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Hyperbole & rhetoric no longer tolerable when it comes to gun violence

Six weeks separated the Feb. 13 killing of three students at Michigan State University and Monday’s murder of six people – including three 9-year-olds – at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

A few days after the MSU killings, six people were killed in a shooting rampage in Mississippi. A few days before the Tennessee slaughter, five more were gunned down in South Carolina. This carnage is not unusual. The death toll from guns is simultaneously stunning and numbing. They happen nearly every day. That’s not an exaggeration.

Already this year in America there have been 64 shootings in which at least four people were shot. Of these, 36 involved fatalities in which 93 people were killed. Twenty-five of these had multiple fatalities. Remember, this toll does not include shootings of three or fewer people.

It is difficult to write about the unending violence. The stories are non-stop. Indeed, the statistics listed above will be out-of-date by the time you read this. The violence is not a surprise to anyone. Nor are the arguments raised after each of the more atrocious incidents. Everybody’s position seems firmly entrenched, and little real change is likely.

Indeed, the Livingston County Republican Party is promoting a Second Amendment Day in which promotional material touts“Kids Shooting” as one of the attractions. Obviously, they meant children would be shooting guns but it was still insensitive wording.

So what to do? Just accept it? That seems immoral. As someone said, cynicism is one of the worst traits of conservatism. But any progress on reducing gun violence requires finding some common ground. Perhaps the place to start is with a very large number: the estimated 400 million guns owned in America.

For the Second Amendment types, that number should shelve all the ridiculous talk about how the government is poised to confiscate their guns. In what world could a government, even if it wanted to, go to nearly half the nation’s households and take away weapons from people who have guns and ammunition, and who know how to use them? Politicians who say different are lying to you. They know it, and you do, too.

Gun-control people should also consider this number. Perhaps it could cool their anti-gun rhetoric and possibly allow for discussions about safety that don’t stoke fears of gun-grabbing, nor unfairly demonize gun-owners. While no one wants to use the term “only” in front of “40,000 annual gun deaths” (half of which are suicides), it still implies that in a nation of 400 million guns, somewhere far north of 399 million guns are owned safely, conscientiously, and in a law-abiding manner.

In a perfect world, a more serious and rational discussion would center on why is it that the United States – almost alone in a planet with about 200 countries – has such a high rate of gun deaths and what can be done about it. How can we lessen the chances of children being gunned down in their classrooms?This can be done without threatening Second Amendment gun rights. It will require a myriad of small, sometimes long-range steps, rather than a magic – pardon the phrase – silver bullet.

Don’t expect such a discussion to start with Livingston County lawmakers Bob Bezotte, Lana Theis, and Ann Bollin. They’ve made it clear that they think their political future is better served by pretending the dangers faced by your children come from drag queens, trans-gendered athletes, and history lessons about slavery. To use their term, they are quite comfortable grooming your children – such as the Hartland High School graduate critically injured in the Michigan State shootings — to be gunshot victims.

They only do that because voters let them get away with it. The rest of us should and could do better. One place to start is to eschew politicians who treat us like fools. Another place would be to focus on what works elsewhere in the world.

Or, we can continue to offer thoughts and prayers. Because that has worked so well to this point.

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