There is something appalling—astounding, repellent, soul-killing-about picking up a newspaper whose cover-page headline is “Gun Scare Leads to Teen’s Arrest” and includes other interior stories titled variously “Oregon Gunman Wounded Before Killing Himself” and “Carson’s Advice on Mass Shooting Under Scrutiny” and then finding, in this very same blood-soaked issue, a colorful outdoors store advertising brochure featuring hot deals on rifles, ammo and handguns.

That is evidence of a great American schizophrenia, a savage disconnect between our free-market genuflection and its unintended (though not unavoidable) consequences.

Do I believe there is a legitimate debate here in the United States regarding guns and gun ownership, that evidence is being carefully weighed, dispassionately analyzed, and that opinions are being incrementally shifted by painstaking contemplation and real thought?

Get real.

And this is the problem, or at least a significant example of an even greater American problem. A national sickness. A mental health issue.

The gun “debate” is anything but a debate. Two sides—implacable and unyielding, a kind of political and cultural Alamo—exist. Dialogue is nonexistent. There are only simultaneous and maximum-volume monologues, reducing sense to a shrieking babble.

Guns. You’re either for them or against them. You’ve already decided which.

The whole Second Amendment “basis” we all like to natter on about is so much pseudo-intellectual smokescreen. (We pretend to be constitutional scholars when it comes to that amendment. We “know” what it means and —through a remarkable bit of telepathic communion with our long-dead Founding Fathers—we even know what these eminent figures thought and meant. We are fond of trumpeting these certainties. Remarkable.)

Does anyone sincerely believe that the whole gun argument is about the U.S. Constitution anymore?

I will be reviled for saying this, but I don’t think anyone really believes guns save lives. Despite right-wing talk radios efforts to promote this fantasy and its echoing repetitions through the darker recesses of the often septic Internet blogosphere, no one really believes this. It’s convenient to say so if you’ve decided that you are pro-gun and you don’t wish to irritate the National Rifle Association and its fans.

But, I repeat: No one thinks devices constructed solely for the purpose of quickly and efficiently ending lives can achieve a converse purpose and save lives, instead.

Just as no one really cares what a “well-regulated militia” means, either. Or how “infringement” is defined.

What we do care about is either reducing the number of guns in our nation or stockpiling more of them. How can there be any middle ground to this? These two hopes cannot be “averaged.”

Compromise has been shown again and again to be a dead end, a fool’s errand. And even if there were some presumed middle ground, who would be foolish enough to stand there, vulnerable, as the bullets flew?

Rob Huffman


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