by Benjamin J. Kirby
As everyone has likely heard by now, a gunman walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin yesterday and murdered six people. He later died in a shoot-out with police.
Once again, I do not know where to go, what to do, or what to say. The shooter, a man named Wade Michael Page, had a long history in the white supremacist movement in America. He'd been generally discharged (as opposed to honorably discharged) from the United States Army, was ineligible for re-enlistment, had been demoted when he was on active duty.
In what sane, responsible universe does this guy get a gun legally (which it apparently was)? The NRA -- and their advocates on the Supreme Court -- won't be happy until everyone has shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, but a guy on the Southern Poverty Law Center watch list can carry a handgun and a ton of ammo.
Something is wrong.
Look, I realize we have the Second Amendment, and there'll be a thousand and one response to Charles P. Pierce's piece in which he asks the "responsible" gun owners to identify themselves. Of course, the problem is -- to take a quote from him out of context, somewhat -- he's right:
"...the argument over gun control is over and that the guns won..."
And he'll get no argument here.
Still, with every mass shooting I edge a little closer to a panic-filled tipping point on behalf of my children and my family. Can my representative government do nothing to keep them safe? It is the year 2012. Are we no better than we were more 200 or so years ago in the wild west? Our frontier days are behind us. I just want to raise my family in peace.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I simply fail to understand our violent world. After all, this is a bizarre time in our history, where we can fly unmanned drones over foreign countries and bring back unimaginable detail for our intelligence industry to analyze -- or flat-out kill our enemies -- but we can't look at a known white supremacist with military training and even have an inkling that he might use a .9 mm handgun on innocent civilians.
Perhaps you'll forgive my naivete. It's a complicated world. We live in an age of warrantless domestic wiretapping. But if we can't stop guys like this before they commit acts of "domestic terrorism" -- which is just what it is -- then why have it at all? We have executive-level top-secret kill lists, targeting and executing enemy combatants and terrorist planners half a world away, but this guy can still make band practice... and, apparently, plot a massacre.
And, to speak plainly, those enemy combatants and terrorist planners are not citizens of some far-away land, some country you can't find on a map.
Yet, we are not a country at war with itself. At least not overtly (ideologically is another story for another time).
Look, I'm not asking the government to kill "domestic terrorists" here at home with unmanned Predator drones (though, chillingly, that world it certianly not unimaginable).
I am suggesting that it is the role of government to help provide certain protections for me and my family, to build something of a resonable, working safety net. I want to be able to take my kids to see a movie. I want to go to my own place of worship and feel safe. Hell, I just want to step out into public and not have to worry that something awful, like what happend to the peaceful Sikh worshipers in Wisconsin, may happen wherever we may be.
So what's the plan? Where do we go from here?