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Will there be a time to talk gun control?

Sat., Dec. 15, 2012

If only those 20 children had been armed.

If only those children had been trained and licensed in conceal and carry, then maybe there would have been a way to avoid a mass shooting at an elementary school.

Otherwise, of course, there is nothing that can be done. Not one thing. It’s playing politics to even say so.

Will that be the argument this time around? Will those who rush to inform us, shooting after shooting, about what does and does not kill people, take up the cry in even this case? Don’t bet against it.

It may take a little longer than usual, given the young age of the victims, but the natural cycle of gun politics will follow its course, and we will soon hear: The solution to gun violence is more guns. The more shooters the better. And: It is utterly naïve to imagine that any kind of legal limit – whether it’s on gun-show purchases or waiting periods or magic armor-piercing bullets – can have any effect whatsoever. To suggest otherwise is to spit in the face of patriots, deer hunters and the Founding Fathers.

Perhaps it’s crass or out of bounds to say so. This is, after all, not the time. It is not the time for a discussion of gun politics. It is not the time to argue over gun control. There is, presumably, a time, but it’s never after a bunch of people are shot at a college or a high school or a grade school. It’s later. After we’ve forgotten all about it again.

The problem is, not the time turns inevitably into never the time. It was not the time to discuss gun politics right after Gabby Giffords was shot. Not the time, not the time. Inappropriate. Remember the wonderful debate over gun politics that followed – the rich, factual, informed, passionate back and forth that ensued, once the time had become right?

It was not the time after Virginia Tech. So gauche, talking about the possible causes and effects. So untimely, discussing guns after someone used one to kill a lot of people.

It was not the time after Columbine. Not the time after Aurora. Not the time when – three short days ago – a 22-year-old kid walked into a mall in Portland and shot the place up.

Of course, for some people it is never not the time. Before I had even heard the news Friday morning, I had seen a post on Facebook by someone rushing to the defense of guns. It said, essentially: Outlawing guns won’t keep them off the street any more than outlawing heroin (though it was spelled “heroine”) keeps smack off the streets.

It takes your breath away, really. Someone whose first response, upon learning that 20 children have been shot dead by a thrice-armed man – many of the kids age 5, age 6, age 7, age 8, age 9 – was: Hey, don’t blame the guns. It wasn’t the guns’ fault.

This defensiveness is both reprehensible and understandable. Every time there’s a shooting, you can sense it in the air: the clutching in the hearts of the all-guns-at-all-costs crowd, who realize that, once again, there is a momentary chance people might recognize that, yes, it is people who kill people, and, yes, people sometimes use weapons other than guns to do so, and, yes, laws do not perfectly prevent bad things from happening, and yes, there are other factors involved like mental illness – but maybe, possibly, there is a reason 87 percent of children who die from gunshots in the richest 23 countries in the world are Americans.

Sorry. Bad timing. Maybe we should just talk about it later.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman. com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

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