The Orlando Shooting: Here We Go Again
Moving Beyond the Same Old Arguments
After mass shootings like the one in Orlando on Sunday, reactions from people on both sides of the political spectrum tend to follow a predictable pattern. Passionate arguments quickly ensue, nothing of any significance changes, and people move on to other issues until the next inevitable mass shooting takes place.
If the shooter is a non-Muslim, the debate mostly revolves around guns. Liberals often call for new or tougher regulations – background checks, assault weapons bans, restrictions on certain types of ammunition, etc. – and blast the NRA or other 2nd amendment advocates for blocking these common sense measures. They also bring up all of the countries that have stricter gun laws than the United States and have far fewer shootings. In response, conservatives argue that gun regulations will do little to stop mass shootings. All they will do is make it harder for law abiding citizens – who make up the overwhelming majority of gun owners – to acquire guns for sport or self-defense. They also, of course, cite the 2nd amendment to assert the fundamental constitutional right to own guns. Any regulations, apparently, are a slippery slope toward unconstitutional gun bans and the confiscation of already purchased weapons. People kill people, not guns.
If the shooter is a Muslim, however, the debate tends to focus on terrorism. In these cases, conservatives take the offensive, calling for the government to take more aggressive measures to prevent dangerous (Muslim) immigrants from coming into the United States and to stop (Muslim) people already here from conducting attacks. They also criticize liberals for refusing to recognize the threat posed by Islamic radicals and for the euphemisms that they employ to avoid offending Muslims. Islamic terrorists need to be described as what they are, and the government should be more concerned with keeping Americans safe than with rubbing potentially dangerous people the wrong way. Liberals, now put on the defensive, criticize conservatives for lumping all Muslims together and not distinguishing between the small number of radicals and the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims who live in the United States and around the world. They wonder why it is that the religion of the shooter only becomes an issue if the shooter is a Muslim, with non-Muslim shooters rarely if ever labeled as terrorists. Apparently, if shooters are non-Muslim Americans, as most are, then they are just random crazy people acting alone. As with any shooting, the primary issue in these cases should be gun violence, not terrorism.
I was bored about five years ago with these same old conversations that accomplish next to nothing. I recognize that gun regulations will not stop all mass shootings and that there is something to be said for individuals having the right to defend themselves. But I also recognize that there might be ways to make our gun laws more effective, particularly by learning from the efforts of other countries. And yes, I agree that it is foolish and dangerous to lump all Muslims or the people of any other religion into a single category. But it is also foolish to ignore the fact that there are Islamic radicals out there, motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, looking to kill large numbers of people.
Political policies, by their nature, are seeking to find a balance between the often conflicting desires of keeping the general public safe and of protecting individual rights. Efforts to provide security can take away freedom, and vice versa. But if we do nothing to change the system as it currently exists, we will continue to have laws that lean too far toward one extreme or the other. Inaction is as much of a choice as taking action.
Too often, our country is paralyzed by people either blinded by ideology or fixated on what should not be done. At some point, we need to move beyond ideology and discuss practical ways to make things a little better. And if nothing else, we might want to stop rehashing the same old tired arguments each time that a mass shooting occurs. Or, to save time, instead of typing up some new posts in social networking discussion forums, we can simply cut and paste our posts from the last mass shooting.