Is American Gun Policy the Slavery Issue of 2018?

by Bob Schwartz

America is frequently sharply politically divided over many high-profile issues with social, cultural, economic, moral and legal components. It is always a mix of citizens, politicians and special interests—and that mix can be combustible. Think immigration, abortion, marijuana and, just recently, the mistreatment of women. Not to mention deep divisions over Trump.

Gun violence is suddenly on that list, in a way it hasn’t been before. Past mass killings of students, of music fans, of club patrons, of all kinds of once-living Americans, weren’t enough. Until now.

The greatest example of this in American history is the issue of slavery. Arguments about morality and the rejection of the practice in much of the world were met with fierce defense of the practice on legal and economic grounds—in essence, being against slavery was deemed un-American. That worked for quite a while. But at some point, the opponents could no longer listen to one more argument defending slavery, just as its supporters felt cornered by what was becoming the majority view of other Americans.

There is no proposal to take all guns away from Americans, or to unduly burden their owning those guns. All that is being asked for is to condition ownership on universal background checks (supported, according to a just-released poll, by 97% of Americans) and to stop the civilian trade in AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and the like.

Thankfully, this issue will not be settled by an actual civil war. But it will also not be settled by citizens electing gutless NRA politicians so that nothing gets done. The people who thought it made American sense to stop slavery did not walk away, and thanks to them, and despite the unfortunate attendant carnage, we don’t have to be ashamed of continuing to endorse an obvious evil. These young people are not walking away either, not this time, not ever.