The outcry for more gun laws – matched immediately by claims that gun laws don’t work – happened shortly after a gunman fired 42 rounds during an attack at a Monterey Park dance hall outside of Los Angeles on Saturday night, killing 11 people and wounding nine.
Those same calls for change – matched immediately by the same rebuttal – happened on Monday when two students were killed at a Des Moines, Iowa, program for at-risk youth.
Then we heard the same arguments again later Monday when seven people were killed in two related shootings at a mushroom farm and a trucking firm south of San Francisco.
It’s always the same war of words – We need new gun laws. Gun laws don’t work.
The arguments are incongruous. Or are they?
Here’s the surprising thing about Americans, however: The majority of us agree with both arguments.
And here’s the surprising thing about our seemingly incongruous belief: It makes perfect sense.
Last year, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first legislation aimed at curbing gun violence to pass in decades. The bill enhances background checks for some gun buyers, provides billions for mental health services, toughens gun restrictions for domestic abusers and other things.
A Pew Research Center poll found that 64% of Americans approve of the new law.
The center also found, however, that 78% of us thought the new law wouldn’t do much to reduce gun violence.
Even so, the same poll found that 63% or us want Congress to pass more legislation to combat gun violence.
And, yes, all those seeming conflicting views actually make sense.
Reconciled to gun violence, not resigned to it
By way of explanation, however, I won’t point to politics or statistics or psychology but to … literature. Specifically, the wonderful Amor Towles novel, “A Gentleman in Moscow.” In the book, the protagonist is sentenced to a lifetime of house arrest in a hotel. He spends years locked inside, but says at one point:
“As both a student of history and a man devoted to living in the present, I admit that I do not spend a lot of time imagining how things might otherwise have been. But I do like to think there is a difference between being resigned to a situation and reconciled to it.”
Gabby Giffords:Why I'm optimistic about reducing gun violence
We are reconciled to the fact that gun violence is pervasive in our society.
But we are not resigned to it.
We believe it can change. So even though we’re unsure of the viability of any new gun law we want Congress to keep trying. Along those lines, it would be particularly useful if our elected officials passed the one firearms safety measure that surveys show nearly 90% Americans agree with – universal background checks on all gun sales.
Keep pushing for universal background checks
States like Arizona have laws saying any number of potentially dangerous individuals cannot purchase firearms. Felons. Domestic abusers. Drug offenders. Some mental health patients.
But since there are no background checks required for private gun sales there is no way to prevent such individuals from getting the firearms they want.
A nationwide universal background check requirement would help. The House passed such a measure, but it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. So whenever there is a fresh round of mass shootings, as there is regularly, like this week, the issue is raised again.
We remind Congress, again, that it could act, that it could do one small thing like universal background checks to try to diminish the violence.
We may be reconciled to the fact that fealty for some Republicans is tied more to the gun lobby than to the citizens who elected them.
But we are not resigned to it.
Reach Montini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gun laws won't stop mass shootings. We should pass more anyway