Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut has been hailed as a progressive hero this week after standing on the floor of the senate for 15 hours, filibustering in order to push Congress to vote on gun control legislation in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Murphy and several of his fellow Senators, notably Corey Booker of New Jersey, were passionate and ardent in their arguments in support of an amendment written by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California which would prevent those who are suspected terrorists, having ties with terrorists, or on the no-fly list from being able to purchase firearms. Murphy and Booker were all over Huffington Post, NowThis, and several other liberal media sources as highlights of their speeches were shared across social media. Christopher Murphy’s state saw one of the most tragic events in recent American history. Twenty-six people, most of them young children, were killed in a massacre at an elementary school in Newtown. His stand came from a personal place, from an emotional place, he took a noble stand, and it worked. Congress will vote on gun control legislation soon. But before progressives cheer too hard for Christopher Murphy and his band of supporters, just know that the war is lost.
Senator Murphy is supporting an amendment that most people, even vehement supporters of the Second Amendment, can support. As the senator spoke in support of an amendment preventing terrorists from getting guns, the response from many Americans was most likely “Wait, we let suspected terrorists buy guns?” Yes, we do. And that’s a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Because even if this amendment was already the law, the shooter who ended those 49 lives in Orlando could still have bought the guns he used to do so. He was not on any no-fly lists when he made the purchase, and had been cleared of his suspected terrorist ties. The shooter in Newtown, the shooter in Aurora, the shooters in San Bernardino, the shooter in Charleston, and countless others could all still have acquired the guns they used to murder innocent people across this country. So this law makes sense, and Congress should pass it. But they won’t. I hope to God I’m wrong, but you know, in your heart of hearts, they’re not going to do a thing. We’ve said “Maybe this time” far too many times to convince ourselves that any amount of innocent lives cut short will convince our government to make changes. In this country, the dead bodies in Orlando were the price of freedom.
The issue in the United States is not gun laws, and it is not lax regulation. Those are again, mere symptoms. In America, there are more guns in the hands of citizens than there are citizens. Guns outnumber people in this country. Why? Because in our founding document, in the section meant to guarantee our basic rights and liberties, there is a sentence about owning guns. And now, guns are synonymous with freedom Maybe it once made sense to have an amendment like that. When we’d just fought a war for independence, when American pioneers were still moving out to the lawless West, when guns couldn’t fire 180 rounds a minute, it might have made sense for Americans to be able to own guns. Their purpose was clear, to defend oneself and one’s property. Inalienable rights in our country, life, liberty, and property. But times have changed. Guns don’t serve the same purpose they once did. They are no longer for protection or from defense from tyranny, no matter how much gun enthusiasts will tell you that they need guns to fight off a government that grows too big for it’s britches. Why do we have guns? Because guns are a loud, colorful symbol of freedom. Because guns are cool, they’re fun. Because we are a country obsessed with guns, obsessed with violence, obsessed with might and power and anger.
Look around you. People are demanding anger in response to the deaths in Orlando. Anger. A secondary emotion, an emotion that causes irrational and disproportionate decisions, an emotion that leads to regret and untold consequences when you cave into it. Movies are more likely to be rated R for sexual content than violence. It’s easier to buy a gun in some states than it is to vote. Because voting doesn’t signify freedom in this country, the right to be comfortable with your sexuality or your gender is not what signifies freedom in this country, the right to live freely from discrimination is not what determines freedom in this country. Freedom in America is big guns and loud explosions Americans are a defiant people and a proud people. And what better symbol of defiance and pride than a gun that you hold and fire with your own two hands to protect what’s yours?
Progressive ideals will not triumph in this rekindled debate over gun rights and control because they have already lost. The gun issue has been decided. It’s over. Liberal representatives can continue to fight for gun control legislation, and maybe with a miracle it will pass. But we know it won’t. Twenty small children, twenty of our most innocent citizens, couldn’t convince Congress that universal background checks were a good idea, let alone a ban on assault rifles. And even if somehow gun control legislation made it through, there are still all the guns out there. And if people really want something, they'll find a way to get it. So for all the progressives who cry out that we can’t accept this as normal, that complacency in the face of all this bloodshed is incomprehensible; you’re right. But the reality is that nothing is going to stop this. The cause is lost. Even so, I’m still glad Senator Murphy did what he did. Hope is the last thing to die, as the saying goes, and this country needs the hope. We need those who will get mad when a shooting like this happens, who will demand change. We need people like Senator Murphy and Senator Booker who will speak out when tragedy occurs and cry “Enough!” even if it falls on deaf ears, even if it echoes hollowly in the deep pockets of NRA lobbyists. We need it just to remind us we still feel pain, because these shootings are going to keep happening. America is not Australia. America is not Britain. America is America, and until something deep and fundamental changes in this country, something more than any amendment or bill or law, then we will have to continue mourning. Progressives should keep speaking out and keep demanding gun control because we need some light in this madness. Murphy’s filibuster, for what it’s worth, was a small battle won. But the war is lost. Keep your black suits and dresses ready. We’ll need them again.