Thursday, October 8, 2015

Another mass shooting, ho-hum

A week ago today, nine people, eight students and their teacher, were killed by a fellow student at a community college in Oregon.  As the details circulated, reaction was typical on both sides of the gun control issue.  Since there have been so many mass shootings, almost one a day depending on your definition of the number that equates to "mass", I guess it is easy to "react with horror and sadness" when one occurs then dive effortlessly into your particular rote sound bite.  At this point, a mass shooting is no longer an event that hits us in the national gut, or makes us rethink our priorities or policies.  It merely equates to more meaningless rhetoric, or worse, an attitude that one probably soon to be non-presidential candidate expressed, "stuff happens".

For those of you who continue to deny that the proliferation of guns is a significant part of the problem, there are many statistics that you should review.  The United States is number one in the world for gun ownership, almost 90 for every 100 people.  The next highest is Yemen with 55 per 100.  The US accounted for 90 mass murders in the past 50 years where mass murder was defined as killing more than four people, a figure that represents 33% of those events in the entire world, and is 5 times more than the 2nd place country.  In terms of firearm deaths per 100,000 people, the chart with link below (you can sort for each category, high to low), demonstrates that the United States leads all other western nations handily at 10.64 deaths per 100,000 people.  Compare that figure to a couple of countries with very strict gun laws, the UK (.26) and Australia (.86); that is less than one per 100,000 for each, fully 10 times less than for America.   

But, of course, as I have said many times before, statistics can be used to prove anything.  I am sure there is a statistic out there that compares the homicide rate by firearm for, say North Dakota, to that of Michigan, in which more guns per person (North Dakota) equals less murders.  This is the basis of arguments by certain politicians and NRA spokespeople who propose more guns on school campuses, more guns on planes, more guns in the hands of the good guys to counter those in the hands of the bad. 

Curiously, the bad never seem to be defined.  Criminals, of course, although per most of the GOP candidates, criminals ignore laws so more laws won't matter.  The mentally ill?  Who is ready to define that Pandora's box?  Those who have seen a psychiatrist?  Those on certain psychiatric drugs?  Those who have been forcibly committed to a psychiatric ward?  And, if the latter, is it a lifetime ban, or is there some kind of sanity test that one can pass to regain the right to be armed?

(I hesitate to say it here, since it seems so obvious, but even harder to define is the good guys.  One comment I heard in response to a call for stricter background checks is that the Oregon shooter would have passed those checks, that, in fact, there were numerous weapons found in his home, all purchased legally.  So, when did he cross the line from good to bad?  The answer seems to be, the moment he killed, which explains why upwards of 60% of people are killed by someone they know, not strangers.  So, you have to ask yourself, if a gun was not on the scene, how many of those people would not have died?)

Just to return to the idiocy of the statement, more gun laws won't matter because criminals don't obey laws, why is that theory not applied to other areas of law enforcement?  Harsher pedophile laws won't matter because pedophiles don't obey laws.  Or the death penalty doesn't matter because crazies ignore laws.  Or even the far more damaging but rarely fatal to those who break them, insider trading laws don't matter because greedy people don't care about society.  Can you imagine the fallout if any politician made any of those comments, yet hours, no minutes after a mass shooting, many of them line up to get their chance to bow down to the NRA. 

Anyway, all this is merely window dressing.  The real issue is our belief that guns mixed with individuality and the fight for freedom is the basis of our great country and that any restriction of the right to purchase a firearm violates the 2nd Amendment: 

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. 

This is certainly not the place for a drawn out interpretation of what the founders meant by the above phrase.  Since it was a time of armed insurrection against England, and owning a gun was a necessary, everyday tool for the majority of the colonists of the day, it seems obvious to me that they were compelled to mention that the oppressor (England) should not make laws denying the colonists both a tool required for everyday existence, and a method (militia) to protect the freedom of the burgeoning country.  Whether they could anticipate the urbanization of America where guns were not needed to acquire ones food or shoot four legged predators, the sheer size of its military whose sole purpose is to protect our freedom, and the use of violence (through guns) to address the problems of everyday society is debatable. 

But that is the rub.  The philosophy that violence solves problems, where violence is defined as righteous war against our enemies, vigilante justice, or merely the right to defend one's property. 
We were born out of violence, believe that violence won our independence, confirmed its use in World War 1 and 2, and hold dear the philosophy that using a gun to solve a problem is a valid answer.  Perhaps even God-given if you can wrap your head around that one.

So, in some ways more gun laws may not provide immediate relief to our problem of violence as an accepted method of problem solving.  Clearly, mass shootings, even of our children, didn't inspire us to rethink.  It will take a change in our way of thinking, both about what we think the United States represents, and about how we foresee the future for our children, grandchildren and so on.  And, if I may be so bold, whether we wish to stop pretending we are a Christian nation, but actually embrace the teachings of Christ.  Love thy neighbor as thyself does not include using a gun to make a point.
Turn the other cheek is not reflected on bumper stickers like Keep Honking, I am Reloading. 

In the movies, the good guys win, sometimes by outsmarting the bad guys, but more often than not by outgunning them, even when outnumbered.  Luckily, in the movies, the bad guys are bad shots and the good guys have perfect aim.  In real like, good people make poor choices, act out of rage, do things they would never dream of doing.  Having a gun at hand sometimes exacerbates that poor choice resulting in the death of a spouse, family member or friend.  Just like it is best not to smoke a cigarette or create a flame near something flammable, the proliferation of guns in America has helped create criminals out of good people who lost their temper, had a bad day, or were tired of being bullied, laughed at, isolated from the good things our culture has to offer.  They turned to violence to act out their anger, express their displeasure or hurt someone else after being hurt. 

People kill people, and they use guns to do it.  Lets address both parts of the that equation, the why we resort to violence, and the ease in which we can acquire a gun to multiply the amount of violence we inflict.


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