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This may come across as a little heartless and dismissive, but it’s time to put a stop to the kind of useless rituals that rose up after the horror of the massacre in Orlando.
It’s virtually the same thing every time America deals with one of these violent events. We hold vigil of honor and solidarity, like the one at City Hall Monday night. We light candles. We have moments of silence. We march. We plead. We tweet and take to Facebook. We investigate. We probe. Some of us hate religion and the National Rifle Association. Some of us love religion and the National Rifle Association.
We argue about whether someone can use the phrase "radical Islam" or not. We send money to the site of a massacre in a GoFundMe program, even though there doesn’t seem to be any pressing need for money – this is not a destruction by hurricane or something. We build a shrine with flowers and stuffed animals. We cry. We pray and we listen to preachers. We give speeches and listen to speeches. We vow to not change our behaviors because "that would mean the terrorists would win." We sound so brave. That is at the heart of our problem.
None of that really does any good, unless all you want to do is make yourself feel better. What's really going on is that we are fighting the wrong battle.
While Donald Trump and his pack of jackals roil fiercely about all those Muslims, the real foe facing America is violence – gun violence, both random and planned. Sure, ISIS is a threat to the world. But the enemy that is eating away at the American way of life is gun violence. And the greatest barriers to fixing it are a handful of powerful and influential politicians who are in, or have been in, control of the legislative process. People like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Wisconsin’s Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos.
Violence carried out with guns is a national plague, a statewide plague and a local plague. Last year, 145 people were killed by guns in Milwaukee. Over 600 were wounded by guns, almost all of them in a fight. It's safe to assume that the 600 were wounded only because the shooter missed. Last weekend, 37 people were wounded in Chicago, and another seven killed by guns.
After a Sandy Hook or an Aurora or a Charleston or an Orlando, the cries for better control of guns in our country always reaches a fever pitch, and politicians from presidents on down talk about how we need to do "something."
That "something" never happens.
In fact, Wisconsin is a prime example of a place where the opposite of the "something" takes place.
Under Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature, we have gotten concealed carry laws, elimination of the 48-hour waiting period to buy a gun, the right for some people to carry concealed weapons in public schools and the right of property owners to shoot and kill someone they think is intruding on their property.
The only answer – emphasis on the word "only" – is to get rid of politicians who are so beholden to the gun industry that no sensible measures ever see the light of day.
There are two powerful gun organizations in the United States. The National Rifle Association is the one that gets the most publicity, but the National Association for Gun Rights outspends the NRA 2-1 in buying influence with politicians. The gun organizations outspend gun control groups by about 7-1 on an annual basis.
The gun lobby imposes its will in three ways.
The most obvious is that they contribute money to the campaigns of candidates who are in favor of their agenda and who will never pass legislation that might actually do something about gun violence.
The second is that they spend millions of dollars lobbying office holders. Lobbying is both currying favor and providing information that allows politicians to stand up to any constituents who might actually oppose them.
And the final, and perhaps most insidious of all, is that the gun organizations lock key legislative leaders into pro-gun positions. It’s these leaders, the McConnells and Ryans and Fitzgeralds and Voses of the legislative world, who determine whether proposed legislation even gets consideration. And when those leaders are in the pocket of the gun lobby, there is no chance of any meaningful legislation even getting on a path that might result in a law.
Let some lawmakers introduce some kind of gun control legislation, and those leaders will slip and slide the piece of paper around and around until everybody is so dizzy they’ve forgotten the original idea.
President Obama has had to stand up 14 times during his presidency to offer his thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting. That’s two a year. In his term, over 80,000 people have been killed by guns on the streets of this country. That’s more than the entire population of Racine, Appleton or Eau Claire.
Think of this in terms of a tennis match. One player is using a tennis racket. The other one is using a baseball bat. One has the right equipment to hit the ball over the net. The other one is going to miss much more often than hit.
There is just one way that those of us who want change can actually make it happen. We can’t beat the gun lobby the way we’ve been going. We have to beat them at their own game.
We need a movement, sophisticated and better-funded than the other guy. Take your annual charitable donations and then add some more money and give it to gun control groups. Get better lobbyists and more of them. Get rid of the bad politicians and get the good ones. Campaign. Vote. Go door to door. Retail politics.
As hard as it might be to take, the vigils and ceremonies and moments of silence and phone calls to lawmakers and pledges to stand firm may make us feel good for a moment, but really they don’t do one damn bit of good.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.