In the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting in America, the usual response is twofold: Mourn the victims and wait for the facts. It's getting increasingly hard to justify the second.
In other realms of public debate, the facts can be used to guide an analysis of any proposed policy response. The problem is that dispassionate analysis of gun-safety laws, no matter how long delayed, never penetrates the panic room in which politicians hide out from their responsibilities.
After a deranged young man used his mother's readily accessible firearms in 2012 to shoot schoolchildren and educators in Newtown, Connecticut, issues such as proper gun storage and the challenges of balancing legal gun rights and mental health risks were frighteningly obvious. Nothing happened in Congress.
Instead, the gun lobby and the extremist movement it has long nurtured went on a legislative rampage through conservative states -- pushing for guns in churches, in bars, on playgrounds, and on campus, concealed and open. Right now, House Republicans are focused on legislation to make crime more convenient by ending regulations on silencers and enabling concealed guns to be carried in places where they are expressly unwanted, and by people with no training or background check.
With each massacre -- from a church in Charleston, South Carolina, to a club in Orlando, Florida -- and with each pointless, preventable shooting in which a child picks up a loaded firearm left by a reckless adult, the gun lobby and its culture warriors issue the same sick call: to counter the effect of too many guns with a rash of more guns, and fewer restrictions on using them. In Las Vegas, one of the National Rifle Association's favorite maxims -- the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun -- was exposed yet again as not just false but tragically absurd.
If the gun debate in the U.S. appears stalled, it is because argument in the absence of reason and facts is circular. Thus a White House spokeswoman for President Donald Trump, who previously called himself the NRA's "true friend," said that it's inappropriate to discuss remedies to gun violence so soon after a mass incidence of gun violence.
There are legitimate disputes about the scope of the Second Amendment, the efficacy of specific gun regulations and the right to self-protection. None of these is debated in Congress, and few in statehouses, because too many politicians subscribe to aphorisms and claptrap in lieu of an honest reckoning that more guns, and less regulation, is a recipe for mayhem. This cycle of preventable violence and pointless debate will not end until more political leaders, and responsible gun owners, acknowledge the obvious: that sensible restrictions on gun possession and use are both constitutional and necessary.