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Tragedy evokes strong emotional responses. We’re human and unnecessary death makes us sad, angry, confused… the gamut of feelings following events like the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton often drive the narrative. For gun control advocates, the oft-used cry of “do something” invariably follows mass shootings, but these events in particular have made the mantra much more prevalent than any time in the past.
These emotional responses usually lack the necessary forethought and contemplation necessary to find real solutions. They become popular because they represent a collective expression of emotional responses. Unfortunately, the calls themselves are built on false premises.
Take “hands up, don’t shoot,” for example. This became more than a rallying cry to represent Michael Brown and the angst against law enforcement killing of African-American males. It sparked a movement that went from passive protest to direct conflict with law enforcement in the form of Black Lives Matter. Five years after events in Ferguson, the mantra is still popular whenever protesters and police are at the same venues. Ironically, it was built on a lie.
Debunked and retracted reports that Brown put his hands up and said “don’t shoot” before being shot and killed barely slowed the momentum of the mantra. If anything, many activists doubled down and screamed it louder in an effort to drown out the truth that he never actually said it, nor did he even put his hands up. Instead, he wasn’t shot trying to prevent his own demise. He was shot because he was assaulting a police officer and attempting to take his firearm.
Just like “hands up, don’t shoot,” the effects of “do something” are being made tangible. Lawmakers across the country, including Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, are attempting to do something for the sake of political expediency. The fear of going into their next election with the label of “did nothing” is too much for many Republican lawmakers to bear, so they’re flirting with universal background checks, red flag gun laws, and “assault weapons” bans. They’re doing this despite many of them being defenders of the 2nd Amendment in the past.
Tragedy changes people, but fear of retribution from a mob armed with a powerful mantra is much more likely the reason for change in many GOP lawmakers today. It would be different if they could do something that could prevent future mass shootings, but over and over again we hear about solutions that we know aren’t going to be effective, as Seb Gorka noted.
There are solutions. There are ways to “do something.” But that doesn’t mean we have to invoke more gun control.
The last time DC responded to calls to “do something” was following 9/11, The “something” was invading the Middle East and the Patriot Act. As bad as those reactions were, I fear this round of doing something could be even worse for America.
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