As Monday mornings often go, I woke up after one too many “snoozes” of my alarm clock. Still half-asleep, I opened Facebook. Two words were everywhere: Las Vegas.
On Sunday night, a white man in his sixties opened fire on an outdoor concert and killed 58 people and wounded more 489 more. It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
In these times of division among Americans, it is tempting to use a tragedy like this to tout unity. It is tempting to say that this is not the time for politics and we should all come together to send our thoughts and prayers. While there is of course room for that, our duty as a society is to exercise the moral courage to do all we can to prevent the next mass shooting. Politics is the process to achieve change. So now, more than ever, it is time to get political.
The shooting comes at a time that the Bill of Rights, specifically the First and Second amendments, are discussed frequently in the media. Now that each week NFL players join the protest originally started by Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump is obsessed. The president tweeted over and over again that players should not be able to take a knee during the anthem. Infamously, in a speech in Alabama, Trump said that a player who takes Kaepernick’s lead and kneels for the National Anthem is a “son of a bitch” and should be thrown off the field.
While Trump and the chorus line of critics of these NFL players never said the protest should be completely illegal, the argument seems to be that some values should have a place even when they are in conflict with a constitutional right. Respect for the nation’s anthem, for example, is a value that could challenge the First Amendment right of a player.
Apparently, human life is not one of those values. The rights of gun owners always trump the rights of the people gun owners kill.
Apparently, it is time to bump the Second Amendment up to first place on the Bill of Rights. The only constitutional right that should never, ever, be challenged or discussed with any level of nuance is the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment is the king of constitutional rights. I doubt that the founding fathers intended this.
The priorities of the president and many of his supporters are clear. We live in an America in which it is more American to be a white man shooting up a concert than a black man protesting police brutality.
Let me provide a bit of an outsider’s perspective: In any other country in the world, the morning after the deadliest shooting in the nation’s modern history wouldn’t have been a regular day. But here we are, where mass shootings are as American as apple pie. And we all know the script to follow: #GunControlNow trends on Twitter; a lot of thoughts and prayers are offered; and very soon thereafter we start hearing that any effort toward minimal gun control is an attempt to ban guns — and if only there had been a good guy with a gun in the concert …
In a matter of weeks we will move on to the next news story, and those who lost loved ones or who were hurt in the tragedy will need to live with that forever. Until the next preventable mass shooting happens, and the cycle starts all over again.
It is time for America to be honest with itself about its priorities. America loves guns more than it loves speech. Sadly, America loves guns more than it loves Americans.
If the images of Sandy Hook didn’t change hearts and minds, it is hard to believe that anything will. I will join those who are trying to prevent the next shooting by exercising my First Amendment right and trying to finally add nuance to the king of all rights, the right to bear arms.