This week’s piece started out about Colorado’s response to the pandemic. It was quickly upended on Monday afternoon when less than 15 minutes from my house a massacre unfolded at the local King Soopers. By 2 a.m., 10 of our neighbors were confirmed dead. It was the same store where my roommate had bought groceries a few days prior.
For the last 48 hours or so, my social media feeds have been heavy in sorrow, anger and despair. The feeling of hopelessness looms large, and text messages pour in to ask if I’m OK. Most of the time I don’t have the energy to explain why although I’m safe, I’m not all right. It’s not just this event, or even that I knew one of the victims. It’s that for my generation — and the generations after me — this already is our normal, and it has been for over 20 years.
I was in middle school when Columbine happened. I remember our teachers talking to us about what it meant, and what we would do if it happened at our school. Now that I’m the teacher, students ask me what the escape plan is — and it’s not just teens or young adults. When my nephew started the first grade, he once told me not to worry because now that he was taller he could climb out of the window faster. He was so casual about it, too, like he was talking about growing into the next pant size.
You’d think after growing up with domestic terrorism I’d be used to it. I’m not. There’s no getting used to the fear it stokes in communities, or the ripple of hurt it causes. It hits me hard every time. But what hurts the most is how little Congress has done to stop it, as if it doesn’t matter at all.
Addressing gun violence is no doubt a multifaceted issue, but to suggest gun access isn’t part of the problem is to stick one’s head in the sand. However, instead of Congress acting, an extremist political right has blocked damn near every effort toward gun safety for decades. They’ve gone so far as to make it illegal for the government to even study the problem, or to enact full background checks. In many places, it’s now easier to buy a gun than it is to vote.
Today, these right-wing extremists have co-opted the Republican platform. In doing so, they are making a mockery of responsible gun owners. Long gone are the days of Republicans promoting safe storage, safety training and respect for a deadly weapon. Now, a flamboyant cast of disgruntled Trumpers have lined up to sensationalize and fetishize gun appeal as part of a larger, violent and frequently conspiratorial narrative — and one of the ring leaders is right here in Colorado.
From lavishing firearms for campaign props to unsafe storage, Rep. Lauren Boebert has used her antics to flout just about every basic principle of gun safety there is. She has blatantly disregarded Capitol Police metal detectors, expressed her intent to (or did) break open carry laws in Washington, D.C., is speculated to have broken House rules by carrying her gun to the floor, added gunshots to campaign ads for bombastic effects, permitted an underage waitress to carry in her restaurant and more. Once, the first-time congresswoman even accepted a firearm as a gift in her official capacity, subjecting herself to extensive ethical and legal scrutiny.
For some, the vigor with which she claims to defend the Second Amendment is exactly the appeal. Yet her ammosexualized performances should rightfully terrify every responsible gun owner in America. By allowing violent extremists to flagrantly toss aside gun safety principles, Republicans have inadvertently accessorized firearms to a point which makes abundantly clear the absurd laxity of our current laws.
In fact, if extremists like Boebert continue to push against any gun safety regulations, I’d suggest it’s precisely the right-wing gun nuts who will ultimately be the downfall of the Second Amendment. They will, in essence, have loved it to death.
I’m hardly the first to note extremist escalations require constitutional overhaul. Consider, for example, the remarks by the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who authored an op-ed for the New York Times titled, “Repeal the Second Amendment.”
In his essay, Stevens essentially argues that due to a case pushed by the National Rifle Association in 2008, the long-held narrow legal interpretation of the Second Amendment has already been compromised. He, and others, suggests the only way to repair this breach and achieve gun regulation is to repeal and replace it with a constitutional amendment.
If that sounds radical, remember that Stevens was a lifelong Republican. Which leads me to suggest that Democrats should claim Stevens’ argument to highlight how right-wing extremists have effectively destroyed the Second Amendment in the first place.
No one can undo the hurt from the past couple days — or the last couple decades, for that matter. But we must act. If I could, this time I’d take aim at 2A.