This piece originally appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian and is reposted here with permission.
There’s a joke that goes like this. A man walks into a bar in Georgia. Mistaking a man at the counter for the bartender, he asks him repeatedly for a shot. The man he’s asking finally turns to him and asks, “You sure you want it, man?” And the first man says, “Yeah, and make it a double.”
So the man at the counter raises his gun and shoots him twice.
There’s another joke that goes like this: since 2009, there have been, on average, two mass shootings in the United States every month (with mass shootings referring to the murder of four or more people by firearm in a single incident). According to the FBI, those shootings account for less than 1 percent of all firearm murders in the country.
Despite President Obama’s poor record on gun control, an area in which he has made little to no significant progress, his administration has been continuously charged with assaulting gun owners’ Second Amendment right to bear arms since he took office. Those accusations, though fictitious, have caused gun sales to skyrocket in recent years.
And, while the administration has done little to regulate gun use, the gun lobby and its supporters have pushed through a preponderance of legislation slackening those same regulations. Perhaps the most frightening of these efforts culminated on April 23, 2014, when Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the “Safe Carry Protection Act,” referred to by critics as the “guns everywhere bill.” The bill allows licensed gun owners in Georgia to bring firearms into a number of public buildings, including bars, churches and, at the discretion of individual districts, even schools.
The punch line for this joke is unclear. Maybe it’s the fear I often feel walking down the street at night, wondering which of the people walking past might suddenly draw a gun from a purse or coat pocket. Maybe it’s the fact that for the first—and hopefully last—time in my life, I woke up in my dorm bed two months ago to the sound of gunshots and then drifted back to sleep as a man died in front of Copabanana, less than a block away.
Maybe it’s the fact that soon, that fear won’t abate at all for Georgians walking into crowded, well-lit buildings, where a drunken debate or charged comment might translate into gunfire as suddenly as a confrontation in a dark alley. Maybe it’s the way the extreme, prejudiced opinions of certain citizens no longer abstractly threaten my liberty via their access to the voting booth but now more concretely threaten my life via their access to high-powered weapons.
Whatever the punch line is, I’m still waiting for it. Waiting for gun laws like this to start making sense, as yet another young man with a legally purchased firearm is carted off to prison or the cemetery, leaving behind him an unthinkable number of dead bodies and grieving families and gun rights advocates stepping forward to say, “It’s a shame, but crimes like this are unpreventable,” insisting that the only solution is to arm more people in hopes that next time someone will turn the gun on the shooter rather than another innocent.
I think the real punch line is our failure to grasp the simple truth that doing the same thing over and over will never produce a different result. Until we make a real move toward restricting firearm access, we’ll keep reading about these shootings in the morning news. We’ll continue crying over deaths we might have been able to prevent. We’ll continue fearing the next person to pick up a gun and punctuate his hatred and depression with a slug in the head of a coed, a secretary or a first grader.
The real punch line is that more than 11,000 people are murdered with a gun every year in the United States, and we have yet to close the loopholes that currently allow 40 percent of firearms to be sold without background checks.
I want to make it very clear: when I say gun control in this country is a joke, I don’t mean it’s funny.
It isn’t funny at all.
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