By the time I get to the end of this post, I will check my news feed to see if an upward adjustment to the number of mass shootings and deaths needs to be made. It is a hell of a situation we find ourselves in as a nation. At the age of 60, I find myself writing about gun deaths with the same sense of frustration as when a middle school student. That is when I wrote my first letter to the editor of our local newspaper, the topic being the number of needless deaths from cheap handguns.
This morning The New York Times started a news story about mass shootings in a fashion that underscores the enormity of the problem in the nation. Such violence is not simply a part of the large urban landscapes, such as Los Angles, or within the mean streets of inner cities like Chicago where drugs and gangs too often predominate.
There was the mass shooting near a youth center in Allentown, Pa., and the one at a Subway restaurant in Durham, N.C. Another took place behind a beer hall in Oklahoma City, and another at a strip club outside Columbus, Ohio. Two mass shootings ended parties in different Florida cities.
And that was just on New Year’s Day.
For many years I would write a blog post when the most recent and deadly gun carnage made headlines in the nation. They happen with such frequency, however, I just instead opt to head to the front lawn and bring the flag to half-staff. What more can be said about the barbaric slaughter from our fellow citizens, the frenzied desire from a sick subset of the populace to amass guns and weapons and bulletproof vests, or the spineless and cowering politicians who kneel to NRA lobbyists and gun manufacturers? What I do know is that we must never relent in our demand that reason and common sense win out over the complete insanity from the gun culture in our nation. We have witnessed 39 times this far what more guns, easily bought with few limitations, has brought upon our country.
I read with interest and much agreement the comment from a Minneapolis reader in the NYT when she made the following cogent argument. There is a real need to talk about what drives some men to act with such depravity and what social conditions allow them to believe their actions are ‘warranted’. I would add hyper-masculinity is very much a danger in the nation, and we need to have our schools, churches, and social organizations address it publicly while parents step up their skills to talk with their sons.
Something’s very wrong in American society, and the ridiculous availability of firearms of every description and capacity has been and is a symptom of something much deeper in the American psyche. That killing is so compelling and apparently so easy and irresistible for so many American men and boys shines a spotlight on the morality and values they are raised with, either by parents who inculcate those values or by the larger society that surrounds, advertises, coerces, and threatens that if you are male and are not comfortable with casual, angry, ego-driven violence, its endless expressions in sports and entertainment, and its gruesome instruments, somehow you are not a real “man.” Unrelenting, unthinking, “me-first” capitalism is also to blame. If you’re a man, having your own way in everything is a first principle of “success” in America. Just look around at the troubled and troublesome men America is obsessed with. Who is in the headlines day after day? How did they get there? If you can’t be one of them, just get yourself a gun and you can have all the power in your own hands, at least for a few minutes.
At this point in our gun-soaked and consequently blood-soaked nation, it is no longer the aim of gun control legislation advocates to stop gun crimes, but rather to stem the increase and start to roll back the numbers. The enormity of the issue can be seen in just the past three days in California where gun laws are on the books (and yes, I know the sound rationale for federal laws so weak states cannot be sources for gun sales) but even with more rigorous laws hell still broke out. However, we must not lose sight of the data that consistently shows that sane gun restrictions make society safer overall.
One of my reasons for this foundation can be found in a Rand study that was talked about on the news this weekend. Due to California having tougher gun laws, only 28% of California adults with those deadly weapons in their homes. As the reporter alerted viewers contrast that to Missouri where nearly 50% of homes had a gun inside. The steps required to bend the curve towards sanity and away from the gun culture will be slow and come in a variety of ways. The reason it must be done is in front of us daily.