A protest against the NRA on Capitol Hill

Go to the mall, get shot. Go to the movies, get shot. Go to the gun show, get shot. Go hunting, get shot. Go to the rifle range, get shot. Go to university, get shot. Go to school, get shot. Go to kindergarten, get shot.

It’s a wonder we go out at all here.

Some 30,000 people are shot dead in America each year. To put that in perspective, if you shot every man, woman and child in Naas, Co. Kildare you’d just start to grasp the full horror of it. The mind blanks at the bloody scale of it.

And we’re being asked by some to accept that this is not a national crisis? Don’t look at that terrifying pyre of the voiceless dead, look instead at the attack on your Second Amendment rights? Really?

The Second Amendment was written not to protect your gun. It was written to protect your freedom.
Freedom, the Founding Fathers knew, is a condition that is both tangible and intangible. It can vanish just as easily with a pen stroke or with a court ruling.

You actually don’t need to fire a single shot to maintain or to lose it. But history has taught us that if you’re pursuing your freedom with bullets, you’re almost always heading in the wrong direction.

I’d much prefer to live in a society free of rapid repeat-fire assault weapons, and I’d prefer to think the chances of being caught in their lethal crossfire were going down, not up. I mean, wouldn’t you?

It’s been amusing and repulsive, in about roughly equal measure, to see the contortions the NRA and their arms industry supporters have gone through to protect their own blatantly contradictory message, which goes like this -- guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

But people with guns have to pull the trigger before they kill people, so guns really have nothing to do with killing people. Got it? No? What’s the matter with you?

Their shorthand version is people are a**holes and they will shoot you if you don’t shoot them first, so you better holster up. It’s the Wild West.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney once wrote about firing a gun. The violence of the action startled him, and he described it memorably: “I felt that I had committed a grave sin against life,” he wrote.

So he put the gun down and never fired another bullet. Having come from a society where he saw first hand the pain that guns inflict must have strengthened his resolve. In the North, the real carnage that guns create puts the idiotic sophistries of the NRA in their proper context.

In America, for various reasons, we’re fated to watch as the latest eye-popping outrage or scandal always becomes the news, as everything else gets pushed aside to make room for it.

This week it’s Manti Te’o’s phantom girlfriend. But I don’t care about Manti Te’o phantom girlfriend, do you?

I care that 20 children and six women were shot dead by another crazed young man with a grudge and access to assault weapons. I can understand why people would prefer to think about Manti Te’o, but the time has finally come to act to address this crisis.

President Obama did not propose a ban on guns last week. He has not taken a match to the Constitution.
The paranoiacs and kooks who are talking of an approaching “civil war” over their Second Amendment rights are deluded and self-defeating.

Let’s be clear -- 70 to 80 percent of the public supports common sense measures like universal background checks on gun sales. Predictably, women are more open to gun control measures than men. But is Washington and the GOP-controlled House getting the message?

If a gun massacre can happen in the leafy suburbs of Connecticut, one of the richest states in the union, it can happen anywhere.

If the Sandy Hook massacre cannot make us reconsider the wisdom of providing unfettered access to high powered weapons, what will? This was a line in the sand event. Even the most ardent politician knows it.

So if I was a Republican politician I’d be increasingly leery of the perceived inter-dependency of the NRA and the GOP.

As the last election cycle showed us, the NRA and all the frothing evangelical and anti-immigrant groups that form the party’s base are, in voters’ minds, increasingly defining the GOP as the party of angry, white Southern men.

That simple fact cost them the election. Flubbing on guns now will cost them the next one.