While we wait placidly, climate change and gun violence threaten Kansans and Americans
Climate change, caused by unrestrained appetite for energy, threatens Americans. But we're hesitant to address the crisis. (Getty Images)
Mark Twain liked to say that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it would immediately jump out. However, if you put the frog in cool water and then turned on the heat, the frog would remain in the water until it boils to death. We Kansans — and Americans — are like the frog in Twain’s anecdote.
When the World Trade Center was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, we immediately reacted. Heroes went up into the tower to rescue those trapped. Afterward, our country attacked terrorists all over the world. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest, scientists immediately began developing a vaccine. In a remarkable short time, they successfully created one.
However, when it comes to climate change and gun violence, we sit in the pot and wait for an ever-quickening death.
Folks, the water is getting hot, and we are doing precious little to fix these two problems. In the case of climate change, we are allowing expanded oil drilling in Alaska. Oil companies continue to receive government tax breaks, while conservative lawmakers fight giving any government help to companies developing renewable energy.
Few states or cities outside California and New York have done anything to regulate the use of plastic. In Kansas, the right-wing Republicans want to ban cities and counties from regulating plastic when, instead, they should pass legislation to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.
Ask any conservative, Republican farmer in western Kansas if plastic bags are a problem, and you will get a positive answer. Plastic bags and plastic sheets that cover pallets of construction materials foul hay balers and combines. Farm animals eat them. Drive down any highway in Kansas, especially in urban areas, and you will see plastic in ditches, trees, caught on fences and so on. I had a niece who had car issues because a plastic bag got caught underneath her car and prevented the engine from getting air. It cost several hundred dollars to figure out the cause of the problem.
Ask any conservative, Republican farmer in Western Kansas if plastic bags are a problem, and you will get a positive answer. Plastic bags and plastic sheets that cover pallets of construction materials foul hay balers and combines. Farm animals eat them. Drive down any highway in Kansas, especially in urban areas, and you will see plastic in ditches, trees, caught on fences and so on.
– Thomas Arnhold
Gun violence, too, has reached a boiling point. Yet we sit in the water and do nothing. In Britain, there was a mass shooting in March 1996. A gunman entered Dunblane Primary School, killing 16 students, a teacher and injuring 15 others. By the following year, Parliament had banned private ownership of most handguns, as well as semi-automatic weapons and required mandatory registration for shotgun owners. There have been no school shootings in the U.K since then.
Since the mass shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, many states in this country have done the opposite.
Kansas has passed laws allowing anyone to carry a concealed weapon. No training is required, no special license. Congress allowed the assault rifle ban to expire and has failed to require universal background checks. The Missouri Legislature passed numerous pro-gun statutes. The attitude seems to be that all good guys should have guns, so they can defend themselves against the bad guys who have guns. If the bad guys didn’t have guns, the good guys would not need one. There are roughly 400 million guns in the United States, or 1.2 guns for every man woman and child.
The sad fact is that most Americans want our legislatures, governors and President Joe Biden to tackle climate change and gun violence, and do it quickly. Unfortunately, money talks. The NRA, oil companies, plastic companies, the chemical industry, and other entities and individuals who oppose meaningful gun control and cleaning up the environment give politicians money and marching orders.
We are on our way to a world with deeper droughts, stronger and more devastating storms, and more gun violence. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in this country. Our country has seen more than 200 mass shootings already this year (four or more people shot or wounded).
The water is getting close to boiling and we are still just sitting here.
Tom Arnhold is a retired attorney, judge and a 24-year veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, where he served as a JAG officer. Through its opinion section, Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.
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