No Wonder Elected Officials are So Uninterested in Addressing Easy Access to Guns

It’s easy not to worry about the dangers posed by virtually unfettered access to guns when you live and work in a cocoon.

Visit the Capitol in Washington, D.C. or your own state’s capital or even your city or town hall and you’ll find those places crawling with police. Even so, you’ll usually have to pass through a metal detector to get into those buildings because cops aren’t enough for our elected officials: they want even more protection than that. Go into almost any public building these days, in fact, and you may have to pass through a metal detector – and if the alarm goes off, some oversized guy who can barely spell “gun” if you spot him the “g-u” will try to manhandle you to find out why you made his machine go beep-beep-beep.

Yes, public officials spend a lot of money keeping themselves safe, but what about the rest of us? What are they doing for us? On a proportional basis, federal financial support for law enforcement at the state level is down and state financial support for law enforcement at the local level is down. Spending to protect state and federal legislators? That’s up.

So if they’re not willing to spend the money, which is only because they don’t believe we’re worth it, why can’t they at least make it harder for the bad guys, and especially the crazy bad guys, to get guns?

Because our own elected officials don’t identify with the problem, that’s why. Despite all the mass shootings, they still don’t understand what all the fuss is about.

If they have a security problem where they work, they just ramp up the cop count. When congressman Steve Scalise was shot last year during a congressional softball game, the damage would have been greater if the participants hadn’t been accompanied by their own, special security detail – and once the ones who weren’t shot got back to the Capitol, there was already additional security staff there to protect them.

Wouldn’t it be nice if YOU could get that level of service from your elected officials?

The Curmudgeon has been thinking about this aspect of the gun issue for years but was inspired to write when he opened his newspaper earlier this week and read about a member of Pennsylvania’s state legislature who dated a fellow state legislator until that relationship went south a few years ago. The guy, it turns out, is violent and threatening and is known to carry a gun and intimidate people with it. When the woman went to court and got a restraining order because he apparently harassed, stalked, and menaced her, her colleagues in the legislature made it clear that they were going to go to any lengths necessary to protect her.

The Curmudgeon has no problem with an appropriate response to such a dangerous situation – but why don’t the rest of us get that kind of support when we’re endangered by crazy people with firearms? Why does this particular woman rate such special attention and special protection just because she happens to be an elected official?

In the long run, seeing one of their own threatened by an angry guy who’s known to carry a gun and known to threaten people with it isn’t going to persuade legislators that they need to do something – anything – about guns. In their minds, they’ve seen a problem and they’ve addressed it. Why should they do anything more, anything bigger, when they can simply abuse their power and provide special, expensive protection for their own, whether it’s a colleague, a friend, a family member, or an influential supporter?

And the rest of us? What about people who don’t have a personal relationship with a public official who can do things for them – things like protect them from someone with a gun and a grudge?

No, we’re on our own. Every time elected officials insist that guns aren’t the problem but that bad people with guns are the problem, they’re telling us that we’re on our own because they’re not willing to do anything to attempt to identify and help bad people and they’re not willing to do anything to prevent bad people from getting guns.

Every time they tell us they won’t lift a finger to make it harder for crazy people to get guns, they’re telling us we’re on our own.

Every time they tell us there’s no money for police, they’re telling us we’re on our own.

Every time they tell us there’s no money for cops in schools, they’re telling us we’re on our own.

What a lot of them are really telling us is that the best thing to do when we’re on our own is to go ahead and arm ourselves and fight fire with fire – hence, all this nonsense about arming school teachers. (The Curmudgeonly Sister: “Can you imagine ME on one of my bad days with my second-graders and a gun?”) After all, that’s what public officials do when they get extra security every time they feel threatened. Also, at least in Pennsylvania, state legislators are permitted to bring their own guns into the capital to protect themselves. Oh, technically it’s against the rules, but a number of them are known to do it and legislative leaders refuse to talk about it, so you know they’re doing it and doing it with the blessing of their leaders.

Including the guy a fellow legislator needed to seek protection from through a court order.

But do they give the same right to other people who work in that building? To the people who work for the people who carry the guns? To the building maintenance people? To the folks who work in the cafeteria?

Can YOU bring a gun to work if you feel threatened in some way?

Of course you can’t. But they get to make the rules and they get to give themselves a level of protection that they begrudge us.

No, they’ll take care of their own and we’ll just have to suck it up and figure out a way to take care of our own, too – because when it comes to such matters, our government just doesn’t care, doesn’t care because it doesn’t feel our pain, doesn’t feel the sense of personal jeopardy and peril we feel because they’ve granted themselves the resources – our resources, by the way – to deal with any such problems they might personally face. Empathy means a lot, and when it comes to the threat posed by guns, there’s nary a shred of empathy in legislative bodies because the people there live in protected cocoons.

Take away their own security, though, remove the metal detectors and the protected parking, the extra police, and the personal, armed guard escorts to parking lots after dark, let them feel as vulnerable as the rest of us, and maybe then – maybe then – they’ll take seriously the idea of changing gun laws to protect people. That will only happen, though, when they see themselves as “the people,” too – and clearly, they don’t right now. Let’s see them experience the same vulnerability that the rest of us now feel. Until then, though, their focus is on helping themselves and when it comes to the cost of doing so, the sky’s the limit.

And we all know what will happen until this changes.

Parkland will happen again.

Orlando will happen again.

Las Vegas will happen again.

Sandy Hook will happen again.

Columbine will happen again.

Those who have the power to do something about it won’t, because they can’t be bothered, because they don’t think it’s a real problem.

And those of us who don’t have the power will just have to cross our fingers and hope we don’t end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Because we’re sure not going to get any help from the people we elected to help us.

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