Just hours after the attack in Las Vegas, people took to social media to post about the tragedy. Some posted prayers, some posted pleas for gun control, and some posted arguments against it. But the posts that stood out to me the most weren’t the heated political debates that happen after every mass shooting.
They were the ones–mostly posted by politically conservative, pro-Second Amendment individuals and accounts– demanding everyone to respect the victims of the shooting by not politicizing the issue. I hate to be the bearer of bad news (not really) but there is no way that people are not going to politicize the largest mass shooting in American history. And there is absolutely nothing we can do to change that.
On a political spectrum, I am right of center. I was and continue to be a firm supporter of the Second Amendment. I turn to Chicago, a city with some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation–Illinois is second to only California in its gun regulations— and the fact that they still have highest gun violence rate in the nation. Illegal guns from black market sources are the issue. While I believe that some regulation is necessary for practical reasons, I believe that a general ban on guns will be ineffective and unconstitutional. Sandy Hook did not change that. San Bernardino did not change that. Orlando did not change that. And Vegas did not change that. Despite all of this, I am not blind to the hypocrisy of my fellow conservatives.
Ironically, the same people did not hesitate to politicize the San Bernardino attacks last year, calling for a Muslim ban and a reinvigorated war on terror. But in Las Vegas, the shooter was not Middle Eastern. The shooter was not Muslim. No travel ban would have kept him out. Steven Paddock, a 64-year-old white American domestic terrorist did not fit the scary ISIS stereotype.
Also not equal to shooting up the pulse nightclub or murdering people in San Bernardino. Radical muslim extremists did that. Now what?
— DacianRomân🕇🇺🇸👌 (@Uselessrant) June 19, 2017
Manchester orlando nightclub shooting 9/11 boston marathon bombing san bernardino the facts are each one is somehow connected with islam.
— Paul Jackson (@HappyPants729) June 4, 2017
Trump himself, used the San Bernardino shooting to support the travel ban platform:
We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2017
There is only one word for someone who doesn’t hesitate to politicize a terrorist attack performed by an immigrant but demands that nobody politicizes a terrorist attacked performed by a white American – a bigot. It is equally respectful – or disrespectful – to the victims of a terrorist attack to discuss the political causes and consequences of the attack that killed them when the terrorist is white as when he is not. And Republicans need to recognize this. And they do. They just don’t want to admit it. They lack confidence in their pro-gun rights arguments so they try to protect themselves from defeat and argument by calling anyone who challenges their rhetoric disrespectful to the dead. Richard Wolffe from The Guardian discusses how President Trump and Press Secretary Huckabee Sanders did exactly that.
To show concern about the political climate that allows these kinds of tragedies to happen is not disrespectful to the victims. If anything, it is merely concerned people hoping to find a solution. And hoping to find solutions for terrible problems through political discussion is not disrespect. Avoiding discussion is avoiding a solution. Avoiding compromise on solutions to deadly problems is much more disrespectful to the victims than politicizing the attack that caused their deaths will ever be. Staying silent on the political framework that led to their deaths is disrespectful – discussing it to change it is not. To demand that people stay silent about platforms you disagree with is. And that is what those people were doing.
One influential figure who received heavy criticism for her “politicization” of the tragedy was Hillary Clinton. In response to the attacks, Clinton tweeted:
Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 2, 2017
Now, I’m not exactly a fan of Hillary Clinton. I think she has plenty of flaws and is a corrupt politician. I’m not entirely a fan of her tweet either. I don’t think the NRA is some evil institution that should be demolished. But Clinton is right when she says “our grief is not enough”. Simply mourning the victims is not going to change anything. And demanding that everyone stays silent so that your political platform is not threatened is definitely not going to change anything.
Clinton is also right in saying that we must “work together to try to stop this from happening again”. That is not what is happening now. By refusing to have a discussion and accusing those who have different perspectives of disrespect and insensitivity, all that is happening is that the two sides are polarizing even further than they already have. That will never lead to change. That will never lead to collaboration. The only way that there can be change is if the two parties get off their perceived moral high grounds and talk. If our politicians try to reach a compromise that addresses the undeniable mass shooting epidemic the United States is facing —273 mass shootings in 275 days— we can still protect the Constitutional rights guaranteed to American citizens.
I’m a firm supporter of my Constitutional rights and the Second Amendment but I am willing to admit that the Las Vegas attack was a political issue and if I were in a position to do so, I would be willing to collaborate with those with opposing views in order to reach a compromise that could change the state our nation is currently in. Who’s with me?