It’s Not Too Soon. It’s Too Late.

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In the days following the Aurora movie theater shooting, politicians, strategists, and pundits alike repeated the refrain we’ve heard in these hours following the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin:  It’s too soon to talk about gun laws.  It’s too soon to understand why and how this happened.

I’m sorry.  No.  It’s too late.

Too late for the people in Aurora.  In Oak Creek.  In Littleton.   In … where next?

But so much public conversation about guns sounds like Nick Kristof’s tweet Sunday afternoon, … we have a serious problem:

“On the Sikh temple shooting, I wish I had a faint hope that this wld encourage tougher regulations on guns. But I don’t.”

Is the picture as bleak as this, when The Economist proclaimed it too late a few weeks ago?

“So this is just what one of America’s many faces is going to be: a bitterly divided, hatefully cynical country where insane people have easy access to semi-automatic weapons, and occasionally use them to commit senseless atrocities.”

When did we lose hope?  When did all these elected officials decide that we could never again have a national discussion about assault weapons?  Even in Illinois, where I live, Governor Pat Quinn just this week renewed the call for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, only to be greeted with the sentiment that “well, it would be good but it will never happen.”  Others criticize people who make these statements as just trying to take advantage of tragedies.  A Republican state senator criticized the Democratic governor, saying “It’s on people’s minds right now because of what happened in Colorado, and the governor wants a piece of the publicity.”

Damn right it’s on people’s minds.  That’s exactly when we need to talk about it.  Before everyone goes back to sleep and more people die.

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Chris Rock’s proposal for gun control (ahem, bullet control, where every bullet costs $5000) and the Trey Parker/Matt Stone cartoon “A Brief History of the United States” in the middle of Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine are the smartest things out there on these issues that I can wrap my head around at this point in time.  Check them out.

Because we have a gun problem embedded in a culture problem.

Don’t say that it’s too soon.

I don’t want it to be too late.

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Brad

    There are hundreds of millions of Americans. Why say there’s a crisis if so few, per hundred thousand, use guns to kill? That’s hardly scholarly talk. Quoting a comedian (Rock) and a liar (Moore) are hardly the basis for public policy where facts not opinions matter. What about African-American hip hop culture that glorifies thugs? No responsibility for their actions?

    • Sagrav

      What does “hip hop culture” have to do with the recent mass shootings? I’m pretty sure that the Neo-Nazi who perpetrated the latest big attack had a fairly low opinion of a genre of music that was pioneered by non-white people. And John Holmes appears to just be a lunatic who should have never been allowed to own a gun in the first place.

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  • nedlum

    While I enjoyed the article: the short in Bowling for Columbine was not by Parker and Stone.

    • Caryn Riswold

      Apologies … I thought it was …


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