How we talk about mass shootings.
Gun control saves lives, This is the issue at heart.But in order to understand why people dance around this, we need to explore some of the predictable pattern.
These patterns are as predictable as the sun rising in the East. While they may be understood as a national coping mechanism, they are not healthy. If there is something Americans are allergic to is any form of complexity. It matters little what the issue is. In the case of mass shootings this can have very real consequences. They come in how we treat each other and at the policy level.
It is important that as a society we start tackling the complexities. The other day I offered some of the real structural causes for mass shootings. They are income inequality, lack of savings, and a quiet desperation in society. Mass shootings, the opioid epidemic, and increasing violence come from anger. It is time to face this and not continue with the usual pattern.
If you spend any time on social media, you have seen them. Memes tend to appear ten-seconds after any tragedy. It is as if they were ready to go, or something. It does not matter if it is in support of people in the midst of a natural disaster. Or, people in the middle of a man made disaster. A mass shooting by is the latter.
The problem with memes, like bumper stickers, is that they simplify issues to the point of being risible. In the case of the mental health community they continue a pervasive attack on people with mental health issues.
It is a popular misconception that you must be crazy to go shoot 17 people. For that matter, you must be nuts to shoot one. This is classic avoidance of the real issues, or the fact that mental health has very little to do with this. However, politicians also use it because it gives them political cover.
The danger in this is that this places the mentally ill at risk. It makes their life more difficult, since they have trouble finding jobs. It can lead to very real attacks where people are injured or killed. Is there a link between mass shooters and mental health? Yes, in some cases. See Aurora Colorado where the court had to decide if the shooter was mentally capable to stand trial. We have over 38,000 people killed a year. The vast majority of shooters do not have a mental history.
It also makes it easy to justify doing nothing and to separate the shooter from us.
Another usual excuse, and former Congressman Jack Kingston was doing this on CNN, is to blame Hollywood. What is amazing is that the same violent movies that Kingston was attacking do not cause people to go crazy abroad. Rambo is big abroad. So is Saving Private Ryan, and Fast and Furious. So how come Batman makes Americans reach for their guns but not Canadians?
Incidentally Canada also has a lot of guns, but they do not have a gun culture. Yes, there is a difference. And then there are the statistics:
In 2011, the U.S. population was approximately 312 million, and the country had 11,000 homicides from firearms. In the same year, Canada’s population was approximately 34 million and 158 gun-related homicides. That’s roughly 1 death for every 28,000 people in the United States vs. 1 death for every 215,000 people in Canada. The United States owns more firearms than any country in the world — 270 million of them as of 2011.
There is a very different culture. Many Americans have placed their guns quite literally above anything, including their children, You see it online when you read statements such as the students at the Parkland school in Florida will not limit my rights to accumulate more guns. You also see it when some in the right wing say that we should not make this political. Well, when somebody walks repeatedly into public places and shoots people up, it is political.
We are not getting those laws because the National Rifle Association has captured Congress.
It is time we confront how we talk about guns and race. Have you heard the term white on white crime? I knew it existed, when I heard it this morning on the radio I was quite frankly surprised. It is exactly what happened at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida High School, or Sandy Hook Elementary, or Colubine.
All those shootings share one thing in particular. The perpetrator, or perpetrators were white. Therefore, none is blaming the culture. They were all lone wolves, and they were alone. Ok, maybe we will blame the bullies, as it happened in Columbine.
If any of these incidents were done by a black or brown person, god forbid a muslim, then we would be talking for hours on end about thug culture. Kingston tried blaming Hollywood, becuase the right loves to blame Hollywood for the ills of society. If we went back to an era when the censors were far more active, and the scripts were more conservative all would be fine. Except it was not.
However, the right will not blame the culture where any of the shooters grew up, whether it was Sandy Hook, Columbine or Parkland. Nor will they ask, how the hell did an 18 year old buy, legally mind you, 10 center fire rifles, when he could not legally obtained side arms?
In short, none will blame the gun culture, and the culture of violence that we have enabled.
Like clockwork there are people who are decrying a particular class of psychiatric drugs. SSRIs. These are used to treat things like depression and literally can save lives. Incidentally, like Hollywood movies, only in the United States do these drugs make people crazy. Or like Hollywood, it is just a convenient excuse.
I expect to see this one grow once again. The same people who spread Fear Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about vaccines, will spread more FUD on this. There is a reason. It actually makes the shooter, and society at large, not responsible for what happened. Yes, it is that simple.
What is behind mass shootings?
What is the common link? GUNS. States with tougher gun control regulations have less of these incidents. They also have less shootings in general.
This is not a secret and experts known this.
Yes, there are broken homes, that lead to people taking up arms, and shooting up their schools. Yes, there are people who for some reason will snap, and shoot up concert goers. In this country it is very easy for a person to stock up on both ammo and weapons. It is also very easy to fall prey to a slew of conspiracy theories, which can be part of this. We know the latest shooter had quite a bit of racist ideas.
This country has passed laws to deal with gun violence in the past. The National Firearms Act of 1934 was passed in response to things like the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, constant shoot outs between police and the mafia. Those happened in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
What is ironic is that this law was sponsored by the National Rifle Association. Before the law was passed you could order a tommy gun, or a Browning Automatic Rifle on the Sears Catalogue, the Amazon of the day. After the law was passed, owners were grandfathered, and for the most part, you could no longer own them.
Yes, there are collectors who own them. The background checks to transfer ownership are onerous at best. So when you are told, but nothing can be done. Wrong. Something has already been done. We have precedent.
Moreover, the Tenth Circuit affirmed a ten round magazine limit and did not deem an absolute right to own these weapons. NBC writes:
”Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war,” Judge Robert King wrote for the court, adding that the Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller explicitly excluded such coverage.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who led the push for the law in 2013 as a state senator, said it’s “unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment.”
We are at a moment of change. The young men and women who survived that mass shooting at Parkland Florida have become activists. Like Mothers Against drunk Driving a generation ago, these young people, some of whom will be voting in 2020, and the parents of the school age children at Newton, are the core of a movement. It is becoming a wave. This wave has yet to crest.