Thirty-five miles northeast of where I sit this morning, ten people lie dead in mortuaries in or around Alvin and Santa Fe, Texas, victims of a teenager who had easy access to guns and potential victims. We know little about his mental state or motives. But we do know that it was senseless and preventable.
Yesterday, during the saturation news coverage from the Santa Fe High School grounds, local officials ushered our governor outside to the press area that had been set up in the school’s parking lot. Governor Abbott offered some words of comfort and some information the media had been awaiting. And of course he offered up the requisite promise of listening sessions, town halls, round tables and such.
Then he introduced two people who had no particular reason for being there — Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz, Lt. Governor and U. S. Senator, respectively. Cruz informed us that “Texas has once again seen the face of evil” and that there have been “too damn many of these [mass shootings].”
If Senator Cruz’s comments seemed shallow and of little use to the moment, the Lieutenant Governor did even better by proffering some helpful tips such as building our schools with fewer entrances making it easier to control access.
Neither of them had a word to say about the number of guns and their easy availability by mail, at gun shows, online, and at retail outlets as handy as Wal-Mart.
Neither of them mentioned their funding partner, the National Rifle Association, the trade association for the gun and ammo industry that poses as a protector of fundamental constitutional rights.
And, of course, neither of them suggested that the saturation of society with guns could have anything to do with school massacres. But they did get to be in front of the cameras for a few minutes and dance around the topic of “thoughts and prayers” without saying exactly those words. The words have become ironically verboten for political leaders at times like these, and most especially for the pious Republicans.
It was important for them to milk a little television face time from the occasion since they are both facing Democratic challengers in November. It was knowing this, perhaps, that made their presence and the words they offered appear excruciatingly insensitive, inane, and insulting. While they performed for the cameras, their constituents wept real tears, held their love ones in loving memory, and prayed intensely and privately.
The public discussion of this type of violence has been notable for its avoidance of government driven solutions. Republican ideologues are fond of asserting that “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem” as if it were a principle that should be applied to any situation in which government could take action for the general welfare.
It sounds like a little happy and harmless libertarianism but it has had a very damaging effect on the polity and our ability to solve the problems confronting us in the 21st Century. It is time to apply the tools of government to the arms industry in an assertive way, It is the people’s government. All industry must ultimately serve the people providing needed products and services, safely and with constraints on their external costs that are left unaccounted for in the profit-making systems.
Guns are designed to penetrate flesh and cause the loss of blood and life. That they should be mass marketed in a free society without any constraints makes no sense. The people have a right to regulate and limit the manufacture and sale of arms and ammunition. It is time we began to elect representatives who are ready to get on with the business at hand.
Then we can go back to talking about designing schools as areas of free inquiry where students and teachers can feel safe that there are fewer guns in society and a reduced threat of the violence they bring. Putting more guns in classrooms is not the answer. The presence of tools of violence chill the air of inquiry that is the fundamental business of schools.