STORMY WEATHER

Posted in Rants on July 23rd, 2012 by Ed

Americans have the unique ability to think about mass murder and spree killing the same way they conceptualize natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes; it's just a thing that happens and can't be stopped. When it strikes there's nothing we can do except hold a vigil, say "Oh, how awful", donate something to the survivors, and go about our day. Usually within about a week we manage to forget it ever happened, and then a few months later the cycle repeats itself.

There is no sense in the wake of these tragedies that it is possible to do anything to prevent them from recurring because, like many other issues in our political process, one half of the potential means to address the problem are completely off the table. The only acceptable solution is more guns, more bullets, more firepower, more high-capacity magazines, and endless complaining about the meager, ineffectual regulations in place (background checks, etc.) that stop only the dumbest and least creative criminals. The media and political process inevitably conclude that, gee, if only more people in the theater had been armed they could have shot back…and, uh, hit the attacker in the dark, smoke-filled theater amidst all the panic and confusion.

Oh, he was covered in body armor? Hmm. I guess it's time to legalize more firepower. Concealed carry permits and armor-piercing ammunition for all!

Despite the fact that the "Armed citizens are the best first responders!" argument fails in a half-dozen different ways in this instance – the attack was over in the blink of an eye, the film goers were taken completely by surprise, they were likely unable to see the gunman let alone shoot him, and he would be unharmed by handgun ammunition anyway – it is still all we will hear in response. Like the only solution to economic questions is lower taxes, the only answer to crime, especially gun crime, is more guns. More, more, more. Someday we'll have enough to be safe. But not yet.

The most baffling part about the logic of the NRA-led response is that it is based on a premise that is ignored as soon as it is established. The argument is that guns don't kill people – unhinged or evil people do. OK. Let's accept that premise in full. Why, then, does the NRA fight so hard to make it easier for evil or unhinged people to have access to things like high powered ammunition and large magazines? If the world is full of the scary people they blame for gun crime, these things only serve to make them more efficient killers. We are told that people like the Columbine killers were so full of hatred and violence that if they had no guns they would have used other weapons…and then we are not allowed to point out that they wouldn't have managed to kill a dozen people with a knife. The AR-15 with a 30-round clip didn't make the guy in Aurora, Colorado a killer. It just ensured that he would be really good at it. Change the elements in the equation – weaker ammunition, smaller magazines, a less powerful rifle – and there are fewer casualties. Period.

Second, if the world is full of loons who want to kill their fellow man and we are not allowed to take away their guns (indeed, we are required to give them every possible tool for upping the body count) then I have an alternative. Congress should pass a law that anyone in the U.S., resident or otherwise, can present himself at any hospital, religious institution, or police/fire department and request immediate inpatient psychiatric care at no cost and with legal protection against job loss for missed time. People don't snap and become killers overnight; it is usually a long process of isolation, depression, plotting, and desensitization to violence. Why not attempt to intervene when they first have the thought, "Maybe I should kill a bunch of people in a theater" rather than letting it progress to the point that the idea is palatable, even normal? Of course this wouldn't help everyone. There are those who would not accept mental health treatment even at no cost. However, it would stop a few people who might otherwise become violent. Seems like it might be worth the cost, no?

Oh, right. That would be socialized medicine, and the AM airwaves and internet comment sections would fill to bursting with warnings about freeloaders faking it to get a free vacation on the taxpayers' dime. I guess we'll stick with the status quo, and our defense against heavily armed mass murderers will be the vigilante fantasies of adult children who feel powerful when armed and thus foster the illusion that guns are making them safe.