A sadly familiar political pattern occurs every time there's a well-publicized mass shooting in America. Cable news networks quickly switch to "breaking news" coverage. Reporters dig up Facebook pages and social media photographs of the suspect. African-Americans and Muslims hold their breath in hopes the shooter is not one of their own. President Obama offers comforting words to the victims and their families. Progressives call for common sense gun control measures while conservatives insist it's "too soon" to talk about gun control.
I'm sick and tired of this script. I'm sick and tired of all the shootings. I'm sick and tired of the depressing TV news coverage. I'm sick and tired of mining the social media platforms of murderers to determine their motivations. I'm sick and tired of having to explain why everyone in America should not have access to a deadly weapon.
This debate, like so many others in our country, has become tiresome.
Here in New York City, where millions of people live in close proximity to one another in crowded apartment buildings, it makes no sense for everyone to own a gun. A simple argument on the subway or a lover's quarrel in the privacy of an apartment could quickly turn into a mass shooting with bystanders as multiple victims.
In places like rural Oregon, where a gunman shot and killed 10 people at Umpqua Community College yesterday, perhaps it makes more sense that individuals should have access to guns for hunting, recreational and safety purposes. I'm not anti-gun. I grew up next to a cornfield in Missouri, and I received a BB gun as one of my earliest childhood Christmas gifts. I've shot guns at gun ranges. My parents and grandparents all owned guns in their lifetime. And I still know family members and friends who own guns.
But the "right to bear arms" in the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not absolute. It does not give every American an absolute right to own any weapon at any time. No one would argue that the Second Amendment gives us the right to own a nuclear bomb, an anti-aircraft missile, or a machine gun, for example. Nor would reasonable people argue that children, convicted criminals, violent offenders or those adjudicated with dangerous mental health conditions should be allowed access to guns. When we accept those obvious restrictions, we acknowledge that we do believe in some form of gun control in America.
Guns are too readily available in this country. America has less than 5 percent of the world's population but nearly half of the world's guns, the highest gun ownership rate in the world and the highest per capita rate of firearm-related murders of all developed countries. What does that say about us as a people?
Some, like conservative commentator Erick Erickson, insist that gun control is a diversion from the real issue, which is, apparently, Obama's war on Christians. "His administration and allies continue to harass Christians and sue them," Erickson wrote this morning. "Now someone goes into a school, demands to know the religion of the victims, and guns them down. But instead of calling for religious tolerance — as he would have if the shooter had been a muslim — the president instead demands gun control."
My, how times have changed. It was just a few seconds ago when conservatives were calling for African-Americans to say "All Lives Matter" instead of "Black Lives Matter," but now they demand the president specifically acknowledge that Christian lives matter instead of just "All Lives Matter."
Despite the reports of Christians targeted in the Oregon shooting and the shooting of Christians at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston in June, the vast majority of American victims in mass shootings aren't being killed because of their religion. Even in Charleston, the victims were targeted for their race, not their religion. So far in 2015, we’ve had 274 days and 294 mass shootings, the Washington Post reported yesterday. Many, like the shooting in a Georgia barroom or a Tulsa nightclub don't make the national news. Gun violence has become just that common.
When gun control critics talk about the war on Christians or the need for prayer instead of policy in times of tragedy, they're really offering smokescreens and diversions to block an uncomfortable conversation.
Yes, this is the right time to talk about the problem of gun violence in America. It is not "too soon" to discuss gun control. With a mass shooting virtually every day of the year in our country, it's always the right time to talk about gun control.
Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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