There’s theory and there’s fact. My last column attempted to focus on gun issues by way of the story of the prop gun purchased for service in a theater piece of mine currently being performed in Culver City.
I talked about how the plastic ‘toy’ pellet pistol I bought at a sporting goods store took on a kind of power once I had removed the orange tip indicating it wasn’t real and then spray painted it flat black. It now had the look and dimensions of a real weapon. Brandished in public, the prop gun could easily be taken for real and could thus invoke a tragedy.
And that’s something of a summation of where we’re at right now with guns in America; the stasis of guns bringing on more guns to answer guns. Of course, unlike props or realistic toys, real guns consistently and efficiently invoke tragedy. And as you would with dynamite or other explosives obviously attempt to keep guns under some measure of control and oversight, instead our nation appears to be having a dialogue about maintaining our easy access to them.
A reader of The Mirror wrote to the paper, specifically to me, wanting to add to the dialogue regarding that recent column. I was most engaged when the reader took issue with my closing statement: That creative types writing scripts or making films or television – many of them having homes in our city – could take “one simple first step: We could decide to never represent the deployment of guns as being cool, sexy, ‘hot’… or in any way good.”
The letter to The Mirror at one point reads as follows: “Only the liberal mind can arrive at the idea that no use of a gun can be good. You have to be drenched in the illogic that intentions are more important than results, that emotions are superior to logic.”
That gave me pause, and I reviewed the entire column and in particular that closing statement.
In the broadest strokes, the reader is correct. United States soldiers do not defeat enemies in combat by deploying clubs or archery. Osama bin Laden was shot dead, not pummeled with a stick. Sportsmen enjoying the hunt for a deer or a duck do not throw stones at their targets. And so on. Now, one at a time, we could debate the “good” in war, assassination of enemies, and hunting.
But I believe the reader, who made several references to movies and movie-like action scenarios in dangerous real life situations, meant a more narrow focus regarding my statement and his reaction. I hope I accurately represent this view as being that, in certain scenarios, only a gun can bring a good outcome. So let me respond by looking at a real-life gun event that just took place in Santa Monica.
Summarizing reporting from The Mirror: On Wednesday, Feb 27 in the 2900 block of Delaware Avenue in Santa Monica, John Carroll Lowery shot himself in the head after hours of holding his 86-year-old mother-in-law hostage in the home they shared. Lowery’s son escaped from the house and dialed 911 just before 5 pm Tuesday, telling the operator he and his grandmother had been tied up and taken hostage by his father. Officers responded in large numbers, setting up a perimeter around the house. Negotiators communicated with Lowery, and they stated that Lowery was depressed and despondent over his relationship and issues with his wife. Eventually Lowery untied his mother-in-law, she came out of the house, and Lowery went quiet. The police deployed gas to get Lowery outside, but he was eventually found dead in the house with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A gun shot. From a gun event, here in our city, that would not have had the same dimensions had Lowery not been able to obtain a gun. But the despondent gun user was able to get a gun, creating a situation that threatened the safety of an entire neighborhood and put police in danger. He might have killed his own son and mother-in-law, and then taken his own life. That sequence would have been arguably more difficult without a gun. Still, a man who might be alive today is dead. By gun shot.
So it is about this kind of contemporary event that repeats with soul-numbing regularity that I ask, “Where is the good provided by the guns?” It is good that the police have guns. But the police have guns because the citizens can get guns. And citizens do get guns, and then they deploy guns. Law enforcement is constantly embracing more and better technology for defusing situations like the Lowery shooting without loss of life or gunfire. But right now, we have guns vs. guns. Ultimately, where is the good in that? Does maintaining that stasis feel to anyone like society is moving forward and away from violence as the only means of resolving conflict? To the reader who wrote me at The Mirror I would say that my intention is to wonder aloud, with emotion, about the logic of that.