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Gunning for a Solution

new gun laws“There will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place we’re in at this moment,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

And then she teared up at the horrific Las Vegas shooting.

I rolled my eyes–not because I am questioning Sanders’ sincerity. Like all of us, she is aghast at the latest senseless tragedy. But I roll my eyes–and chuckle ruefully–at the practiced condolences. American society: the equivalent of a Hallmark card.

We decry senseless gun violence in the most visceral of terms. Our Twitter feeds and Facebook post lament the latest tragedy. And following Vegas or Orlando or San Bernadino, we buy a cup of coffee for an appreciative stranger. We reaffirm — at least temporarily — our collective faith in humanity’s benevolence.

And then we wait for the next tragic press conference. Wash, rinse, and repeat — including filling up that stranger’s decaf coffee.  

I don’t know about you but I would be thrilled to buy my own damn cup of coffee for a month–let alone a year–without a mass shooting.

Gun violence’s unrelenting scourge should be above partisan fray. Gun violence kills or wounds nearly 100,000 Americans each year. Equally unsettling: the United States is more violent than other well-developed, prosperous democracies. This Washington Post graph tells our violent story.

Yet while American political leaders bask in contrived notions of American exceptionalism, there is a collective shrug emoji to the high-powered assault rifles cackling in Vegas or Orlando or San Bernadino or, well, you get the idea. Yet we are supposed to move on from the latest mass shooting after our political leaders offer “thoughts and prayers,” fly to the latest tragedy, and awkwardly pose with victims.

Day of mourning. Does that include our willful indifference?

Admittedly, gun violence is a political landmine. In American society, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct. The NRA’s war chest–the organization spent $54 million dollars in campaign donations last calendar year–protects Americans’ right to bear arms. But in safeguarding Americans’ right to bear arms, the NRA and, by extension, our political leaders are not keeping us safe.

Need ammunition? Excusing my poor choice of words, the NRA funneled $27 million in direct and indirect support to 50 senators who voted against a bill to require universal background checks. And, in 2015, the NRA endowed the 54 senators who voted against a measure prohibiting people on the government’s terrorist watch list from buying guns with $37 million in financial support. Money talks–and apparently it is loud enough to drown out the “thoughts and prayers” from the latest horrific tragedy.

Color me outraged–and motivated. Yes, gun violence is more complex than a mental health diagnosis, a blighted neighborhood in urban America, or even the NRA’s well-heeled political servants. But as our tears dry and Miss Sanders moves on to the latest political firestorm, her words–”That’s not the place we are at this moment”–snap me back to a sobering reality.

In 2017, indiscriminate gun violence does not discriminate. And we — you, me, your lovely next-door neighbor — are confronting that grim reality at this moment. Even if the Trump administration and its sycophants aren’t

Gunning for a Solution

Matthew Loeb

Matthew Loeb, a Seattle-based attorney, is a mental health advocate. You can contact him at

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APA Reference
Loeb, M. (2018). Gunning for a Solution. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.