I'm trying to think of a single issue besides shootings in this country where our collective reaction is:
1) To mourn the victims and pray for their families;
2) To immediately absolve all blame for the direct cause of the deaths;
3) To attempt to shut down any dialogue about the role of the killing agent because that's inappropriate at a time like this;
4) That the problem isn't the killing agent, but the people;
5) That it would help if more people (who, remember, are the problem) carried the killing agent;
6) That because the Bill of Rights vaguely protects the right to the killing agent, we just accept the preventable bloodshed as the price of freedom.
Does any of that apply to drugs? Lemon cars? Dangerous toys? Unsafe workplaces? Environmental damage? Of course not! When a large (or not so large) number of people die preventable deaths due to a specific cause, we tend to do something about it, don't we? We regulate drugs. Enact safety standards. Require licensing. Enforce compliance. And we accept it, because we routinely balance freedom with sensible standards. As long as two or more people interact, negotiations will have to be made. Freedom isn't synonymous with anarchy.
The problem — stay with me here — is the Second Amendment. Not the principle behind it, but that it's become such a fortified barrier against talk of reduced gun violence that we've lost our minds. Firearms, unlike every other public danger I've listed, are constitutionally protected. Some say that inclusion is sacrosanct; I say it's a product of its time. The amendment arises from a time in which guns (or, more accurately, rifles and muskets) were clunky and required a lot of thought, time and discipline to use. Also, with the possible exception of cannons, they were the most dangerous weapon out there. In a budding nation where organized law enforcement had yet to gel and its very existence was subject to violent resistance at any moment, an armed citizen had a real chance of being an effective counteragent. In that context, the Second Amendment makes perfect sense.
That is not true today. Our shores have been attacked twice in the last 100 years, and neither time was an unarmed population the problem, nor was an armed population the solution. No citizen is seriously talking about overthrowing the government — any of a multitude of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies would likely thwart that plot well in advance. But even if a revolution came to fruition, the U.S. military has much more ferocious firepower.
So much for the argument that guns will protect against a tyrannical government. They don't even level the playing field against one that most people agree is just fine.
I ask people who use the Second Amendment as a defense shield to consider this reworking:
"A healthy population, being necessary to the function of a free state, the right of people to keep and take medicines, shall not be infringed."
Yes, I know what you're thinking:
"This nation would collapse if everyone had wide access to drugs!"
"'Medicines' is not the same as 'drugs.'"
"We'd have to rewrite that amendment today, because clearly our present epidemic wasn't what the Founders had in mind."
"I'm not against drugs for people who need them, but we need sensible regulations to make sure they're not falling in the wrong hands and for purposes that undermine law-abiding users."