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The Politics of Shock

Posted by Sterling Johnson on

Sterling Johnson

Sterling Johnson

After Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Aurora, the Sikh temple and Sandy Hook, what shock is next?

The late jazz/hip hop artist Gil-Scot Heron once observed: "America leads the world in 'shock,' but unfortunately Americans do not lead in deciphering the cause of that shock." Will the recent terror at Sandy Hook be marked as another senseless "shock" tragedy or has the moment arrived when Americans begin to connect the dots and decipher the causes of the shock by repetitive acts of individual terrorism?

The mass murder of children is sufficiently horrendous that even National Rifle Association, that staunch, but feared defender of the Second Amendment, has, thus far, remained silent. This is because we may now hold the NRA, morally complicit if not partially responsible for those criminal groups, merchants and politicians who hide behind 2nd Amendment protections and thwart the "Promote the General Welfare" and "Provide for the Common Defense" clauses' of the Constitutions' preamble.

Lamentably, for advocates of sane gun laws and the regulations of firearms and ammunition, Mao Tse Tung's maxim: "Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun," never rang more true.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook terror, many Democrat congressional representatives, including a prominent senator known for his support for the NRA, have found the courage to call for stronger gun controls but few Republicans have broken ranks to join them in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.

Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democratic senator with an "A rating" from the National Rifle Association, told MSNBC that it was time to move "beyond the rhetoric" on the issue of guns. "I want to call all our friends in the NRA, sit down and have this discussion," he said. "Bring them into it. They have to be at the table. We all have to."

Congressman Manchin did not detail the changes he supported; nor did President Obama, who indicated in his memorial service speech in Newtown, Connecticut, that he will pursue legislation to try to reduce firearm violence.

Gun terror is a part of daily life in the killing fields of Chicago, Saginaw, Atlanta, and Flint. But these individual acts of terror are not "shocking," enough to galvanize our lawmakers to action.

Campaign financing fear of the NRA drove the Democratic Party position shift on the contentious debate over gun ownership and licensing, which receded in the last decade because Democrats failed to keep it on the agenda.

When the Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006, the Democratic leadership made a conscious effort to recruit pro-second amendment candidates in states where the issue was important.

Absent support from Republicans, who still command a sizeable majority in the House of Representatives, any attempt to introduce new restrictions will fail in Congress.

The NRA spent nearly $11 million in the November, 2012 election; only six candidates it backed (1 %) won. That's a 0.83 percent return on investment. But the enormous shock of the Sandy Hook terror has for the moment changed the politics of the issue, especially for President Obama who avoided the subject in his first term.

With the electorate so divided, the President's advisers considered tackling gun regulation a political negative that threats to further erode his popularity among the white working-class and rural class.

Within just 48 hours after news of Sandy Hook broke, 140,000 people signed a White House petition demanding legislation that "limits access to guns"; record numbers of people turned in their weapons at buyback programs this Saturday.

Arriving at sane gun laws will be an intractable political process, but irrespective of NRA membership, class, region, interest in self-defense or hunting, it takes no genius to identify a few key correlations:

  1. There are more guns available, and fewer controls, than ever before.
  2. There are thousands of people with mental health problems, and mental services have been cut while their access to automatic weapons has increased.
  3. There were a record number of mass shootings in 2012 more than twice as many victims as in any previous year.

In a nation with over 300,000 private million weapons and in which a handgun is produced every 22 minutes, gun violence should be as American as apple pie. Between the arms export industry and Hollywood; the single largest national export is death. Are we "that" country or is it is time to have a serious national conversation about guns?

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.


Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.