We didn’t do anything after 20 first graders were mowed down in their classrooms along with six of their teachers at Sandy Hook and we didn’t do anything after 49 people were killed and 58 others were wounded at Pulse in Orlando and we didn’t do anything after 58 concertgoers were killed and 851 people were wounded in Las Vegas. But the impassioned, furious students at Stoneman Douglass are giving me hope that something will be done this time. If you didn't see Emma Gonzalez's stirring speech this weekend at a rally in Fort Lauderdale—Gonzalez is a 17-year-old student at Stoneman Douglass in Parkland, Florida, and a survivor of the mass shooting there on Valentine's Day—take a few minutes to watch. That kid gives me hope. (Something else that gives me hope: many of the students at Stoneman Douglas will be able to vote in the 2018 midterm elections; and many more will be able to vote in the 2020 presidential election.)
The students at Stoneman Douglass have called for a March on Washington on March 24—more info at MarchForOurLives.com—and along with the new group NoNRAMoney.org, they intend to make taking money from the NRA as politically toxic as accepting campaign contributions from NAMBLA. (An unfair comparison? One group supports child rape, the other supports child sacrifice, both oppose reasonable age limits. I’d say it’s a fair comparison. Also: one actually exists and wields tremendous political power, the other is powerless and these days only exists in the fevered imaginations of anti-gay social conservatives.)
And while we’re tossing gun control ideas on the table—mandatory background checks, closing the gun-show loophole, ending private sales, banning the sale of AR15s and other weapons of war, repealing the 2nd Amendment—I wanted to add an idea of mine to the pile:
Every time there’s a mass shooting gun sales spike and gun stocks rally. Gun shops raked it in after Sandy Hook and San Bernadino and Orlando and Las Vegas and Virginia Tech and Aurora and Southerland Springs and they're raking it in now, after Parkland. Dead children and dead music fans and dead churchgoers are good for people in the gun business. Massacres are so predictably good for the gun business that on some level—hopefully some deeply subconscious level—it must function as an incentive to sell powerful weapons to anyone and everyone, including maniacs. Because if a gun shop owner sells a gun to someone who appears to be unhinged and/or has a history of domestic violence and that person turns around and shoots up a high school or a church or a movie theater or a grade school or a nightclub… that gun shop owner stands to profit personally from the bloodshed.
Now I haven’t run this past a lawyer who specializes on that sweet spot where commercial law intersects with constitutional law, but here's my idea...
Whenever there’s a mass shooting—which is defined as any shooting with four or more victims—every gun shop in the country has to close its doors for a month and all trading of stocks in gun manufacturers is suspended for three months. Because if it’s too soon to talk about gun control in the days and weeks after a mass shooting, it’s too soon to sell guns and too soon to buy stock in gun manufacturers. If it's too soon to talk about gun violence, it's too soon to profit off gun violence.
My hunch is that gun shop owners would be a hell of a lot more careful about who they sell weapons to if they risked being padlocked for a month after a mass shooting. Gun shop owners would be fastidious about performing background checks, they'd alert the authorities about any customer who seemed like a risk, and they would demand the permanent closure of any gun shop that negligently sold a weapon used in a mass shooting. Gun manufacturers worried about their stock price would shift production to smart guns so fast we'd forget dumb guns had ever been an option. Because it wouldn’t just be the lives of students, concert goers, movie theater patrons that would on the line anymore, but the livelihoods of gun merchants and the profits of gun manufacturers, too.
And why shouldn’t the people who profit from gun sales have some skin (and bone and internal organs and brain tissue) in this sick game too?
The small print: We have more than one mass shooting in the United States every day. So the adoption of this modest proposal of mine would effectively function as a ban on all gun sales and trading in gun stocks. And I'm fine with that.