendment in these circles—or, more precisely, its second half. What, these days, is the meaning of a “well-regulated militia”—that orphaned throw-away clause? The people who claim to know the answer to that are the ones that scare me the most. They are spectacularly over-armed, and they want to take down the government, which is still you and me—for now.

Republicans in the service of the NRA do not hesitate to decry terrorism if it comes in the right shade, but refuse to call this American tragedy the terror it is. Have we really found it acceptable that our children are drilled in the expectation that someone, some day, will try to kill them at their little desks? If we lock them inside their schools and strap weapons on their teachers, do we really imagine they will come out unscathed? Madness.

But talking about this is now called “politicizing” the issue. There must be a name for that special amount of time between “too soon” and the next murderous rampage. It’s so hard to find that sweet spot, wherein we might have an adult discussion. There’s hardly even enough time for a good prayer. Here’s a thought: whatever we’re doing now isn’t working.

They say what we need is more guns. There were about 400,000 AR-15s in the country in 1994 before the assault gun ban went into effect, and since the Republicans repealed it ten years later, we’ve accumulated 20 million more and mass shootings have tripled. “Stupid” is the most charitable word to use for politicians who think we need more guns. It’s like solving the climate crisis by pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. Which is, in fact, the Republican plan.

They say it’s a mental health issue. Why, then, are there so many more mentally ill people in America and why are we making dead certain they can have military weapons and large-capacity magazines?

Why, in fact, is this entire rolling tragedy so uniquely American? That’s what a British journalist asked Senator Ted Cruz, because it is exactly the question we need to answer if we are looking for real solutions. Ted Cruz is not. He flipped the game board over on his way out of the room rather than answer. He stormed off in a red-white-and-blue huff. Because that’s what he’s paid a ton of money to do.