Republicans have won the gun-control battle. They have made many Americans so suspicious of their own government that many Americans have come to believe that the only thing that stands between them and tyranny is the rifle in their closet and the .38 in their dresser drawer. Republicans have made Americans understand that the explicit promise of the First Amendment exists because of the implicit threat of the Second, and that while the rights to privacy and health care are not named in the Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms damned well is. Most importantly, Republicans have joined forces with the National Rifle Association to enshrine the slippery slope as the prevailing logic of public policy in the matter of firearms — to convince Americans that taking the 100-round mags from the gun shows is but the first step to taking the derringers from their wives' nightstands.
As such, the Republican Party now has the kind of historic opportunity that only victors enjoy. They have the opportunity to declare victory while at the same time extending a hand to the losers; to reach across the aisle and to relieve their Democratic counterparts of the terrible responsibility of actually doing something in the wake of national tragedies; to inject some realism into the gun debate while dealing with it on an entirely symbolic level; and most of all, to have something to offer grieving families beyond empty words, ineffectual promises, and hypocritical bromides:
Yes, that's right, a medal. At this year's convention in Tampa, I think Mitt Romney should end the summer of mass shootings by accepting his party's nomination with a promise that, if elected, he will create the most important civilian medal since President John Fitzgerald Kennedy created the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. This one, however, wouldn't go to artists, musicians, writers, entrepreneurs, and other First Amendment types. It would go to the families of those killed by gun violence, to let them know that they are no less vital to the protection of American freedom than the families of soldiers killed in foreign wars, and that their sacrifices have not been in vain. The medal would be called the Bearing the Cost of Freedom Medal, although, because it would be loosely modeled after the Purple Heart and would come with a black ribbon suitable for mourning, it could also be called the Black Heart.
This is how it would work. Right now, in these United States, an American man — and it is always a man — is accruing an arsenal he will use to kill other Americans, not only men, but women and children. He could probably be stopped, if he were from Yemen, say, and planning to kill in the name of his God. He could probably be stopped if we decided to treat guns as we do cars, and require some sort of rudimentary licensing that might make him think twice. But he won't be stopped, because he is killing only in the name of his own personal demons, and because if we require him to obtain a license and prove his sanity the way applicants at the DMV have to prove that they can see, then this, by God, won't be America anymore.
And so he goes somewhere in America, and he opens fire. He opens fire and then he reloads and opens fire again. And when he is done — when he kills himself or is himself killed — we, as a nation, face the responsibility of responding. But what do we do and what do we say, when we know that we will not act? We may grieve with the grieving, and we may get on our knees and pray and we may give and listen to speeches, but we won't do anything, and by now everyone knows it. And so we will say what we do not mean and mean what we do not say, and we will silently ready ourselves for it to happen again, this bloody national ritual that is endlessly repeated and endlessly renewed.
And the President will offer a few common-sense platitudes about using "common sense" in regard to AK-47s, and then will let Jay Carney take them back.
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