This weekend's mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse bar, a hot spot and comfort zone for the region's LGBT community was a tragic reminder of three uncomfortable truths. One, that the shadow of Islamist terrorism has fallen again over our nation; whether true or not, the shooter claimed an allegiance to ISIS while on his rampage. Another truth is that our LGBT brothers and sisters are again a target of opportunity for those who want to vent their rage -- whether homophobic, nationalistic, religious or some toxic mixture. But the most troublesome of the three truths-- because it is the one where there is no consensus about dealing with it, is the easy availability of military-grade weapons in the hands of civilians.
In five recent mass shootings that caught the nation's attention -- Orlando, Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and Umpqua Community College-- an AR15 was used to inflict mass death and injury. The weapon is a civilian version of the military's M16, and is normally used on the battlefield, in the hands of trained soldiers, against America's enemies abroad. But in the hands of a deranged home-grown killer, it has become a murder machine able to spew metallic death to dozens of innocents in instants. And despite repeated pleas to take the AR15 off of our streets and out of our homes and workplaces, the killing goes on.
We know the usual suspects -- the National Rifle Association, which can't imagine any regulation of guns that it can't spin into an attack on the Second Amendment. A gullible populace, whipped into terror by talk radio and conservative TV, sure that packs of wild Muslims and vicious Negroes are ready to invade their living rooms. Callow politicians eager to capitalize on civilian fear for a ton of votes. The gun industry, which is happy to profit from the fearful mood of the country. Each group has an incentive to amp up citizen fright for its own purposes.
But an automatic rifle is not just a greasy burger, or a sugary doughnut or a hit of an opioid. If I succumb to the advertising and wolf down a Big Mac or a chocolate cruller or a tab of oxy, I only hurt myself. Sure, way down the line, I might affect my family and friends by dying early from diabetes or a heart attack. I might even cost myself and society some dollars by saddling the medical system with repairing my self-inflicted damage. But an AR15 in the hands of a deranged shooter can instantly destroy dozens of lives and rob the joy from dozens of others, creating a wave of pain, disruption and monetary costs to family and friends in an ever-widening ripple effect of pain and trauma. For years, if not forever. Granting you the choice to poison your own body with grease, or smoke or drugs can be more or less tolerated. But allowing citizens to choose whether to own guns whose only purpose is to blow holes in roomfuls of innocent strangers can no longer by tolerated.
Our leaders will grimace and wring their hands, tearfully tweeting their thoughts and prayers to the dead, the injured and the bereaved after this weekend's massacre. But like a crocodile's tears, they offer a false front to a depraved conscience. This blasphemy of using prayer to cover upan indifference to human life must stink to the heavens. I can only hope that a just and merciful God is working to change the hearts of those who so callously abdicate their responsibility to love their neighbor.
In the meanwhile, God has put into our hands the means for changing our nation's gun-happy folly. We need to reach those who find comfort in defending their right to own such unnecessary firearms as the AR15 and its ilk. We must confront our family, friends and leaders whose consciences are dulled by NRA slogans and talk-radio fear-mongering. Politicians only react when their constituents speak ,and loudly. Stopping the next massacre may not be up to your friendly neighbor SWAT team, as it is to us.