The right time to talk gun control

There never seems to be a perfect moment to address gun violence.

by Hemang Sharma

This summer has been a bloody one for America. Mass shootings have occurred in different parts of the country, killing and injuring scores of people. These massacres have occurred in small, tight-knit communities like Oak Creek, Wis., and big metropolises like New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia. The country has now adapted a pattern for such events: Shock, Acceptance, Grief and the ‘Oh, Well’ phase. There needs to be more. There needs to be a conversation.

This pattern of the state of shock, the acceptance of the horrible tragedy, the grieving period of vigils and memory events and the ultimate phase of moving on is a vicious cycle that both the American public and the media need to let go. Gun shots recorded on a shaky cellphone video, police sirens, ambulances and an occasional shot of the local news network chopper flying above the crime scene give broadcast news enough material to go on for days covering a single shooting event. For its aftermath they rely on the back story of the shooter and the speculative motives by psychiatrists and pundits. The usual suspects are all considered — an al-Qaida-type jihadist organization, racially-motivated killers, LGBT haters and even domestic terrorists — only to be later apologized for and corrected by the teleprompter readers. The shooter is also deeply researched and discussed by pundits who try and root out the cause — violent video games, bullying, depression or religious fanaticism. If we’re lucky, we get to change the channel when news channels play a stereotypical gun-nut vs. an anti-Second Amendment hippie in a heated debate. The politicians come on-air and issue statements along the lines of the massacre being a horrifying act and then pray for the families of the victims. And then another shooting happens, and we move on to that one, following the same cycle of discussing but not really having dialogue on the issue. 

Pick any shooting from this past summer. Be it the “Dark Knight Rises” movie massacre in Aurora, Colo., when a man walked into a crowded movie theater on opening night and opened fire or the Nazi-rock-listening, Taliban-hating, god-fearing man who walked into a place of worship and gunned down men, women and children; the nation was subjected not to a media who asked tough questions from its citizens and the government but rather to one that has decided that it is never the right time to talk gun violence. Whenever there is a shooting and innocent people are subjected to needless pain, the media and the politicians collectively decide that it’s too soon to talk about it. Until a few weeks later when another shooting happens, then it becomes too soon to talk about that one and too late to hammer on the previous shooting. Everyone ignores the elephant in the room, saying it’s not the right time for it to come out, completely neglecting the sensitivity of time in dealing with the real issue at hand: guns.

Last summer when congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot, President Barack Obama had a real opportunity to address this issue. He could have asked Americans to sacrifice, to rethink some positions and laws. Heck, even enact some much needed regulations. He chose not to. This year, he has had many more. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has smartly avoided bringing up the gun debate so far into the campaign. The Republican leaders are so afraid to touch this issue that whenever their NRA-approval ratings drop, they scream panic and head into the woods to hunt something. The Democratic leaders have gotten their spines surgically removed on this issue, as none of them have even attempted to address this issue.

Before I’m accused of being a liberal hippie, let me assure you I’m NOT against the Second Amendment. But to say that there shouldn’t even be consideration for having responsible gun ownership legislation is being close-minded. According to their own survey, more than 80 percent of NRA members are for restrictions in gun ownership. The Second Amendment is vital to a tyranny-free society. I’m only saying that peoples’ right to life should supersede others’ ability to own assault rifles. It is time for us to come together as a nation and have a serious dialogue about the gun violence that has hurt numerous innocent people.