America should just admit kids are ‘acceptable losses’

December 18, 2012

Hislop-MarkhamcContLOGOSURREY, BC, Dec. 18, 2012/ Troy Media/ – In the wake of the Newtown shootings, it’s time to finally admit a terrible truth: There may be no number of murdered children that will convince Americans to regulate guns.

The concept of ‘acceptable loss’ applies here. An acceptable loss is a sacrifice that is deemed an acceptable cost of doing business.

In the military context, there is a percentage of troops or airplanes or battleships that are expected to be lost in battle and the unit is still considered fit for active duty. If there are 1,000 soldiers in a battalion, how many is a general willing to sacrifice to take a strategic hill? If it’s 10 per cent, 100 soldiers is the acceptable loss for that action.

There are 74 million children in the United States. How many children have to die at the hands of murderous psychopaths or mentally ill gunmen before Americans finally get serious about gun control and agree on an understanding of the Second Amendment that makes sense in a modern society?

Clearly, the slain innocent up to now are acceptable losses.

If they weren’t then, logically, the 12 students killed at the Columbine High School in 1999 would have swayed American public opinion in favour of more gun control. Or the seven that were killed at a Christian college in Oakland earlier this year. Or any of the children who were killed or wounded during the American 31 school shootings of the past 20 years.

Instead, American public opinion has run in exactly the opposite direction, according to the Pew Research Center, which has been surveying attitudes toward guns and regulation since the early 90s.

In 1993, Pew found that 54 per cent of Americans wanted controls placed on gun ownership, while 34 per cent thought protecting gun owners’ rights were paramount. Nineteen years later and those numbers have changed significantly, with 47 per cent supporting gun rights and 46 per cent in favour of gun control.

‘Recent mass shootings have had little impact on the public’s attitudes toward gun control. That was the case after the Colorado theater shootings; similarly, views of gun control changed little after the Jan. 2011 shooting in Tucson Arizona, which killed six people and seriously wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords,’ the report states.

So what changed over two decades? In a word, Republicans.

Democrat support for gun control remained more or less constant. But respondents identifying with the GOP changed their views radically.

In the first survey only 25 per cent of Republicans said gun rights were more important than gun control. By July 2012, after the tragic shooting deaths of 12 people and the wounding of 58 others during a screening of the Dark Knight Rises movie, that percentage had risen to 71.

The obvious finger to be pointed is at the Tea Party and other right-wing fringe groups that have hijacked the GOP and pushed the party further out to the margins. We all remember TV news footage of Tea Party members showing up to public protests against Obamacare with assault weapons slung across their backs. And we all know about the National Rifle Association and its pernicious influence on the Republican party and its elected members in Congress and state legislatures.

But Republicans aren’t the only political grouping whose views on gun control have changed over the course of the Pew surveys. Independents now support the rights of gun owners to the tune of 55 per cent.

And let’s not forget the Obama effect. Gun ownership has risen dramatically since his first election in 2008, as has general support in the United States for gun rights. More evidence of right-wing paranoia about the first black president in American history? Then how do we explain the sudden increase in black support for gun ownership and gun rights? Or the same trend among women, another group historically supportive of gun control?

If the Pew research is any indication, the Newton slayings won’t change American’s opinion about gun control a whit. None of the previous tragedies has, why should this one?

Obama was quick to offer heartfelt words to the families of the slain children, but he said little about gun control.

As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted yesterday, ‘Today President Obama rightly sent his condolences to families. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress’.

No kidding.

But that isn’t likely to happen. Obama steered clear of gun control in his first term and doesn’t appear any more keen to tackle it in his second. Anguished citizens walking the streets of American in candlelight vigils are nothing compared to the lobbying might of the NRA.

The best prediction is a repetition of every mass shooting since Columbine: a few days or weeks of mourning, plenty of angst on the cable news shows, and then business as usual. American public opinion is just too supportive of gun owners, not gun control.

What other conclusion can a reasonable person come to but that the 20 murdered children of the Newtown shootings are just more ‘acceptable losses?’ There is simply no evidence to the contrary.

Markham Hislop is Editor in Chief of Beacon News.