Ruben Navarrette Jr.: There are no easy answers to solve problem of gun violence

12/19/2012 12:00 AM

10/20/2014 1:34 PM

Given the self-serving way in which many reacted to the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one really has to ask gun-control advocates: "Have you no decency?"

How about giving a horrified and heartbroken nation a chance to mourn and bury the dead? How about showing some respect for the victims you claim to care about? How about giving politics, pet causes and partisan jockeying a rest until we wipe our tears and catch our breath?

Tell that to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who said after the shootings: "If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don't know when is."

Or CNN's Piers Morgan who, on his show, asked a defender of the Second Amendment: "How many more kids have to die, before you guys say, 'We want less guns, not more'?"

Or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently demanded that Congress pass gun-control legislation and said this: "If this moment passes into memory without action from Washington, it will be a stain upon our nation's commitment to protecting the innocent, including our children."

Intending to capitalize on the tragedy, the anti-gun crowd insists that this is precisely the time to talk about toughening the nation's gun laws. After all, they say, you want to have such a dialogue when people are thinking about the issue.

Yet, that's the whole point. Many Americans are not thinking yet. We're still feeling. Just when you might have thought we were desensitized to violence, even when it amounts to mass murder, the horror at Sandy Hook reminded us that there are still things that we find too terrifying to imagine. At the moment, we're emotional, not rational.

Maybe that's how gun-control advocates want it. "You love kids? You despise when they're hurt? Then we have to outlaw guns. Sign here."

Speaking of feelings, I'm starting to feel something that I didn't think was possible: sympathy for gun enthusiasts. That's new for me.

For one thing, I'm so over guns. And I get impatient with people who love them. I grew up around guns. They were as much a part of my childhood as Little League and Saturday morning cartoons. My father is a retired police officer who was on the job for 37 years. So there were always guns in the house – a Winchester over the fireplace, my dad's service revolver in his bedroom's dresser drawer, rifles in the closet.

I also support tougher gun-control measures. I'm fine with background checks, waiting periods, limiting the number of guns and amount of ammunition sold to individuals, closing gun show loopholes, limiting the number of rounds in a magazine, and banning the manufacturing, sale and possession of some weapons altogether.

But I also put a high premium on honesty and fairness, and I know a bad rap when I see one.

I understand – as we all should by now – that Americans could completely crack down on guns, and feel compassionate and enlightened in the process, and evildoers would still commit evil acts and find the means with which to do them. China has very strict gun laws, and, on the same day as the Sandy Hook killings, a mentally unstable man attacked a school in Henan province, wounding 22 children and one adult. His weapon: a knife.

It helps to have the facts before you make an argument. No sooner had gun-control advocates argued that guns should not be sold to the mentally ill than it was learned that the guns used in the Connecticut massacre belonged to the assailant's mother. There are no easy answers here.

I spent Sunday morning looking for answers in a place I hadn't been in a while – a pew of my neighborhood church. The woman next to me wore pain on her face, and didn't smile once during the hour-long service. I held on tight to my kids. During Communion, I asked the priest to bless them. As we walked toward the altar, I whispered, "This is to keep you safe."

If only life were that simple. Nothing about this story is simple, or easy to explain – despite the attempts by opportunists to make it so.

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