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What will end the obsession?

Our gun problem hasn't changed in years

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I used to keep a blog online fairly religiously, and I was good about it, offering witty, profane, provocative, decidedly liberal takes on the state of the world. I won’t bore you with a link or an admonition to go check it out, however, because a few months ago I threw in the towel. Shut it right down. It happens to lots of “bloggers,” of course, because so much of blogging involves shouting at the wind and shaking your fist at the TV and taking your positive reinforcement from the half dozen or so people who swear they read you religiously. That’s all good, I suppose, but there came a time about six months ago when I realized that it doesn’t matter what one writes, it doesn’t matter how many windmills are felled, none of the damn crazy bullshit going on in this godforsaken country is ever going to change.

Why am I telling you this, you may wonder? Well, it’s because today I’m a sick and saddened, heartbroken UCSB Gaucho. Those are my old stomping grounds down there in Isla Vista. The map of carnage they keep showing on TV might well have been the course of some reckless, Dionysian pub crawl my friends and I used to make “around the Loop” during our college days. I know I speak for all Gauchos when I say how much I loved going to UCSB. Those were some of the greatest days of my life. Isla Vista was like a giant playground for 20-somethings, a place where you only had to make sure to take care of your school business in between silly hijinx and crazy adventures and you were going to be A-OK. I met dozens of lifelong friends there, and that magical place changed my life forever.

That said, the recent shooting tragedy has really bummed me out. The young man who got shot in the market was from Los Osos, for godsakes. My buddy coached him in Little League. The kid’s dad was the one who made the heartbreaking speech pleading for change and asking WHY?!?! Things like the IV madness continue to befall one American community after another. If you haven’t seen it, it is agonizing to watch.

I’m really heartsick that this horror happened in the vibrant, spirited, energetic, fun, crazy, electrifying good old college town of Isla Vista. Sure, it’s a slum to some, but to those of us who know and love it, there’s not a better place in the world for kids to take a first dip into the deep, invigorating, wide open pool of adulthood.

It was only about 15 months or so ago that I wrote an opinion piece that New Times saw fit to print. If memory serves me, we headlined it: “The time has come to change our way of thinking on guns” (Ed. note: The piece was titled “It might be time to say ‘Enough!’” March 12, 2013). I wrote it in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. As no one will ever forget, 25 little kids were gunned down there, enjoying their last day of kindergarten by looking madness and evil in the eye. The gist of my argument at that time was that nothing in this massive, unmanageable, short-sighted country of ours, nothing, will ever change until we get beyond our obsession with guns and face the reality that something drastic must be done.

Well, here we are. It’s two years later. Nothing’s changed. There have been dozens of mass shootings in America since Sandy Hook. Hundreds more people have died thanks to these unpredictable bouts of madness, including seven more now in Isla Vista. In the wake of Sandy Hook, President Barack Obama and a few politically stout legislators in congress proposed a series of national gun control measures. For that they were vilified, and every single one of those measures went down in defeat. Every single one.

It’s wishful thinking, I know, but we can only hope this latest atrocity is the one that finally compels America to face down its obsession with guns. My fellow current and former Gauchos are all and each incensed and incredibly saddened about what happened, and it is well past time that we do something besides lay flowers down on the sidewalk at some makeshift memorial outside a convenience store, an elementary school, a church, a post office, a shopping mall, a sorority, a sandwich shop.

It’s time to offer some serious solutions, and it’s time for those solutions to be taken seriously. It’s time we reject the fearful, cynical, antagonistic rhetoric of the NRA. In fact, it’s time for the NRA and its supporters to realize: You, my friends, are part of the problem.

It’s time for mandatory gun registration, mandatory liability insurance, mandatory training, mandatory smart-gun technology, mandatory ammunition bar-coding, mandatory purchasing limits, and the whole rest of the full nine yards we need to go to put a stop to this madness. Short of that (and I’m looking at you, gun rights obstructionists), I want to hear some goddamn solutions. No more hiding behind Second Amendment absolutism and parsing the words of a mixed-up, comma-spliced phrase written 250 damn years ago. You don’t get to do that anymore! Chris Martinez’s father doesn’t want to hear your bullshit platitudes anymore. You tell us what you would do to help make it so that no father ever has to bury his young son again?

 

Jim Mallon lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

-- Jim Mallon - San Luis Obispo

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