Friday, July 20, 2012

A Dark Blight Rises (Again)

We have a serious sickness in this country.

I’m not quite sure what it is. Is it a fetish for guns? An overwhelming hatred of the authorities? A complete lack of empathy for others? A need for instant fame or notoriety, no matter what the means? All the above? None of the above?

What kind of human being strides into a movie premiere, sets off tear gas and murders people? After booby-trapping his apartment with explosives? WHAT THE HELL COMPELS SOMEONE TO DO THAT?

“Oh, he’s clearly sick.” Well, if he is, why is he out on the streets? No one gets to this point without a lot of missed intervention. Maybe he alienated his friends and family. Maybe he couldn’t afford the help he needs. All of the above? None of the above?

Or maybe he isn’t just sick. Maybe he’s as cold and calculating as the Unabomber, or the Columbine shooters. That might be worse. In that case, I wonder how the United States of America can keep stamping out so many defectives.

I’m tired of us treating these like isolated incidents. Have you noticed that? The first thing we always assume in times like this is that the shooter has connections to terrorism. And when we think that’s the case, we’ll apply every enforcement muscle we have to topple this conspiracy of death! After all, America is the land of the free — and we aren’t about to let sociopaths destroy our domestically peaceful way of life. And if it takes trading in a few of our civil liberties to preserve it, well, can’t be too careful.

Of course, when it turns out the gunman is some lone local nut job, we ease off, don’t we? Easy now. Let’s not get all crazy about gun control. The Second Amendment is a sacred right, dontcha know. Not at all subject to interpretation. If anything, incidents like this prove we only need MORE GUNS!

Whatever your feelings about the Second Amendment, I can’t imagine anybody thinks that it’s meant to enable madmen to shoot up innocent people. And whatever your feelings on health care reform, I can’t imagine anyone thinks that our long-decimated mental care system is worth the cost savings.

“Oh Ian, how dare you politicize this tragedy?” Bite me. You can’t even begin to address this problem without going there. It’s not lost on me that most of the people who want to avoid discussing this are those whose lust for unfettered access to firearms and disinterest in public health care are made to look bad. I’m not looking for a political fight, but I’m also not someone to say, “So senseless and tragic. Let’s pray for the victims.” Look, pray if that makes you feel better. But prayer is not going to bring anyone back, and it’s not going to prevent future tragedies if we don’t examine the root causes here on Earth. We have problems and we’re the ones who are going to have to solve them. And solving them will involve, at the very least, an honest examination into whether we’re as civilized and superlative as we think we are. It looks to me like we still have quite a way to go.

To paraphrase what I said after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, it’s never too soon to talk about this — it’s too often too late.


Nick Istre said...

"whose lust for unfettered access to firearms and disinterest in public health care"

What's sad, at least in my view, is how related these two things can actually be; if you really want to make a push-back against gun control, make a push for free psychiatric checkups and treatment, especially for high-school and college-aged students. And have the mental-health doctors have some actual power once someone is positively identified to have some psychological or neurological problems, especially when it comes to access to firearms.

Basically, praying for the victims, executing the "lone local nut job" after he kills, or claiming we need more guns in society will not do a damned thing to prevent more tragedies like this.

Otherwise, we're going to have more calls for gun control. Which, if we keep going down this path, will mean we still have as many "lone nut jobs" out there. But at least they'll more-likely to be armed with just knives or bats than guns in public.

Ian McGibboney said...

Excellent points, Nick. I think guns should be like cars in terms of accountability and oversight. And that especially means vetting gun owners. It's interesting to me that the one item that exists solely to maim and kill - guns - is also one of the biggest sacred cows we have. We're much less lenient about other potential weapons such as cars, knives, bats, scissors and anything else that has a purpose other than to harm. But advocating even sensible measures is often enough for someone to label you an enemy of the Constitution (of which the Second Amendment is actually one the vaguer portions in the Bill of Rights).

I'd be willing to take chances with less-deadly weapons. We do so every day. Years ago, I was in the lobby of a movie theater (The Grand on Johnston) where cops were chasing two fighting men in circles. At least one of them had a weapon that was not a gun. I remember the cops tackling the guys to the ground and arresting them with no further problems. How would that incident have gone if the assailant had a weapon capable of killing others from a distance? I or one of my friends at the concession stand might have died. They say guns don't kill people, but they sure as hell make it easier.