It was just about a year ago that I was sitting in a lecture hall at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. I was tailing Kevin Sabet, the "quarterback of the anti-legalization movement," as he toured through Oregon trying in vain to defeat our marijuana legalization initiative.
Every one of these mass shootings, now more than one per day, are incredibly tragic. But when they're close to home in places you've been, like the Clackamas Town Center shooter two years ago this month, or the Thurston High (Springfield) school shooter that happened when yesterday's shooter was nine years old, that's when the terrorism seeps into you.
Yesterday was supposed to be a day of celebration, at least up north here in Portland. It was the day recreational marijuana consumers could make their first legal purchases of marijuana. I was set up at the grand opening of a new dispensary when at around 11:30 a.m., the police scanner app on my mobile device alerted me to an active school schooter and double-digit casualties.
I mentioned the news to the people around our table. Literally immediately, the first things I heard from the woman to my right included "too many guns," followed by the young man to my left invoking the 2nd Amendment and discussing his precious double-digit collection of firearms. Soon enough, every cliché in the well-worn and never-resolved American gun argument was on full display, with gun control advocates shocked by the gun nuts and gun rights advocates appalled by the gun grabbers.
And these are the stoners, folks.
I've given up on the argument about guns in America, much like I no longer try to reason people out of believing in parting seas, resurrection, or Xenu. You can amass all the statistics and studies you like, you can point out how this is a uniquely American phenomenon, it won't matter because at its core this has become a religious argument.
"God, Guns, & Guts Keep America Free". It's a bumper sticker you'd see on the back of a pickup truck in Roseburg, Oregon, along with many others defending the 2nd Amendment like a scripture. But that's the only scriptural amendment. You're just as likely to see a "Speak English or Go Home" bumper sticker response to the 1st and 14th Amendments. They rally around the 2nd Amendment like Westboro Baptist Church rallies around Leviticus 18:22, ignoring the rest of the text that clearly contradicts the interpretations of scripture that form their creed. If you're showing them the latest post from Mother Jones or data from the Brady Campaign, you might as well share HuffPost Gay Voices with the Phelps clan in Topeka while you're at it.
This is not just my opinion of the people's views, this the opinion of their elected law enforcer, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin. Two years ago, in response to the Sandy Hook shootings, Hanlin wrote to Vice President Joe Biden requesting he not "tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment." Not a request simply to forgo any new gun laws inconsistent with the 2nd Amendment, but to not even try to use the perfectly constitutional process of amending that amendment, as the 21st had amended the 18th.
It is sacred, you see, and the sure-to-fail attempt to get two-thirds of Congress or state legislatures to propose an amendment to be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures cannot even be considered, even if a classroom full of children just got massacred!
"Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings," Hanlin explained. Yesterday's massacre seems to show Hanlin doesn't know what the answer is, but gun control sure ain't it.
That Constitution was written for six reasons, as outlined in the Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
How well did the current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment serve the purposes of domestic tranquility and general welfare at Umpqua Community College yesterday?
Sadly, it won't matter, because like I said, this is gun worship we're talking about. This shooting in Roseburg is not going to change that. It's another Sandy Hook. Another Columbine. Already the most die-hard fanatics are posting how it's another desperate false flag operation by the Obama Administration hell-bent on taking all our guns away. The more sensible ones will couch their observation of the latest shooting only in the faux-empathetic "thoughts and prayers" bromides separate and distinct from their conceptual analysis of liberty and what slaveowners who owned muskets thought about the situation today and why we need our 30-round magazines and semi-automatic weapons to protect us from the tyrannical government's MRAPs and Predator drones.
Like any fanaticism, it will only end when the older fanatics die out and the younger ones don't take it up. We've seen that decline in organized religion, in disorganized homophobia, in overt racism, and in marijuana prohibition.
But I fear this fanaticism may be the last one America gives up, as it is so woven into our cultural DNA. We may just have to accept that. Australians have to accept that a walk in the wilderness can lead to a deadly poisonous bite. Japanese have to accept that an earthquake, a tsunami, or Godzilla could wipe them out at any moment. Inuit have to accept that death by freezing is a reasonable possibility. And Americans have to accept that a trip to the mall, the theater, or a class could end with a bullet.
I just wish the passionate 2nd Amendment defenders were as forthright about that as I am. It can no longer be denied that maintaining the status quo regarding access to guns and ammunition will lead to continued massacres. If that's the price we must pay for the sacred 2nd Amendment, let's just be honest about it.