My sixteen-year-old comes downstairs looking for his belt. I help him look as video taken by a teenager plays in the background, filling our kitchen with the sounds of gunshots and screaming children.
I hand him his lunch and say goodbye, asking him one more time if he has his wallet and keys. A reporter tells us about the killer’s social media history.
I yell up to my thirteen-year-old daughter, telling her to hurry up. A reporter interviews a teenage girl about the hero teacher who saved her life and the lives of a bunch of other kids (he died).
I make a wrap sandwich for my daughter’s lunch as a student talks about how all of his friends made it out, but his little sister—a high school freshman—lost two good friends in the rampage.
My daughter comes downstairs and we have a rushed conversation about whether or not she’s babysitting after school, as a reporter talks about the AR-15 Assault Rifle that was bought legally in Florida by the shooter.
I push my daughter out the door and tell her I love her as a teenager talks about how the shooter told him last year that he wanted to shoot up the school.
I turn off the TV and go about my day.
I don’t remember this article coming out in October 2015. It was posted in a private Facebook group last night that I’m a member of. I assumed it was written in response to a mass shooting but couldn’t think of which one (they all start to blend together after a while), so I looked it up. It was written after a mass murder at a community college in Oregon. It also referenced The Sandy Hook Massacre and The Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. It was published less than two months before the San Bernardino attack.
In a nutshell, the article states that the anti-gun movement needs to stop pussy-footing around and take a page from the anti-abortion movement. That we should be protesting constantly outside of gun shows and gun stores. That we need to shame and scare people who want to buy guns legally, protest at the homes of gun manufacturers, and show up at lawmakers’ offices with pictures of dead children. That we need to fund giant billboards showing bullet-riddled victims.
Of course, striving to mimic the nutjobs in the anti-abortion movement wouldn’t be easy. They target women in vulnerable positions. We would be targeting people who own guns. Frankly, I would be terrified to stand outside of a gun show and protest. But I get what he’s saying.
Politically, though, I’m all in, because what we’re doing now isn’t working.
If the gun control movement actually, really wants to change America’s gun culture, they will have to put the least reasonable and the least accommodating activists they can find in charge of directing the entire movement. In order to achieve a realistic outcome, the anti-gun movement needs to fight, passionately and vociferously, for an unrealistic goal. Don’t campaign to expand background checks. Fight like hell to ban all private gun sales, and watch as expanded background checks becomes a politically palatable compromise. Keep fighting, and eventually “I support banning handgun ownership for everyone besides childless victims of domestic assault” becomes the politically palatable compromise position.
These passionate activists will have to seize complete control of the Democratic Party and force it to adopt a position that is significantly more hardline than most of its actual constituents might be comfortable with, damn the supposed electoral consequences, just as the anti-abortion movement has done to the Republican Party. That means getting to the point where Democrats in Congress feel expected—effectively forced by their base—to call American small arms manufacturers and their lobbyists before Congressional committees to publicly abuse them and threaten endless, expensive investigations into their practices.
I watched for years as President Obama tried to reassure people who didn’t vote for him and who would never vote for him that he wasn’t coming for their guns. And yet in a 2015 poll 70% of registered Republican voters said it was likely that stricter gun laws would lead to the federal government taking their guns. So, if a huge majority are going to believe that you’re coming for their guns when you’re not, what’s the political harm in actually coming for their guns?
I’m done debating with pro-gun extremists. I’m done listening to people who think their right to have an assault weapon trumps my right to not be shot with one. I should have been done after Sandy Hook, but I foolishly thought that all those dead first-graders would finally shame our lawmakers into taking action. I thought that the parents of those dead children talking, in person, to Republican members of Congress would actually make a difference. I was wrong. Those parents went through that for nothing.
What we are doing is not working. Being calm and reasonable is not working. Shying away from graphic pictures and videos isn’t working. Trying to have a dialogue with people who don’t care about my life and my children’s lives isn’t working. Having debates with people who pick and choose only the words in the Constitution that suit their argument is a waste of time.
So my response to the gun debate, from this day forward, will be simple: If you can listen to this and still argue for the right to bear arms, you aren’t worth talking to.