The Country we Live In…
We have yet another mass shooting at a school. When Columbine happened I was in the process of writing a novel. The novel involved a lot of research into the militia and anti government movement. It was the 1990s, and those militias were mostly not considered that dangerous, never mind that The Order committed robberies in the 1980s and killed Alan Berg, a Colorado radio host.
One of the scenes in the book involved a mass shooting at the local school, and an attack on a federal building using a small plane. Why? Both were seen as methods to start the Second American Revolution in a little book called the Turner Diaries.
The novel was never finished. The attack using a Cessna on a federal building happened years later. The person responsible held anti government feelings in Texas. School shootings are now a regular occurrence. Columbine was shocking. This time I turned to my mother and shrugged my shoulders. We live in a country where crime rates are very low, however, Americans feel like they live in a state of siege.
I was talking with a friend from Mexico, yesterday. Statistically, the United States has a far lower crime rate than Mexico. However, this matters, I am not afraid to walk down safe neighborhoods in Mexico, key word here is safe. I am not afraid to go to the movie theater in Mexico. I am not looking for cover and egress routes when I go to the mall, or the supermarket in Mexico. I look for cover and egress routes when I do all these things in the United States, never mind my city is one of the safest in the United States. I have not gone to a concert recently. You can bet I would be looking for cover and concealment to use, and egress routes as well.
Why? Because movie theaters, supermarkets, the malls, schools, any regular street, can become a random killing field at any moment. This is the country we live in.
The pattern is easy to predict. And damn it, I even explained that to my mother. If the shooter was black, brown or Muslim, this would have been a terrorist attack. Turns out that this guy is white. So what do our politicians offer? Well, you know, thoughts and prayers for the families, and do not politicize this. Let’s wait until we grieve for the victims. We have been doing that since at least Sandy Hook, in reality since Columbine. And yet, they have to do something substancial and they have blood money from the National Rifle Association in their hands. They did not even vote to limit bump-stocks after Las Vegas. That vote was never held.
The other part of the pattern, again very predictable, this guy was mentally ill. First off, most people who are mentally ill are not violent. In fact, they are often victims of violence. There is plenty of information on this. The Lancet had this a few years back: “If you care about the risk of violence, if you care about the small amount that is attributable to mental illness, you must care about the larger amount that is attributable to other types of behaviours. And then you should make sure that you’re addressing the whole problem.”
He was also able to once again, buy the AR-15 legally. I am not going to get into the specifics of what the AR-15 is, just that the round in that rifle was designed to do a few things. It is meant to tumble inside the target. It is also designed to create large artificial cavities as it goes though the body, in the process tearing tissue and bone apart. Why trauma is so extreme when people, or deer, are hit by it.
I once was a medic, in Mexico. We responded to many of the shootings between the cartels. Full disclosure, I was shot at many times, because the people we were transporting to the hospital were not precisely the nicest. However, I have seen the damage that both AK-47 and AR-15 rounds do. I do not have to imagine wading into a mass shooting, with blood making the floor so slick, that you could slip and fall. Nor do I have to imagine the danger that officers face when responding to active shooter incidents. For reasons that no longer exist, we responded and extracted patients from scenes well before scenes were secured by officers. So the possibility of facing the perpetrator every time we responded was very real.
Here is what matters, we rarely saw any collateral damage, because these shootings were between very specific groups that were at war with each other. Yes, sometimes a bullet did hit a civilian, but they were not the intended targets. The students at Columbine, Florida, insert school shooting here, were the targets. Civilians in Las Vegas were the target. People attending a Batman opening at a Colorado theater were the intended targets. That is a critical difference.
Granted, there are over 100,000 Mexicans who have died and 30,000 who have disappeared over the course of the last ten years. Many of them civilians. But for the most part, that rule still applies, the cartels still try to keep things away from the general population. Part of it is strategic. They do not want to turn people against them. Is it working? No, not really. But the commandos who attack each other usually do not go after uninvolved civilians.
But, but, it is used for hunting. True. It is a rifle that is bought by hunters. Here is the thing. If you are going to hunt legally, you cannot take more than 10 rounds with you. So why the hell do you need a 20 and 30 round magazine? You don’t. And there are plenty of other rifles that are perfectly capable of dropping a deer. Some use the same exact ammunition as well.
Then there are those who are so paranoid that the government is going to take away their guns, and rights, and they amass guns. Many of them are part of those same militias and survivalist groups that I first researched extensively in the 1990s. I predict an uptick in AR-15 sales, incidentally. It happens every time.
They also live with this amazing fantasy that they are going to be able to overthrow a tyrannical government using their pea shooters. Let’s make this clear. The United States military is equipped with state of the art military gear, including nuclear weapons. You think you are going to overthrow the government with a couple AR-15? You might as well take a knife to that fight. In the end it is going to be equally effective.
But, but the Second Amendment… We all know the argument, and the Supreme Court made a serious mistake with the often cited Heller decision. Look, the founders established it because they feared a standing army. Why those militias were needed. It is also the reason why the Second reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Here are the critical words usually ignored, “a well regulated militia.”
In the 1790s this also meant land owners, and white males. They needed those weapons (muzzle loaders, with a rate of fire of 3 rounds a minute), because they had to report for drills. They were needed in case of invasion, or attack. Then there is the use of militias for slave patrols, chiefly in the south. The Heller decision ignored this part of the amendment. It is not the first time the Supreme Court makes a mistake, and those who defended the Dredd Scott decision were on the wrong side of history as well.
That militia commanders had to do all kinds of things to get people to report for drill, and that they had discipline problems is also true. Or that those militias were mobilized in 1812, and that this war finally settled the argument in favor of a standing army is also true. These days we could even argue, and some have, that the militia in the amendment is the National Guard.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods.” “[E]ach generation” should have the “solemn opportunity” [to update the constitution] “every nineteen or twenty years,” [to] “be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time.”
The document is not a sacred document given by God to the people at Sinai. It is a fallible document written by mere human beings. This brings us to the argument made by traditionalist, who see the Constitution as pure perfection ergo it can never be changed. They argue that the founders did not want it changed, just interpreted. However, Thomas Jefferson is one of the founders, and he was aware that the document was not perfect. He knew it would have to change. We are likely at that point. And yes, I expect the usual suspects to scream because that is the last thing they want.
Then there is the media. Yes, it is important to know the names of the people shot. But in reality they will not be remembered ten minutes from now, except by family and friends. In the case of Florida, the local community. This wall to wall coverage of the minutiae is good for ratings. But it does not help. It is time the media, directed to the United States, like CNN, follow the path of Christiane Amanpour, who hosted Dr. Vivek Murphy, the former US Surgeon General of the United States on her show. She was on CNN International, and if you have ever been abroad, you know how different it is. It is the same network, incidentally. They were actually discussing what needs to happen at a policy level, and Murphy also asked the question that national media dares not ask: WHY is this happening?
Editor note. A previous version stated the shooter was a white supremacist. It seems the media fell for a prank