Yeah, I know.
It is Too Early to “politicize” the latest in a way-too-long-and-growing list of mass shootings. It is Not The Right Time to talk about gun fetishization or systemic racism or any of the things that actually contributed to Dylann Storm Roof, an antisocial, pill-popping, maybe mentally ill, definitely disturbed 21-year-old with a Confederate flag license plate and a hard-on for apartheid South Africa, walking into a historic black church in Charleston, sitting through a prayer service for an hour, spewing some hate-filled bullshit and then murdering nine people with a gun he may have recently received as a birthday present. (Allegedly.)
It is Too Soon. That would be playing the Race Card (as someone accused me of doing on Facebook this morning). That would be Promoting a Liberal Agenda. It is certainly Bad Form for Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham, to say something like this at a press conference: “It shouldn’t take someone losing a person before we do something. … We can’t allow ourselves to become a society in which these random, senseless acts become normal.”
No, the only acceptable discourse is a generic exhortation that we should extend prayers and/or condolences to the victims’ families as we wait for this despicable tragedy to be supplanted in the media by the next dumb celebrity scandal.
Just like we did after Sandy Hook.
Just like we did after Aurora.
Just like we did after Arizona.
Just like we did after Virginia Tech.
Just like we did after Chapel Hill.
Just like we did after Waco.
Just like we did after Columbine.
So we should not mention, then, that the day before Roof shot up the Emanuel AME Church, the N.C. House of Representatives signed off on a bill to relax gun restrictions in the state.
Nor should we mention that the House bill was actually a moderated version of an insane Senate bill, which eviscerated the state’s gun permitting process because it is apparently just too easy for the state’s sheriffs to keep certain people—those who have histories of, say, domestic violence (though the state’s existing regs deny guns to very few domestic abusers)—from exercising their God-given right to own a firearm.
As Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, told the N&O: “If we do away with the pistol permit process, domestic violence abusers, the dangerously mentally ill, convicted felons and minors would all be able to buy guns from unlicensed dealers.”
(The Senate bill would have allowed lawmakers to bring guns to the General Assembly, which would have made legislative debates so much more interesting. Alas, the House got rid of that provision, too.)
Nor should we mention that the Senate’s bill would have, at least in some respects, emulated South Carolina’s laws, which do not require unlicensed (i.e., private, like Roof’s birthday gift) gun sales to come with permits or background checks, or that North Carolina would no longer be one of just 18 states that requires background checks for private sales, which comprise two out of every five gun sales in North Carolina, according to Ceartas.
Nor should we mention how pissed off the NRA was that the House removed the pistol-purchase permit system: “Instead of supporting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, they chose to prop up the outdated, inefficient PPP system that allows for the constitutionally protected Right to Keep and Bear Arms to be infringed upon by local elected officials.” (The NRA says it will lean on the Senate to reinsert that language. And around we go.)
Nor should we mention that the state currently does not allow municipalities to regulate gun sales, prohibit the sale of assault weapons, limit the number of guns you can buy at one time, or license or regulate firearms dealers in any significant way, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Nor should we mention that in 2013—the year the state began allowing guns in bars (what could go wrong?) and on playgrounds and on school campuses—North Carolina saw 12.1 gun deaths for every 100,000 people, the 21st-highest rate in the country.
No, we shouldn’t talk about any of that—and we goddamn sure better not talk about how pernicious gun culture is, about how married gun rights advocacy is to the militia movement, or about how gun ownership and racism are statistically linked, or about how states with stronger gun laws have fewer gun deaths (imagine that).
It is Too Soon.
It is Not The Time.
Additional reporting by INDY intern Kaitlin Montgomery.