Turn on the television or Internet and you get the latest in gun violence. You get varying degrees of plans to catch the killer or justification for exercise of the violence or, rarely, official expressions of condolences. Then there’s the debate that follows between defenders of gun rights and gun control/gun regulation/gun ban advocates.
The back-drop of this debate was striking this past week. A mall shooting in Portland – three dead and shooter kills himself. White adult shoots and kills Black teenager because the teenager was playing his music too loud. An off-duty sherriff’s deputy shoots and kills a young Black woman in a Wal-Mart parking lot for shoplifting in Houston. Most notoriously was Friday’s shooting in at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that left at least 20 young children dead. Later that night in Las Vegas, a murder-suicide between a man and woman at a hotel on the Strip where many were getting their evening and gambling on. In Alabama Saturday, police killed a gunman wielding an AK-47 after he killed three people in trailer park park. Earlier, another gunman in Alabama was shot and killed at a hospital. Ten people were shot in the President’s adopted hometown of Chicago
The event receiving the most attention is the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Because it involved children, and when we look at them, we mostly see innocence, vulnerability, and potential. The question asked out loud, in our hearts, and at the back of minds is “Why them? How can children pose a threat to you? What power do they exert over your existence – past or present?”
And if those questions pop in your mind, how about the following: where is this level of outrage and heavy-heartedness when innocent children are killed in Gaza? Afghanistan? Iraq? The Congo? Or African American youth victims of gun violence? There’s an undercurrent of racism in these instances. It seems their lives are devalued as inevitable collateral damage or getting what they had coming to them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or around the wrong people. In all of the news shows analyzing the Sandy Hook massacre, I did not hear this issue addressed.
Most likely it stems from de-sensitizing. As in being overwhelmed by non-ending foreign wars, domestic wars on drugs, television shows and movies glorifying the use of guns to combat crime or intra-group criminal activity, and from a quote attributed to Morgan Freeman about gun violence, the gunman being identified and their biographies almost immediately posted before we even know anything about the victims.
Again, it takes an incident like Sandy Hook to ignite serious discussion about ban on assault weapons? Or stricter gun regulations?
Or maybe you pass laws expanding gun rights to extend the sphere of self-protection and self-defense. Like in Michigan, where the lame duck legislature just expanded places where you can now carry a weapon, including schools, day care centers, college dormitories, churches, and sports stadiums. As if the antidote is in the disease. Only it sounds like those kinds of laws invite “Shoot now, explain later” cases where criminal and civil liability may be determined but only after the damage is done – often fatal and irreversible damage.
I understand the sentiment whereby one doesn’t want to be unarmed with irrational and/or devious people out there possessing guns. As the adage goes, if a rabbit carried a pistol nobody would go rabbit-hunting. And the Black Panthers were on to something when they armed themselves to protect against unwarranted attacks by the police and COINTELPRO. But, honestly, most of these claims for the need to be armed in order to defend oneself is exaggerated and borne from paranoia.
The Sunday talk shows spoke a lot about mental health, but even those discussions were a tad narrow. In that they seemed to be focused on people with diagnosed disorders, such as bi-polar disease. What about the undiagnosed emotional/mental disorders caused by poverty, unemployment, lost home and lost wealth?
Then there was New York Mayor Bloomberg on Meet the Press. His ten minute was a mix of tough guy calling out. He called Obama for failing to fulfill his campaign promise to get tough on assault weapons and implored him to use authority to get medieval on gun regulations. He debunked the myth that the NRA is such a formidable power. He pointed out that candidates it backed lost more elections than won, including Obama. Most important, he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is to support tighter gun regulation and tougher penalties.
Unfortunately, this country was founded on the use of armed resistance. This April 23, 2012 article from the New Yorker provides a summary of the tension between gun rights and gun regulations. Additionally, there has been the middle of the road suggestion that you don’t take away guns but don’t allow concealed weapons to be carried to public places. Instead, place openly-armed guards in conspicuous positions as deterrents to gun violence in public places. Whatever is done, the weird mix of guns, people, and how people use those guns remain and remain unresolved.
Update: There was another murder-suicide here in my home state of Colorardo this morning. They love some guns out here in the Square State. In fact, I believe there was a reality tv show broadcast on cable featuring a gun store that was set in Denver. In the murder-suicide which left a total of four dead, one of the two female victims called 911. As she was talking to the dispatcher, she was shot. A male then got on the phone and told the same dispatcher he was going to kill himself. Shots were then heard – presumably the person shooting himself.
The decision to kill yourself is yours and yours alone. But don’t take other people with you.
Update II: Suicide is being expanded to taking as many people with you as you can. These murder-suicides are really crazy. And scary. What’s especially scary is this headline from yesterday’s edition of The Huffington Post (mind you these events all occurred between December 14 and December 21, 2012):