Coda to Today’s Shooting in Arlington


This morning, Paul Ryan eloquently and passionately asked members of Congress and the citizens whom they represent to look beyond partisan political divisions and to focus, instead, much more than we almost ever do, on the fundamental values that most of us profess to cherish.

Unfortunately, the Far Right media has largely ignored that advice, exclaiming over the shooter’s links to the Sanders campaign and, by extension, the bankruptcy of the progressive ideas that Sanders has championed.

Never mind that Sanders has been pointedly criticized for being a much more tepid advocate of strengthening gun laws than most other progressives have been.

Never mind that these same media outlets protested vociferously when anyone attempted to link Dylann Roof’s slaughter of Charleston churchgoers to the extremist ideological positions promoted by some Far Right groups.

But, beyond all of the sincere expressions of shock on the one hand and the all-too-predictable, inflammatory rhetoric at the other extreme, if the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary did not change the national discussion of these issues, it seems very improbable that this morning’s shootings in Arlington will do so. Indeed, if these shootings do change the national discussion of these issues when the Sandy Hook massacre did not, one could say that such a result would confirm pretty much every reason and reflex to be cynical.

But perhaps we do not need to wait for such an improbable and paradoxical turn of events.

This item is from today’s HuffPost Hill newsletter:

Thoughts and prayers: “Following an early-morning shooting at a congressional baseball practice on Wednesday, the House Committee on Natural Resources has cancelled a hearing on a bill to make it easier for gun owners to obtain silencers. A Democratic congressional aide confirmed to The Daily Beast that the hearing, originally scheduled for 10 a.m., was to focus on the ‘Hearing Protection Act,’ which had been rolled into a larger sportsmen’s package called the SHARE Act.” [Daily Beast]

To put this postponed hearing in a somewhat broader context, consider the following extended excerpt from an editorial published on March 24, 2017, in the New York Times:

It is a chilling commentary on the nature of gun mayhem in this country that dozens of cities and towns are resorting to new listening technology so the police can track the location of gunfire in a matter of seconds.

The annual tally of 30,000-plus gun deaths accounts for just a tiny fraction of the total shots fired, most of which miss their targets but terrorize neighborhoods. Amid the lethal cacophony, the police in more than 90 cities here and abroad seek to reach the scene of the latest gun troubles more quickly by using an audio detection system called ShotSpotter, which triangulates the sound of gunfire onto computer maps. Police officers in major cities hail these precise early alarms of where the latest shooting is.

Yet despite these advances, the National Rifle Association argues, self-servingly, that noisy guns are a public health hazard. With the help of supporters like President Trump’s son Donald Jr., a gun hobbyist, it wants to roll back an 80-year-old federal law that tightly controls the sale of firearm silencers. Immune to irony, the N.R.A.’s congressional friends have introduced a measure called the Hearing Protection Act, which contends that the sound of gunfire is hard on the ears of gun owners.

“What about the rest of us?” the nation’s unarmed majority might well ask. When it comes to public health, the noisier a gun is, the better the chances for innocent bystanders to hit the ground and for police officers to apprehend the shooter.

At present, silencers, also known as suppressors, are available only to gun owners who pay a $200 tax and undergo a rigorous nine-month vetting process. Like machine guns and hand grenades, silencers were considered a special menace by Congress back in the mob warfare days of the 1930s when tight controls were enacted.

Firearms sellers, eager to cash in on what has become a vanity item, argue that silencers should be regulated no more tightly than gun purchases. The latter, of course, undergo a shoddy process with dangerous loopholes that Congress has declined to close.

If the bill succeeds, ending the $200 tax and the vetting period, silencers will be much more available to the public. Inevitably, they will show up in the hands of the mass shooters who indulge macho fantasies in brandishing the adapted military assault weapons and large ammunition clips available in the civilian market.

Before congressional lawmakers give in to the gun lobby’s latest twisted demand, they had better ask themselves why they would want to help muffle a shooter’s deadly deeds.

I think that one of the fundamental values that most of us cherish is that we would prefer that our government not stack the odds even more in the favor of any maniac with a rifle, regardless of the political allegiances that he has twisted to justify his rage.

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