Wednesday, December 02, 2015

How is this possible?

SWAT Teams responded this afternoon to the scene of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California.  As I write this reports say that 14 people were killed and at least another 14 were wounded.  Earlier this same day there was another shooting in Savannah, Georgia.  In fact, in the 335 days we've had in 2015 there have been 355 mass shootings.

Read that again.  Today was the three hundred thirty fifth day of 2015 and there have been three hundred fifty five mass shootings.  The calendar to the left should be sobering and deeply disturbing, especially considering that it counts only shootings that have four or more victims.  (The definition of a "mass shooting.")  There is literally an untold number of shootings each and every day that never make it on to the news (except, perhaps, locally), and that are not accounted for in statistics like this.

According to the ironically named website GunsAreCool, there were 365 mass shootings in 2013 -- which is an average of one every day.  (Remember that "mass shooting" is being defined here as a shooting incident in which there were at least four victims.)  In 2014 there was a slight dip -- 336 in 365 days -- but here in 2015 we've already topped the one-per-day average of 2013!

Can anyone describe this as anything but horrific?  Can anyone honestly say that this is the way things should be?  That this is the kind of environment we want to live in, want our children to live in, want anyone to live in, for that matter?

So let's get right down to it. Guns don't kill people in these mass shooting incidents.  People kill people in these mass shooting incidents ... but it should be pointed out that there is one and only one consistent trait among all of these shooters.  It's not the shooter's race, socio-economic status, mental health, philosophical or religious perspectives, age, gender, or virtually any other category we use to divide people into groups.  No.  The one thing all of these people have in common is that they are people with guns!  Guns don't kill people, true enough.  But people without guns are not opening fire and killing people in shopping malls, movie theaters, abortion clinics, social service agencies, college campuses, ... elementary schools, for Christ's sake!  The one thing that each and every one of these people have in common is that they had a gun with them.

Then there's the equally vacuous assertion that, "if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns."  First, I think it's fair to say that the only people talking about outlawing guns are the rabid gun owners (and manufacturers) who want to fire up their base to defend against this insidious threat (that doesn't exist).  More to the point, though, the vast majority of the people involved in these mass shooting incidents got their guns through legal means.  If the problem here is the people and not the guns, why are we not making it a little harder -- hell, even just a little more inconvenient -- for these people to get their hands on guns?

We require that people who want to operate a motor vehicle go through training and obtain a license.  We require that their vehicles are inspected regularly to make sure that they meet certain standards of safety.  If someone misuses their vehicle they can be required to attend additional training or could have their license revoked.  Yet no one decries this as an infringement of their rights.  How can anyone today still be arguing that sensible measures that make it a little harder to buy a gun are the prelude to some kind of armament Armageddon?

Background checks.  A waiting period.  Registration.  I found an interesting little post on the blog Crooks and Liars titled, "10 Things Harder to Do in American Than Buy a Gun."  It was easy to also find shorter lists (5 things) and longer ones (11 things).  However frivolous some of the examples are, the point is that we regularly accept all sorts of hoops and hurdles that hassle us on our way to doing all sorts of things.  Why is this gun ownership so sancrosanct?

That leads us into the waters of the 2nd Ammendment, and our "gun culture," and the mythology of the "rugged individual," and too many other murky places to go exploring tonight.  Lots of other peole have already done -- and are no doubt in the process of doing now -- a much better job than I can of addressing these things.  (Although that doesn't mean I won't try!)  For now let it be enough for us to once again force ourselves to look at the painful, horrific truth.  There is a violence present in our society that should disgust us.  And we must choose whether that disgust will make us numb or make us act.

Pax tecum,


"Non-Violence" (also known as "The Knotted Gun") is a pro-peace sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd, designed in late 1980 and inspired by the shooting death of his pal, John Lennon. It was given to the UN by the government of Luxembourg in 1988. - See more at:
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