Nobody can prevent forest fires. Nobody.”

It appears that the assault rifle is the only problem in the history of our country that has completely overwhelmed us—that has left us powerless in the face of its murderous glory. As with Japan’s legendary Godzilla, we’ve arrived at the conclusion that it’s best to just let it happen and hope it protects us against worse monsters down the road. (Mothra, we’re looking at you!)

Imagine if some of our renowned historical figures had approached problems in a similar manner, our world might be very different.

•Some never-to be known aviator would have picked up the ball after Charles Lindberg said “Oh yes, planes can fly all right. But the Atlantic is huge—really huge—and a plane will never cross it non-stop.

•Some forever anonymous scientist would have his own name on a vaccine after Jonas Salk had thrown in the towel admitting, “Nothing we can do about polio. It’s going to be the scourge of American children forever.”

•James Meredith would not even have been a footnote in history if he’d conceded “Nah, a black college is good enough for me. Ole Miss gotta be white.”

•Thomas Edison’s confession: “Day is bright and night is dark—no sense messing with God’s master plan” would not have established his place in American myth.

•Even Smokey Bear would have been another pathetic has-been (who never was) once he pointed at us with that cool hat and those sad eyes and admitted “Nobody can prevent forest fires. Nobody.”

And yet the president, Republicans in Congress, the NRA along with other gun groups, and countless millions of Americans seem okay with the fact that gun violence simply cannot be stopped. Not only can it not be stopped; it can’t even be reduced. All those citizens of Tokyo—even the ones who knew they were doomed—at least fired back once in a while: a missile here, a cannon or two, a few bombs dropped. They tried.

Look, we haven’t erased auto accidents from the world, but we’ve made cars safer by using airbags, built crumple zones and employed safety glass, installed lane-change warning electronics and tried to build safer roads. We’ve educated people about drunk driving, placed restrictions on young drivers, added terms like “designated driver” to the vernacular. It has worked: deaths from motor vehicle accidents have dropped dramatically over the past fifty years. (That was about the time seatbelts became standard equipment.)

We can’t reduce gun violence? Really? That’s it? It’s settled?

If that’s true, then we probably can’t reduce mental illness either, so maybe the NRA can stop touting that as their solution.

Think of it this way: what if we could reduce gun violence by 1/10 of one percent by banning military weapons in civilian hands? That would mean that of the 1000 people bent on doing violence with a military weapon, one would not be able to purchase it. Just one. But what if that one person’s name was Nikolas Cruz? Would it then be worth it to make that 1/10 of one percent improvement? And if you disagree, would you be the one willing to admit that to one of the hundreds of grieving families dotting southern Florida today?

Even if the chances are one in a thousand, it’s still better than giving up.


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