In May 2014, The Onion, in an unusually somber piece, reported on the utter helplessness felt by Americans living in the growing shadow of killing sprees and massacres, most of them coinciding with a statistically high level of legal gun ownership. The article, more resonant than The Onion’s usual fare (let it be known, I love “America’s Finest News Source”) expressed that Americans feel unable to prevent mass shootings, and that shootings are just part of the everyday existence of a country that should be far beyond such atrocities.
MotherJones has, in a number of news stories, reported that there have been somewhere in the ballpark of 70 mass shootings since 1982, in dangerous as well as supposedly safe areas. A high number of the guns used in these assaults, many of them automatic handguns or other devices far too outrageous for the run of the mill human, came to be in killer hands legally. Some evidence has been found of mental illness or similar conditions existing in the psyche of the killers; some of the killers studied showed signs that they were going to commit a violent act before it occurred.
What this highly summarized data (read MotherJones statistics for full coverage) suggests to me is that many crimes, the most recent being the teenager who went on a rampage fuelled by what some speculate to be rejection and terror, were possibly preventable, or could have inspired better discourse. What we have now, though, is a more terrorized, more apathetic, more paranoid government and country. That, and a whole host of people who still cling to the insane notion that because it’s a constitutional right to bear death machines, the practice should continue.
Each mass shooting seems to make the NRA and other like-minded people more convinced that civilians should own guns to protect themselves and that people’s mental states are the issue. The grimy machinations at the policy level continue to distract from the stockpile of guns just sitting in homes everywhere, potentiating nonsensically high levels of violence. Yes, there will always be murderous intent latent in some of our race, but guns make even the slightest fancy of ending another’s life an easy task to complete. There’s an addictive, macabre romanticism surrounding the ownership of guns, some people even referring to them as toys. This is dangerous and deluded thinking, and results in more accidental deaths and violence.
There’s a lot of talk now about how to prevent shootings and similar atrocities, and most of them seem to align themselves with the “let’s arm educators and civilians” and “let’s go after the potential mad people” ways of thinking. As I said in my first response to the gun dilemma, though, the problem is still these nightmarish little devices us humans all seem to revere and love putting on display.
Although The Onion is satire, their message highlights true feelings. People really don’t know what to do anymore, violence is spreading, and anyone in the States could be caught in the crossfire of the firearm pandemic. Helplessness is growing, and because of that there is little-to-no fight left to go against the central problem. It may never be the case that we cure the nation of violent desires, but if the mechanical manifestation of these desires becomes much harder to maintain, much violence will be stopped at least at the logistical level. Rules and regulations surrounding guns are doing us no favors, and arming random folks is more likely to cause accidental deaths.
We may be a long way from collectively admitting guns should be cast aside, but we should be logical enough to know they are no solution. In fact, a world of frequent honorable duels would be preferable to the chaos we now see. Imagine if disputes and madness were dealt with via gentlemanly sword duels. At least no innocent souls would be lost in nerve wracking, insane crossfire. Maybe the constitutional right should be changed to the right to settle things like this, instead of bringing entire populations into grand, paranoid pseudo-warfare across the entire country. Wait a moment, such a fantasy of justice is probably what keeps people believing they can be gun-toting heroes! Damn it, overriding fantasies of being a savior, logic loses again.