There is no catastrophe so ghastly that America will reform its gun laws

Look, we’ve collectively decided, as a country, that the occasional massacre is okay with us. It’s the price we’re willing to pay for our precious Second Amendment freedoms. We’re content to forfeit the lives of a few dozen schoolkids a year as long as we get to keep our guns. The people have spoken, in a cheering civics-class example of democracy in action.

It’s hard to imagine what ghastly catastrophe could possibly change America’s minds about guns if the little bloody bookbags of Newtown did not. After that atrocity, it seemed as if we would finally enact some obvious, long-overdue half-measures. But perfectly reasonable, moderate legislation expanding background checks and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was summarily killed in the Senate for no reason other than that a sufficient number of United States senators are owned by the NRA. It made our official position as a nation nakedly explicit: we don’t care about any number of murdered children, no matter how many, or how young. We want our guns.

I realize we are not all equally complicit in this indifference; there’s a spectrum of culpability. I don’t even bother to hold the NRA or the politicians they own accountable for the deaths they allow, any more than I blame deer ticks or herpes for doing their jobs. Gun lobbyists are just engines of greed, businesslike and efficient as HIV. Politicians will do whatever will get them re-elected. And gun owners are simply frightened; anyone who buys a handgun is, self-evidently, afraid of something.