Those of you following national trends beyond the box office numbers might have noticed that in addition to the accelerated primate evolution represented in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” last weekend was also big for human de-evolution. That is if you’re like me and you associate pointless homicides by gunshots as an indicator of humankind walking developmentally backwards.
Let me first define a territory, then share the events that occurred within its borders. Much as it breaks my heart to lift an edition of the Los Angeles Times these days and realize that it weighs less than half of what it used to, I still tend to take the information gleaned from its sections as a review of what’s been happening with humans over the last 24 hours or so. That’s probably a romantic view of a newspaper that has become almost anorexic in page count, but there you have it.
Monday August 8th’s “A” section of the Times had no less than 3 stories related to gun deaths. Total dead: 13. That’s just one day’s skinny 14-page A section. Further, each gun event was especially gruesome in its blunt stupidity and lack of rationality. Is there a constant uptick in the chemistry of mental health problems blended with access to guns, or are we in fact losing the ability to deal with what troubles us in any way other than violent death?
36 year-old Jeremy Henwood returned home in May from serving his country in one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan. He came back “without a scratch,” and was glad to be able to return to his job with the San Diego Police Department. Early last Sunday morning he was shot point blank with a shotgun by a petty criminal in a car that pulled up next to Henwood’s cruiser, the shooter possibly assuming that Henwood had been tipped off to look for him as a suspect in another shooting at a fast food outlet that went down minutes before the killer took Henwood’s life.
On the same page of that same section of the LA Times there was a small box telling of a man in Maryland who shot his wife, her twin teenage children, and then himself. Once again it was the “We’ll all go there together” template that repeats itself with such sickening regularity it’s become something of a dark American tradition.
Then in Copley, Ohio a man went on a shooting rampage in a neighborhood, killing seven and leaving victims before being killed in a gunfight with police officers. The shooter began with his girlfriend, then ran to a nearby home and shot her brother and four other people. Then he kept going. In his mind, there was some kind of job or chore that needed to be done.
What matters most in each of these accounts is the singular fact that all of the shooters had the guns they needed to act on their designs. They had access to guns, and now they could act. Is that something we like? Let’s go to the big board and have a look. How many states now allow concealed weapons? 49. California included. Every single state with the exception of Illinois.
To the shame of just about everybody there, my home state of Wisconsin recently passed a so-called “concealed-carry” law, and the struggles they are having over it play out more like a dark film comedy from the 1970’s rather than behavior you’d associate with the beginning of the 21st century. The university system in Wisconsin has but a few months to decide how to respond regarding students’ rights under the new law to carry guns on campus. With Virginia Tech still in their rear view mirrors, they are “struggling.” Because, obviously, gun rights and higher learning go hand in hand. Employers are looking to have employee guns kept in their cars and not brought into the workplace. That way, you’d have at least 10 or 15 extra seconds to get under a desk when the shooting starts.
Then there’s an almost laughable speculation-fest about whether Green Bay Packer fans should be allowed to bring their guns to sacred Lambeau Field. Is the open roof facility an “indoor” or “outdoor” venue? Should Packer fans, walking over from the dozens of taverns and bars that surround the facility, be allowed to bring their guns to the parking lot but not into the game… because again, that way you’d have at least 10 or 15 seconds to get under an Oldsmobile… etc. etc.
It’s somehow supposed to leaven things that these laws impact the carrying of licensed guns, but look again to the three events of this past weekend. Shotgun deployed to assassinate peace officer: Licensed? A man who actually believes his tortured thoughts and life will be better in the up yonder where he’s taking his family by means of murdering them: He’ll be stopped by licensing procedures? A murderer who goes on a “spree” after killing his girlfriend… you know, the person that he loves. He’ll be too ashamed to carry out that mission with an unlicensed gun? Did “licensing” slow down the bullet that went into Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords? Unemployment, violent resolution of conflict in entertainment, decaying resources and systems to help those with mental health issues… and each day we mix more guns into that brew. We’re at least talking about our government being dysfunctional, but we appear to have already conceded that we can’t control guns. As with Wisconsin, that brings shame on just about everybody.