The New Yorker:
Hey, good morning. The Giants looked terrible, didn’t they? One more Russian connection turned up in the Trump Cabinet—Oh, what’s that? A gun massacre in Texas? Oh, was it a terrorist attack? How many dead? Twenty, they’re saying! Now it’s more than twenty? Twenty-six dead and twenty wounded. In a church, too, small children ripped apart. Who did it? A man with a history of domestic abuse, wearing a ballistic vest, and using an assault-type rifle. Yes, that’s real enough. That one counts as a massacre.
Some version of this numbed dialogue—or internal monologue—must have gone on in countless American kitchens this morning. We have become so inured to gun massacres that the numbers must be insanely large, the victims unimaginably helpless, before it even quite registers as an event. Charles Whitman, the sniper who killed people from the University of Texas at Austin clock tower, in 1966, and in some ways inaugurated the modern American gun massacre—whose chief note is the random slaughter of unknown people by a gunman gripped by a vague and nameless rage—was thought to have done something unimaginable at the time. He killed sixteen people that day.
Feelings of powerlessness and depression are bound to infect those—by all surveys, the majority of Americans—who would like to see something done to prevent these increasingly common occurrences of mass slaughter. It’s hard to be hopeful. If nothing was done after the killing of twenty school children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, and if nothing was done—not even the “bump stock” limitation—after the murder of fifty-eight concertgoers from a sniper’s perch in Las Vegas, a month ago, then twenty-six more dead won’t alter things. But there is never a time to give way to hopelessness: the politics are hard but far from insurmountable, and, meanwhile, as with every public crisis, the truth matters and clarifies and brings light, even when the light can’t immediately show a better path forward. If we can’t defeat the gun lobby now, we can out-argue it, and expose it. Here are some myths that are trotted out regularly by that lobby, and that will likely be trotted out again today.
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