The Orlando shooting in which 49 people lost their lives horrified me, but it is the aftermath that concerns me the most.
In these, the difficult days that follow the deadliest American mass shooting on record, we should not be willing to return to business as usual. We should not accept wanton gun violence as normal.
It is not sufficient to pretend we want progress while changing nothing. Nor is it adequate to ask normal investigatory questions about the murders. Yes, we must know if confessed shooter Omar Mateen was a terrorist who targeted the Pulse nightclub out of loyalty to ISIS, or anger toward Latinos, or hatred of the club’s gay clientele. We also must know if his wife, Noor Salman, was complicit in the shooting.
And we will find the answers to those questions.
However, after the victims’ funerals take place, and after investigators dissect Mateen’s actions in the days and weeks leading up to the attack, America will adjust. The new normal will take hold. We will once again close our eyes to the gun violence that was present long before the carnage in Orlando.
Perhaps I am jaded because 118 people have been murdered in the first six months of the year in Philadelphia alone. Perhaps I am numb because in Chicago, at least 282 of the 1650 people shot so far this year have died from their wounds. Perhaps I am cynical because even after 20 first graders were killed in a similar shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, the laws around guns did not change.
In the wake of Orlando, we largely saw the same political two-step that too often follows these massive bouts of gun violence.
Liberals called for gun control to keep weapons out of the hands of madmen. Conservatives called for additional weapons to distribute to law-abiding citizens. The National Rifle Association lobbied lawmakers. Democrats staged a Senate filibuster. Republicans pushed back against it.
In less than a month such activity will cease. We will return to business as usual.
Unless we are truly ready to accept gun violence as our new reality, we must do something differently. This will require an action we haven’t taken before. It will require listening.
That means putting aside our petty differences just long enough to hear what the other side has to say. Rather than dismissing one another as zealots on either end of the gun violence spectrum, perhaps we should consider that none of us is infallible, and no one is completely right.
Gun control advocates will have to accept that guns are here to stay. The gun industry will have to make concessions regarding some of their more deadly weapons. Law-abiding citizens will have to submit to greater gun regulation. Legislators will have to put people before politics.
None of this will be simple, or easy, or painless. But if, in our collective compromise, we can save even one life, we will have made progress as a nation. We will have learned to listen to one another. We will have made our streets that much safer.
That’s worth just a few minutes of listening.
Of course, if we aren’t willing to pay the price of compromise, there is always the alternative. We can stand in our respective corners. We can shout useless slogans across the space that divides us. We can argue points that matter very little, and we can wait for the next mass shooting to take place.
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