Once again, as if we’re on a predictable cadence, we’re in the wake of yet another gun violence tragedy. This time it feels a little different, though. Instead of relying on the “leadership” of adults, we’re forced to recognize the wisdom of children: and it is a good thing. The students of MSD have enacted a spate of activism we haven’t seen in quite some time, centered on an issue that affects us all. Those we have elected to make the decisions for the populace are dinosaurs; we really should welcome the engaged youth of America into all of our discussions, as their futures are the ones we’re making decisions for today. But it can never be so easy. This issue of gun violence and easy access to weapons is a farther reaching discussion than we sometimes realize.
I consider myself the offspring of gun violence. I became an adult in the era of Columbine; I’ve lost people close to me by accidental shootings, suicide by gun, and murder by gun. Oh, and I was a graduate student at a university when, 10 years ago to the day of the Parkland shooting, that campus was shocked by an active shooter who killed five and injured seventeen, one of the latter a close friend of my then girlfriend.
So if anybody can talk about this openly and diplomatically, I believe I’ve earned the “cultural capital” to do so, though this is a dialog for everyone. What we need to accept is that the toothpaste is out of the tube and making semiautomatic weapons illegal, and potentially trying to confiscate those that have been rightfully, and legally, acquired, are not realistic options.
Of course no one needs an AR-15; no rational individual would make that statement. We need the AR-15 like we need a hand grenade or a tank. Just the same, no rational individual could claim that they need a 60” television, a 400 HP car or 5,000 square foot home. These are excesses of luxury that our individualistic society prides through its overindulgent appetite for more; a taste that shows no sign of being quenched. It is structural.
There were an estimated 3.3 million “assault” style rifles privately owned in 2012. With the rash of mass shootings, and the resultant calling of ‘fire in a crowded theater’ by the NRA, you can bet that number is considerably higher six years later. Our always quixotic president made (yet another) quizzical remark in the wake of the MSD shooting, saying that he believes police should have confiscated the shooter’s guns even if they didn’t have the right to do so. Due process be damned. Even the most anti-gun leftists should stop in their tracks at a statement like that. Say conservatively that 500,000 Americans own these possibly soon-to-be illegal weapons. Are we going to come for their weapons the way we’re starting to ask for the papers of those we believe to be non-citizens? Once we enter into the discussion the idea of rounding up guns (and people) then we’ve stepped one foot closer to a police state.
The toothpaste is out of the tube, and the answer is multifaceted and requires a fix at many levels. It is part education about how to treat your fellow humans; it is part mental health screenings and free, non-stigmatizing access to healthcare; and it is part accepting, and confronting, that the materialistic, consumptionist society we live in creates further crevasses between the haves and the have-nots, encouraging competition, waste and disrespect for anything and anyone other than one’s self.
We have to accept that mass murderers are driven by two things: the basest form of apathy (why they don’t care) and a complete lack of control in their lives (why they kill). Both can be caught early through in-tune educators and mental health providers; it starts with a well-supported education system. If the NRA wants to start to build character in its beleaguered organization, as well as those politicians who greedily take their handouts, then they need to redirect their money from lobbying efforts into school and health systems. Those on the right are correct: we do need to arm our educators, just not with guns. We need to arm them with the necessary resources to find the people who are destined to fall through the cracks. Much like drug addiction, if we openly offer the resources to help people fight their demons, then we will have a lot less bodies to bury in the future.
Not packin’, Pt. II