I wish this article from The Onion, a satirical (that means fake) news website wasn’t so on point. Because right now I’m wondering when and where is the next mass school shooting going to take place? OBVIOUSLY, it’s going to happen again. I’m not being pessimistic. School shootings are a thing now, and literally nothing has been done on a national level to really figure out how to prevent them.
When the Columbine school shooting, the first mass school shooting I was old enough to personally be aware of, occurred, everybody looked for something to blame, whether it was Rock music, or The Matrix, or Satan himself. The general consensus was that this was a fluke, it couldn’t happen, it was an abomination, but at least it was over. Except it wasn’t over. The school shootings continued, and all we have left to blame is ourselves.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, an event that occurred six miles from my mother’s house and deeply effected my community with the type of lasting repercussions that can only truly be felt by those people directly and immediately impacted by a tragic event, I really thought we might see some actual changes, whether due to government legislation, or cultural shift. Evidently, 20 dead six-year-olds was not enough for that to occur however.
Now, it’s happened once more, this time in Parkland, Florida, and again, outside of the immediate Parkland Community, who right now are feeling the same sense of betrayal and anger and fear that my town experienced following the Sandy Hook event, for the rest of us, no change has occurred. Life goes on for those not directly impacted by the dead. Sure, people give their thoughts and prayers on social media, everybody points fingers at everybody else seeking to place blame, people who hate guns post about how guns are bad, people who like guns post about how guns don’t kill people, people kill people, and everybody points their fingers at the bogey-man of “mental health”, but ultimately it’s the same exact narrative, with the same exact results that it has always been. The results by the way, are that there are no results.
There are no results, because this is a complex issue that everybody wants a simple solution to. That, of course, is not how the real world works. There is no one keystone issue causing these mass shooting events, so what we’re going to have to do is resolve a bunch of different issues before we begin to see any progress being made.
PROBLEM ONE: The first, is unfortunately, guns. As many of my readers know, I am a gun owner. I hunt. I go to the shooting range. I am licensed to carry, and I often do. I enjoy shooting, and talking about guns, and being immersed in the gun culture. I have family members that work for Colt, and Smith and Wesson. I live in Connecticut, America’s Arsenal, where most of our domestic firearm manufacturing occurs. I have guns, and I’d love to have more. After the Sandy Hook shooting, I even wrote a blog post explaining why I supported gun ownership. I am part of the problem. Because guns are fucking weapons, and they make killing really, really easy. So, while I personally would love to own a fully-automatic machine gun that can fire a million-billion rounds a second and cut a mature oak tree in half like a chainsaw, because I think that would be bad-ass and gives me a massive violence hard-on, I think it’s pretty damn clear that our current gun-laws, gun-availability, and gun-obsession as a country is a big fucking problem. Especially because pro-gun people’s arguments are so very flimsy.
Their arguments usually go like this: Criminals get guns illegally, therefore we need guns to protect ourselves against the criminals! This of course completely ignores the fact that the vast majority of criminal firearm use is against other criminals, not against normal law-abiding citizens. It also ignores the fact that restrictions on the type of guns available to the public won’t decrease your ability to protect yourself and your family. I live in a place where bear and coyotes and the occasional home-invasion are legitimate concerns. I advocate for responsible gun ownership and our right to own and carry arms. But the truth is, my classic pump-action shotgun is a much more reliable deterrent to those credible threats than a high-capacity semi-automatic military style assault rifle would be, while still being a much less efficient tool of mass murder. So while I love plinking through a 30-round magazine with an AR-15 or Ruger mini-14, or High-Point carbine, or AK variant at the range as much as the next guy, I think it’s time to admit that maybe we shouldn’t have such easy access to these types of weapons. So yes, while I personally think assault weapons are really fucking cool and fun to shoot, I agree with banning them. Because they are a tool that makes mass murder very, very, very easy, and the more that are available in the market and in our homes and communities, INEVITABLY the more they will be used in mass shooting events. Will making these types of weapons illegal stop all criminals from getting their hands on them? No. Does making the legal drinking age 21 stop all underage people from buying booze? No. But it sure is a lot fucking easier to buy a bottle of bourbon after you’re 21 than before.
Their second preposterous argument is that Guns don’t kill people, People kill people. I’ve seen Facebook posts where they’re literally like durr, I left my Glock and my scary AR loaded and unlocked on my front porch all day and they didn’t get up and murder a bunch of folks, they must be broken. Congratulations, you’re an asshole who is being willfully obtuse. Yes, my fellow gun-lovers, people kill people. But the easiest way for them to do it is with high-capacity semi-automatic and automatic firearms. Limit those firearms, limit the deaths. Guns are weapons meant for killing. Clearly, if there are more weapons, and those weapons are more efficient at killing, there will be more killing. Just like clearly, if there are more cars on the road, there will be more automobile accidents, so people have grudgingly accepted the existence of speed limits on our nation’s roadways. Not because they are bad drivers with poorly maintained cars, of course not, they’re all professionally trained F1 drivers with brand new hyper-cars who can safely travel 200 MPH in a school zone. Yet they allow the existence of speed limits because they understand that not everybody else is. In fact, most people are shitty distracted drivers with a death wish in broken down jalopies, and since they can’t safely drive 200 MPH, it makes sense to limit everybody to a safer speed. Just like since not everybody is a well-adjusted and stable responsible gun owner, it makes sense to limit the capacity of our personal arsenals to civilian levels of lethality, not military grade hardware.
Argument three is that they need these high-capacity semi-automatic firearms for legitimate purposes like hunting. Nope. Bullshit. I am a hunter. I do think semi-automatic firearms are great for hunting! The ability to put multiple rounds on target quickly allows for clean and ethical two shot kills where a bolt-action firearm may result in an animal being wounded but not immediately killed, and then escaping to bleed out painfully before a second round can be placed on target. So a semi-automatic rifle with a 5 or 6 round internal magazine, like a Browning BAR or something of that nature is absolutely appropriate for hunting. The only time that a 10, 20, or 30+ round detachable magazine is necessary for hunting is if you’re hunting multiple targets. Like say, on a battlefield…or a school.
Argument four: We need these battle rifles to protect ourselves against the government! Um..the government has drones, and helicopters, and tactical nuclear warheads. Your AR-15 won’t be saving you from a military assault. Also, why do you think we are in danger from our own military? These people are our own neighbors, friends, family members. They’re not going to turn on us if they’re ordered to by a suddenly homicidal government.
Argument five: Yeah but…we need guns in school to protect the childrens from these maniacs. Really? Because it’s realistic to believe that we can obtain trained and trustworthy armed security in our schools now? The schools where teachers have to spend their own money for pencils and crayons and calculators for their students? And where do we find these mythical affordable trained and trustworthy armed security guards? Retirees from the Kern County PD? Graduates from the George Zimmerman school of Community Protection? I’m sure some of the larger, urban, or wealthy school systems can place actual on-duty police officers in their schools, but not all the schools, and not all the time. So maybe instead of promoting an unrealistic solution to counter the symptoms of the problem, we focus on fixing the cause of the problem.
Argument the sixth: The Second Amendment! Yes, the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear arms. It is a great amendment, one of our most cherished rights as American citizens. But it is conspicuously absent of any language guaranteeing us a certain type or class of arm. It can do with some updating and clarification, for which there is of course precedent. Example. The 18th Amendment enacted prohibition of alcohol. The twenty-first Amendment stopped it. So, amendments can be changed if the need is great enough. 17 dead people in Parkland, FL might be saying that the need is great enough right now.
So problem one – we’ve got a lot of guns, and many of those guns are super good at killing loads of people quickly. Solution one – Less guns altogether, less high-capacity guns specifically, and more stringent rules and regulations regarding purchase and ownership of said guns. Again, I like guns. I’m just being realistic about what they actually are.
PROBLEM TWO: “Mental Health”. This is actually more about health in general. The fact of the matter is that our for-profit health system in the United States is a joke and a LOT of people go without necessary assistance because they simply can’t afford it. You break a limb in Canada, you go to the hospital, it gets fixed, you get your medicine and you go home. You break a limb in the United States, you go the hospital, it gets fixed, you get a bill for $100k, your friends make a Go Fund Me asking for donations, you can’t work while you’re recuperating, you have no income, you lose your car and house, you’re now homeless, you get cut by a rusty nail, you get tetanus, you can’t afford the tetanus shot since you still have no health insurance, and you die. Similarly, you have depression or anger issues, or PTSD, or some other mental illness or issue, you have no health insurance so you can’t get the care or medicine you need, you flip out, grab one of your eighteen legal assault rifles and go shoot up a school. Meanwhile Chad who just got a $750k bonus for securing the Henderson account is stoked that he didn’t have to pay an extra $4.99 on his taxes for universal healthcare because fuck em, that’s why.
So problem two – we’ve got shitty expensive healthcare and sick people can’t get the help they need. Solution two – we get just a bit socialist and end the for-profit healthcare system in favor of a single-payer or other nationalized healthcare system. When an essential medication costs $3 to produce, and other countries can happily buy it for $5, but we’re getting billed $800, so many people just go without…something needs to change. If our sad, angry, mentally ill young men can get the help they need, things won’t reach a crisis point where they’re showing up to school with guns and pipe bombs.
PROBLEM THREE: Men. I mentioned sad, angry, mentally ill young men in the previous sentence for a reason. That’s who is doing all these mass shootings. Not women. So we need to figure out why. Are men simply violent, uncaring brutes susceptible to rage and anger issues? Maybe. But probably, we just exist in a culture where the male ideal is to BE a sad, angry, violent brute because feelings are gay and gay is bad. Young women get sad and angry and mentally ill just as much as men, the difference is they are allowed to cry and emote and discuss their issues in a supportive environment, so their most violent impulses are safely blunted and redirected. Men, who do not have that support system, and who are raised to believe that the strong, stoic, violent alpha male is king never evolve those healthy coping mechanisms, and then when something goes wrong, like a girl dumps them, or a cruel classmate or coworker mocks them, or they are mistreated at home, their only recourse is to blindly lash out. Their instinct when they feel pain is to cause pain. I know it is. Source: I’m a man. When I was young, my dad was killed, and I became very angry. Violent even. Because I was a child without a fully developed mind, and I did not know how to cope with my strong emotions. So I lashed out, got in fights, was generally a dick. Luckily, I had the support of my mother and extended family and community, and I was able to afford therapy, but more importantly, I was able to begin playing football, and then get into boxing, so during my most formative and angriest years, when hormones were raging and I was still learning about myself and learning how to control my feelings and my responses to my typical youthful angst, I had a safe environment to get out my aggression in a healthy and productive manner. THAT more than anything, the cathartic release of football and boxing helped me work through my anger until I got old enough and mature enough and secure enough in my masculinity to handle and express my emotions in nonviolent and healthy ways. I have no idea what type of person I would be if I didn’t have those healthy and safe avenues for releasing my pent up frustrations and anger. And those avenues are not available or appropriate for everyone. So we need to do better with our young men’s emotional intelligence. Basically, we need to allow them to hurt. We need to allow them to express themselves. We need to be kinder.
Problem three – toxic masculinity and the unaddressed rage of young men. And that is our fault. All of us. Solution three – be better to each other. Change the cultural ideal. Place more focus on the Mr. Rogers’ of the world, and less on the Conan the Barbarians. Allow our boys to admit when they are hurting, and applaud them for their bravery instead of mocking them for their perceived weakness. Because otherwise they might just choose to prove their strength with a semi-automatic firearm.
Unfortunately, this issue is even more complex than what we have already discussed, and these three problems, even if completely solved, likely won’t stop all of the violence, but I think we can all agree they’d be a really good start. Because otherwise, we’ll just have to live our lives waiting for the next mass shooting. And next time, it might be at our own school.