We’ve All Been Bullied Into Silence

A few days ago, sportscaster Bob Costas touched off a firestorm by saying that maybe Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins would still be alive if handguns weren’t so easily available. Belcher was a starting linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs who had shot and killed Ms. Belcher, the mother of his child, and himself.

The Belcher-Perkins tragedy raised a lot of issues worthy of debate, including the possibility that Belcher’s behavior might have been caused by football-related brain injury. But there was no debate, because as soon as Costas spoke he was subjected to howling outrage from the Right for even suggesting that guns might be a problem.

According to the code of Conservative Political Correctness, gun control is not a fit subject for discussion, never mind action. Any public figure who dares bring up the subject is slammed with relentless vilification. And as many have noted, whenever anyone links gun control to a mass shooting incident, the entire Right-Wing Noise Machine goes into overdrive about “politicizing” a tragedy. Like what they’re doing isn’t politicizing a tragedy.

I don’t blame Democratic politicians for going silent on gun control, because right-wing craziness has brought about several threats to the future of the United States and its citizens. We have been forced to pick fights to win enough elections to gain, or maintain, seats in the Senate and House. We have, in effect, decided that issues like saving Medicare and getting out of Iraq take precedence over gun control. Being silent on gun control was the price of a Senate majority, allowing red-state Democrats like Jon Tester and Claire McCaskill to win elections.

The Right has done such an effective job of drowning out any attempt to discuss gun control publicly it’s probable most of the public doesn’t understand gun laws and the absurd degree to which Republican lawmakers have worked to make guns easily available to people who shouldn’t have them, including people on terrorist watch lists. For example, just yesterday Michigan passed a law that will allow concealed carry in places like schools, churches, day-care centers, sports arenas and stadiums, hospitals, bars, and college campuses. Great timing there, sports.

Ezra Klein published a post yesterday that exploded many beloved myths about guns, including the myth that widespread gun ownership somehow decreases gun violence. But this is not new; in the past I’ve linked to data showing a strong correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of gun fatalities in the U.S. And “stand your ground” laws have led to an increase in homicides.

But even today, all over the Web you can find wingnuts opining that being slaughtered in schools, malls, movie theaters, or wherever is the price we pay for “freedom.” These people have a weird definition of “freedom.”

One encouraging bit of data in Ezra’s post is that the percentage of Americans who own guns actually is declining. And recent polls say that about 75 percent of Americans think there should be some restrictions on gun ownership, in spite of the fact that we’re not allowed to discuss gun control.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the last election was the uncompromising support for women’s reproductive rights voiced by Democrats. It hasn’t been that long since Dems were telling each other to not bring up abortion unless asked, and if asked just say it should be safe, legal and rare. We’ve also seen a swift shift in public opinion in favor of marriage equality.

This tells us that sometimes, things do change.

Even as we’re hearing the usual nonsense about how the teachers had been disarmed by “gun free zone” laws, and God has been taken out of classrooms (and I say Mike Huckabee’s god is a pathetic weenie who doesn’t deserve worship, anyway), maybe we’ve finally reached a tipping point at which the public has had it up to here with the bullies screaming at them to shut up about gun control.