Need an example of how we are no longer a smart or sane country? Shutting down all air travel to or from West Africa is a really, really terrible way to try fighting the Ebola virus. But this close to an election, everyone wants to be seen ‘protecting’ Americans from the scariest disease ever, even if their ‘protection’ is ineffective or counterproductive in the long term, so Congress might just try to shut out an entire region of Africa.
Contrast the alacrity with which the legislative branch of government stands ready to cut off several friendly countries with that same institution’s utter failure to alter federal gun regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre of twenty children. Also, compare this sudden burst of initiative among Republican congressional representatives to Senator Rand Paul’s year-long embargo on Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nomination for Surgeon General, because he once referred to America’s annual firearm death toll as a “public health problem.”
So far, just one person has died of the Ebola virus in the US. Over 11,000 Americans were murdered with a gun last year, yet Ebola has easily outpaced gun regulations in terms of media attention and legislative response and nobody bats an eyelash when we call it a public health crisis. So why does a virus win our complete attention, and count as an emergency that makes us willing to suspend everyday freedoms, where the daily death toll of our unregulated militia fails to ever dispel the delusion that firearms make us free?
Put another way: if the Sandy Hook children had been killed by the Ebola virus, and disease was a thing that could be affected by legislation, how long would Congress debate whether to mandate background checks and a three-day waiting period before every viral transmission?
Of course, there’s no equivalent of the gun lobby to provide electoral imperatives for ‘the right to keep and bear viruses’ — no Wayne LaPierre to opine that the only way to stop a bad guy with Ebola is a good guy with Ebola. If there were such an organization, then rest assured Congressional Republicans would resist all efforts to track people who enter the United States with the disease as ‘big government,’ and block attempts to prevent felons or domestic abusers from obtaining viruses. Breitbart.com would complain that the Sandy Hook parents were being exploited and call for more viruses in schools to strengthen the immune systems of our children.
When applied to guns, the potential idiocy of right wing Ebola rhetoric is also hilarious: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tinfoil) would claim that Central American children are bringing guns into the country. Rush Limbaugh would declare that Obama wants us all to get shot with guns as vengeance for slavery. Donald Trump would say that trauma surgeons “must suffer the consequences” if they get shot. Fox News would say that Obama is failing to protect us from guns because of his “affinity for Africa.” And regardless of our politics, we would all agree they were utter morons for saying such drivel.
But then continue the thought experiment without the power of a substitute NRA. If American society treated guns as a public health crisis on a level with Ebola, Texas schools would shut down and decontaminate their campuses every time one of their students was exposed to a gun. Colleges would reject students from states with ‘stand your ground’ laws. Fox News personalities would demand that gun quarantine centers be established in major cities, and the Drudge Report would turn into the Gun Report. The open-carry ‘movement’ would be seen as an untouchable pack of Typhoid Marys.
Instead, in America it is easier to buy a gun without an ID than to obtain proper medical care without insurance. The same people who would like to mandate a gun in every pocket, and who object to anyone who calls thousands of annual deaths a “public health crisis,” are also working diligently to prevent the Affordable Care Act from plugging the holes in America’s public health system, thus ensuring it will be harder to stop future pandemics.
We are no longer a smart or sane country.