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When Silence Is Just Not Loud Enough

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When Silence Is Just Not Loud Enough

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Our president was speaking to us in his grave yet hopeful voice, a timbre and tone he has had much practice in using. Far too much practice.

He uses it when there has been a mass shooting in America. And by some counts, this was his 14th time.

“We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war,” our president is saying.

We have been working on that one for a while. But it is really not a matter of human lives lost, people lying in pools of blood or corpses shredded by gunfire.

Solving that problem would be relatively easy. The real problem is political — which is why no gun legislation with a serious chance of passing stands before Congress.

The body counts, the gore, the all-too-vivid last moments captured on a hand-held camera mean nothing compared with the politics of gun ownership.

It remains very easy to buy a semi-automatic rifle almost anywhere in America. Only seven states ban them.

So the killing continues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 guns were used in 11,208 deaths by homicide. That’s a lot. That’s nearly 31 per day.

Why so many? “Crazy” is a popular choice. Do you have to be crazy to shoot and kill 49 people in a nightclub? How about 20 small children in an elementary school? Or 12 people at a Batman movie?

Were all the shooters crazy? Could be. But foreign countries have crazy people, too, and many countries’ murder rates are much lower than ours.

Again, why? One reason is that in America, we allow individuals to own weapons of mass destruction — semi-automatic firearms with large magazines.

And though Congress banned them for 10 years — 1994 to 2004 — it has refused to reinstate the ban even though mass killings continue.

In America, a gun is not just a gun. It is a fetish, a totem, an icon. It has an appeal that defies mere logic.

Charles Bronson — and I swear I am not making up the name — is the former commissioner of agriculture and consumer services for the state of Florida. He used to be in charge of gun permits. Today he is still against more stringent gun laws, such as the ones that would ban semi-automatic AR-15 military-style rifles.

“People use AR-15s to hunt deer, to hunt hogs, to hunt all kinds of game,” Bronson told a reporter, and he said it would be a shame to change the gun laws “because of one person’s lawlessness.”

I am trying to see his point of view: One person kills 49 people and wounds 53 others, and that is nothing compared with the pleasure of executing a hog.

All these arguments are familiar. Everything about mass shootings is achingly familiar — the moments of silence, the lighting of candles, the wearing of ribbons, the hourlong news specials, the flags at half-staff, the president coming down to the briefing room and then the full-scale speech like the one President Barack Obama will make Thursday in Orlando.

“These mass shootings are happening so often now that lamenting them afterwards is becoming a national ritual,” Conan O’Brien said Monday.

O’Brien is a late-night comic. He is also an observer of life in these United States. It is sometimes hard to observe that life and still remain a comic, and I admire him for trying.

“I have really tried very hard over the years not to bore you with what I think,” he said, his voice growing angrier as he spoke. “However, I am a father of two. I like to believe I have a shred of common sense, and I simply do not understand why anybody in this country is allowed to purchase and own a semi-automatic assault rifle. … These are weapons of war, and they have no place in civilian life. …

“I do not know the answer, but I wanted to take just a moment here tonight to agree with the rapidly growing sentiment in America that it’s time to grow up and figure this out.”

Time to grow up. A fine idea. And I really wish the sentiment behind it were “rapidly growing.” Because not everybody in America will get a chance to grow up. Some of those children we send each morning to the “safety” of their schools will never make it back home alive. (According to Everytown for Gun Safety, “since 2013, there have been at least 188 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week.”)

On Capitol Hill on Monday, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a ritual moment of silence in the House chamber to commemorate those killed in Orlando.

Connecticut Democrat Jim Himes stood up and walked off the floor instead. Previously, he had tweeted:

“I will not attend one more ‘Moment of Silence’ on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them.”

“The Moments of Silence in the House have become an abomination. God will ask you, ‘How did you keep my children safe’? Silence.”

“If God is an angry God, prepare to know a hell well beyond that lived day to day by the families of the butchered. I will not be silent.”

And I, for one, hope he keeps talking, tweeting, speaking out and walking out.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, “Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America,” can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: Ted Eytan

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32 Comments

  1. Andrew Long June 15, 2016

    When America “got over” the killing of children – small, innocent, helpless children – in Sandy Hook any hope for gun control was gone. We should never have gotten over that, never. We should have demanded action by our government leaders instead of allowing NRA controlled representatives to shrug it off.

    Reply
    1. plc97477 June 15, 2016

      We did demand action and ran up against the nra and their puppets in the house and senate. We are still demanding action and it is getting us nowhere.

      Reply
    2. Karen June 15, 2016

      The influence of money and lobbying within our government must be curbed!

      Reply
  2. FireBaron June 15, 2016

    “People use AR-15s to hunt deer, to hunt hogs, to hunt all kinds of
    game,” Bronson told a reporter, and he said it would be a shame to
    change the gun laws “because of one person’s lawlessness.” Using a .223 to hunt hogs is about as effective as bringing a fly swatter against them. All you’re going to do when you hit them is get them mad and then they start chasing YOU! Using a .223 to hunt deer, well, let’s just say that unless your first shot is damn lucky, you are going to chase down a wounded animal, and have to put him out of his misery. As for his “all kinds of game”, does he expect folks to use these against bear and gators? Ain’t gonna work!
    If I’m going deer hunting, nothing smaller than a .243. Preferably, it’s a 30-30 or 30-06! If I am ever stupid enough to hunt hogs, I am looking at nothing smaller than a 10mm! I want to make sure whatever I hit falls down dead on the first shot. I do not want to have to chase down a wounded deer to use a second shot. I do not want to have to find a tree to shimmy up to get away from an extremely upset boar!
    I can guarantee that by his statements, Bronson has identified himself as a paid shill for the NRA.

    Reply
  3. joe schmo June 15, 2016

    So they want to dissolve the 2nd Amendment yet want to bring in 1000’s of more Syrians and Afghans? U know the people who prey on women and gays. Wow!

    Reply
    1. johninPCFL June 15, 2016

      Bullshit. Keeping rapid-fire multi-dozen-round murder machines from the hands of maniacs is the goal. But the NRA-owned GOP would rather keep Americans murdering each other to the tune of 10,000 per year so that the manufacturers who pay the salaries of the NRA can sleep well in their McMansions.

      Reply
  4. yabbed June 15, 2016

    Republicans and Bernie Sanders have NRA blood on their hands. It’s the guns. We must control the guns. There is no legitimate reason for any civilian to own a handgun or a semi automatic weapon. A single bolt action rifle or a shotgun is sufficient for home protection and hunting. We have too many people dying from mass public shootings, personal murders, suicides, accidental shootings. We simply cannot continue to allow this carnage to destroy our nation. It is time to vote out of office every single politician who has refused to vote for common sense gun control legislation. It’s the guns.

    Reply
    1. charleo1 June 15, 2016

      Please! Enough with the Burnie bashing already! The primaries are over, and Sanders always was, and always will be, more of champion for everything you, and I believe, than the most even keeled moderate Right Winger alive anywhere in the Country.

      Reply
      1. plc97477 June 15, 2016

        She is right. If bernie would join the dems in voting for gun measures we might get somewhere. But so far he has voted against all attempts to make some sense of our gun culture.

        Reply
        1. RED June 15, 2016

          Seriously? It’s Bernie holding on the show? WOW!!!

          Reply
        2. charleo1 June 15, 2016

          Look, I understand the frustration. But, the problem is much more complex than one Senator. Laying the problem at the feet of Sanders, one very popular high profile Senator, who happens to come from a very gun friendly State. (VT.) But what then of Joe Manchin of WV. who joined several other Dems. from similar gun culture States, in helping the entire RW filibuster the last gun control bill, post Sandyhook. We do ourselves no favors in eating our own over an issue where there is no bipartisan support, and little Democratic voter support for the politician who bravely votes against the gun lobby, and the majority opinion of his State. Because next election, guaranteed, the gun lobby will come after their seat with a truck load of cash. Or recall them early, as did they did in CO. The gun nuts showed up in droves to oust the conscience minded legislators. The Democrats of CO. not so much. And you know what? As to taking on the gun lobby, anywhere? Message sent-message received.

          Reply
          1. plc97477 June 15, 2016

            I am not saying we eat our own but we do need to put credit or lack of where it is due.

            Reply
          2. charleo1 June 15, 2016

            Accountability is good. Nothing wrong with accountability. The thing is, if there is ever to be any really effective gun control legislation passed, the support is first going to need to come from a large bipartisan constituency of the American people driving the issue across the gun lobby barricade. Where Democrats don’t wind up paying the ultimate political price for bucking the NRA.
            The larger more uncomfortable fact is on this, is even those Americans who profess support for common sense regulation. And polls always show there are a lot of them. The election results reveal they are also soft on the issue, when it comes to the reason why they may support one candidate over the other. So if I’m a secure Senator like Chuck Schumer, who will with any luck be leading a Democratic majority next year. And I come to Jon Tester, from Montana. Who also voted no on the last gun bill for the same reasons as Sanders, and Manchin. So, I say Jon, we need your vote on this new gun control bill. Jon will probably ask me, Chuck, how much money is the DNC going to give me to fight the gun lobby that will be coming after me, in my upcoming election? Jon Tester might say, Look I voted for Obamacare, and the Right is still hammering me on that one. Now you want me to tell Montanans I support giving the Federal Govt more control over their guns?

            Reply
          3. ray June 15, 2016

            I live in Montana And I understand his problem,But Montanans are a independent people we haven’t went totally red yet and I hope we don’t.

            Reply
          4. plc97477 June 15, 2016

            How about if we let the voters know which ones are in the pocket of the nra and let the chips fall where they will.

            Reply
          5. plc97477 June 15, 2016

            BTW I would have voted for bernie if he was the nominee.

            Reply
          6. charleo1 June 15, 2016

            I as well. I vote straight Democratic ticket. I can do no other.

            Reply
      2. RED June 15, 2016

        The cult of Hillary has convinced her cult of lots of interesting and false messages. The Bernie is a gun shill is just one of many. But my real favorite of the Hillary lies that she is going to do a damn thing to help this country. She’s gonna be President, Americans are stupid, that’s for sure, but the ones stupid enough to vote for Trump are out numbered by the ones stupid enough to vote for HRC. And let’s watch as the Hillary shills begin to justify Hillary’s sending of our soldiers overseas, her confrontation of Russia, her complete neglect of the raging inequality, and I’m really looking forward to their lies and denials when dear Hills jumps on board for the TPP. I’m certain they are planning their lies now!

        Reply
        1. charleo1 June 15, 2016

          A lot of people are dissatisfied with our de facto two party monopoly. But so far anyway, there’s not enough of us to overcome the inertia, or the many advantages build in by the two parties over the years. Or, in like fashion, the hurtles put in place against changing the binary nature of our politics in any meaningful way. So, in light of the choices, don’t you think portraying those who support Hillary over Donald, as stupid cultists, or shills, buying into outrageous lies, is pretty unfair, and more than a bit over the top?

          Reply
          1. RED June 15, 2016

            I understand where you are coming and your position. Truth be told I will probably vote for Hillary myself, although since I live in Alabama it will be meaningless and I may end up voting for someone else. But let me say that first, no I do not find it unfair to portray those who support Hillary as stupid cultists because in the first place I didn’t frame it as a choice between Hillary and Donald. That may be our choice in the general election but my portrayal of certain Hillary followers as blind followers is not in any way an endorsement of the clown Trump at all although this is the Hillary plan. It’s quite similar to the Con plan. In their case it’s vote for Donald or the terrorists and brown people will get you, in Hillary’s case it’s vote for her or the Donald will get you. So let me ask you, when can we ask for more from our leaders? When can we demand our right to universal healthcare, a decent standard of living, access to affordable education, all the things that many other nations enjoy and lead to their living longer, happier, healthier lives than us. When can we demand that our leaders quite taking millions from corporate donors and then answering to their desires and plans rather than the people of this country? Do we really believe that Hillary is going to answer to us or try to get money out of politics? Are we supposed to believe that the ignorant Cons dance for their donors and deny things like climate change but not Hillary? We can’t prove she has ever changed her position because of a donor, which is exactly what the Supreme Court said in Citizens United, if you can’t prove quid pro quo, then no harm, no foul. But we can’t prove that of the Cons either, so Hillary must be ok with all the money in politics and really doesn’t have a problem with Citizens United at all. So anyway, I don’t want to insult you like I would an ignorant Con, only ignorant Cons deserve zero respect but I don’t think Trump gives Hillary a pass on anything.

            Reply
          2. charleo1 June 16, 2016

            First I hope you do vote. And I hope you vote for the candidates on the ballot that most closely represent your views on those matters you deem the most important. And realize that one, these are the choices we have today. And two, that we must all have faith that the choices we make today will be important in moving politics toward a better place in the future. You ask if I believe if Hillary will work to overturn Citizens United, or support climate change legislation, clean energy investments, regulation of carbon, etc. I can’t know for sure. But what I do believe is the next President will probably have the opportunity to appoint the next 3 judges to the Supreme Court. And if Trump is the man picking them, we can’t expect any of these things will be on the agenda. I do know this, for the GOP, it’s all about who gets to pick these judges. Because they know, that will be the single most important factor in deciding the role of government in legislating, regulating, taxing, and enforcing the rules of the road. From the EPA to the SEC. And on who’s side that Court that will sit on these fundamental core issues for the next 30-40 years.
            And I’ll tell you something else my friend, And I call you friend, because I believe, like me, you are not interested in anything but what you feel is best for the Country. Burnie Sanders has been the best thing to happen to not only the Democratic Party. But the best thing to have happened to the agenda, and common cause of regular, everyday Americans since FDR and the days of The Great Depression. Because if not for Sanders, which the Democratic Party elites dismissed as an avowed Socialist, a 60s free love Hippie, a crackpot, on pot, and so on. But if not for Burnie Sanders, the mainstream Democratic Party would have totally missed, and thus ignored where a full 1/3 of it’s base was located politically. And just for a second contemplate where that would have left the entire progressive movement, if the Republican Party would have been able to launch a serious campaign, instead of Donald Trump?

            Reply
          3. yabbed June 15, 2016

            Berniebots think the truth about Bernie is an outrageous lie, unfair and over the top. Bernie is a fraud. Some people like Princess Unicorn salesmen and send them enough money to live the billionaire’s life of private jets, limos, bodyguards, and being so, so important. He’s spent 30 years at the public trough, thanks to the NRA putting him in office, and he’s not accomplished a single thing but to disparage women and minorities. He’s not a Democrat and we who are Democrats have no respect for him.

            Reply
          4. charleo1 June 15, 2016

            I think you’re an ideologue, who has lost his perspective. And certainly does not speak for this Democrat. How’s that?

            Reply
          5. yabbed June 16, 2016

            I’m just a liberal Democrat who does not want to see a GOPer in the Oval Office and who resents an interloper coming into our Party and being stupidly destructive to our best ends. Sanders has no credibility as a Democrat or as a presidential candidate. He’s just another Ralph Nader or Ross Perot. He’s a total fraud.

            Reply
          6. charleo1 June 16, 2016

            You may think you’re a liberal dem. but let me assure you, you are not.
            Otherwise you would know, the core constituency that has defined, and funded the Sanders campaign from the beginning, has been none other than the liberal-left wing of the democratic party. In Vermont, one of the most progressive, or liberal States in the country, Senator Burnie Sanders polls a better than 80% approval rating, the highest in the Senate. In Vermont, again, if you check, do not elect Repubs.ever.
            Nor did they go for the Ralph Nader types, in 2000, or Libertarians, or wacko Texas business types. Actually, and I don’t relish saying so, but if anyone has a credibility problem in assessing what is or isn’t in the best interests of the democratic party, or even what the democratic party is, it’s you. And on second thought, I take that back about you having lost your perspective. I don’t believe that’s it. It seems to me, you just need to do some homework, and pay closer attention, before you would actually have some perspective to lose.

            Reply
          7. yabbed June 16, 2016

            Ah, you drank the kool aid. The Koch brothers were funding one of Sanders’ PACs he denied having. Hasn’t a friend in the Senate, not a single endorser. Spent over $1mil on chartering a 747 for just 10 family members and let contributors pay for fancy pants accommodations on other people’s money to stalk the Pope in Rome. Spent over $600,000 to charter a private jet serving lobster sliders for a trip to Puerto Rico that was simply a contributor paid holiday. No votes to speak of there. He has over 800 FEC violations and is begging HRC and the DNC to pay his debts – after Jane pocketed 20% of campaign contributions as a consultant to the campaign. Sanders simply stole Elizabeth Warren’s finely tuned and intellectually crafted income inequality economic positions that Sanders did not understand and turned them into slogans he repeatedly yelled at us. NYPost editorial board following his interview with them called him astonishingly ignorant. There you go. But there’s no reason to speak again of the misogynist racist old geezer. He may well lose his Senate seat. VT actually does deserves better.

            Reply
          8. charleo1 June 16, 2016

            Look, you ignore the politics of the vast number of his contributors to discredit him with pac monies over which, if they do indeed exist, he has no control. And you can argue with President Obama, the leader of the Democratic Party, when he says, Burnie Sanders has provided a great service to the core agenda of The Democratic Party.

            Reply
    2. A_Real_Einstein June 15, 2016

      It is time to bulldoze K Street.

      Reply
  5. charleo1 June 15, 2016

    We know by now how this goes. It’s depressingly predictable. There is the mass killing. The news comes to us out of the blue. Across our phones, and I-Pads. Before long will come the numbers. How bad this time? In a few hours, even before the yellow police tape is removed, the names, the photographs of the victims, usually young,… always so young. The profile of the killer soon follows, The questions. Who was he? An Arab? A crazy then? An immigrant? If so, how was he, (it’s usually a he,) allowed in? Was this terrorism? If so, did the President call it terrorism. right off, or something else? Immediately, the hot politics of opportunism begin, before the mangled victims can be removed for autopsy, they begin, to no avail, to no solution. There will be, “statements” Of course, many heartfelt statements from pundits, politicians, and preachers, and if the numbers warrant, the President, Always sad eyed, lamenting. Some, eloquently, soothingly speaking on how tragic an act. How senseless, unthinkable, and other assorted inadequate adjectives. Asking always, how this could happen? Well, how it always happens is pretty much how it always happens. A maddened killer procures a powerful weapon, and, over, and over, and over, it happens. Our prayers go out. Always the prayers.. going out. Never exactly sure what we are supposed to be praying for that could possibly be of any help to these people who’s lives have been suddenly shattered, into irreparable pieces. But we feel we must, “do something.” And praying for peace for the bereaved is the least we can do. And sadly it seems, also the most we can do for the victims, for ourselves, or for our Country. To prevent the collective mass shooting that occurs every day of the year across our Nation.

    Reply
  6. plc97477 June 15, 2016

    I would like to call bs on one part of the article. If you are using an ar-15 to shoot hogs you are not going to have enough left to package up and take home. It is not a weapon that will work for hunting, period.

    Reply
  7. johninPCFL June 15, 2016

    Bronson is another idiot shill of the NRA. The AR15 is one of the worst possible rifles to hunt hogs or deer with, unless your intent is to wound them and track them through the brush (or wound them and leave them to die.) The bullet is light and fast, making it an ideal war round for adversaries 25 to 75 yards apart in line-of-sight. With a direct shot at those ranges, the killing power is about the same as the M14, the AK47, or the .30-M1 Garand.
    The bullet travels much faster than the .30 cal (the reason for its killing power), but that speed bleeds off much faster than the .30 cal – just a basic law of physics. And being a lighter bullet, it deflects off lower stiffness obstructions – like leaves – and that is also a basic law of physics. It was noted with strenuous objection to its adoption by the army and marines during the Vietnam war that M16 shots wounded (or missed entirely) rather than killed their targets because the bullets were deflected by the grass or bushes or leaves in trees.
    So, hunting humans in a bar or on the street is the perfect use for the M16 or AR15. Hunting hogs or deer in a wooded environment is a fool’s errand.

    Reply

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