A vision of a gun-free America



A man in the US took his own life Saturday morning, shooting himself right outside the White House. It forced the Secret Service to order the White House staff present to shelter in place.

Are You Next? We Call BS, student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)The president, in Florida at the Mar-a-Lago for the 14th time as president ready to fundraise and visit one of his golf clubs for the 100th time as president, was briefed on the situation. The scene was cleared, the victim identified, and everyone quickly moved on.

Because in America, a 26-year-old firing multiple rounds into himself right outside the presidential residence is not an A1 story, not a trending topic, certainly not an impetus for policy change.  

American columnists and talking heads were instead still captivated by conversations inside the White House Cabinet Room. Just days prior, the president debated with lawmakers and seemed open to the possibility of gun confiscation and comprehensive background checks, ideas long-opposed by the National Rifle Association as well as Republican voters and politicians.

Particularly shocking was the president's suggestion that he preferred to 'take the guns first, then go through due process'. Americans like to think their constitutional amendments are in order of importance (New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in a 2016 presidential debate that the 'Second amendment was put second for a reason') and Trump's suggestion violated the second and the fifth in the minds of many observers.

But there is not much reason that anyone should take the President's off-the-cuff ruminations seriously. We have seen multiple bold statements walked back in both word and action, most recently on immigration. Those close to the president have also indicated as much. 'Nobody's making legislative policy in the Cabinet Room,' Kellyanne Conway, White House counsellor, said on Friday. And recent reports suggest that President Trump and the NRA. have buried the hatchet, if not the rifle.

The gun control measures that may or may not be up for debate right now — raising the minimum age to buy a rifle, banning high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, and expanding background checks — will save some lives, and therefore should be pursued relentlessly, but they will not be enough.


"Organisers should be unafraid to offer a bold and comprehensive vision for gun-free American society. Yes, all of the guns."


The suicide outside the White House may not spark conversation or policy change — but it should. Nearly twice as many Americans die from gun-related suicides than homicides. The states with the most guns also have the most suicides. And guns make it far easier for people to kill themselves. Will we march on Washington for those lives? Saving them would require far stricter measures than what is considered in the realm of possibility.

What about an assault weapons ban? Studies show that the violence those weapons inflict was exported to Mexico, where the murder rate soared. Will those lives factor into the gun debate? What about the victims of the people all over the world the US sells arms to? These are just a few of the difficult questions the US has long shied away from but which must be brought forth.  

The path forward is messy and difficult. It will require repealing a constitutional amendment, something that is purposefully difficult to do and has not been done in nearly 100 years. It will require widespread efforts, in movies and music and novels and comics, to stigmatise gun ownership. And it will almost certainly happen in the context of more shootings. More dead bodies in American schools, offices, concerts and churches.

While the particular political moment, with all of its horror and volatility, may offer limited resolutions for stopping shootings in schools, organisers should be unafraid to offer a bold and comprehensive vision for gun-free American society. Yes, all of the guns.



Zac_DavisZac Davis is a writer and assistant editor at America magazine, the Jesuit Review, where he cohosts Jesuitical, a podcast for young adult Catholics. Follow him on Twitter @zacdayvis.

Main image: Student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws, February 2018 (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Topic tags: Zac Davis, gun control, Donald Trump, Parkland shooting



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Existing comments

If we’re going to be into this vision thing, “A vision of a gun-free America” seems like a poverty of the imagination. Aspire higher, towards “A vision of a Swiss-like America” where 10 year old girls train at the range, guns are everywhere, guns are safe.
Roy Chen Yee | 11 March 2018

Guns are such an entrenched feature of American life it is difficult to see a gun-free American society. Changing how guns are perceived is probably a more realistic path. Even that statement is a very big ask in a nation that prides itself on being the big kid on the block. Organisers for gun control must persist though.
Pam | 13 March 2018


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