Some events in life are almost too dark for words. Anyone with a forum for their thoughts is immediately struck by the impotence of adding their “view,” their “two cents” to any reflection on a tragic stretch of gun deaths like the one that darkened our city when the Santa Monica College shootings were quickly followed by more shooting deaths on our streets just days later.
Consider the weightlessness of any editorial comment when one learns that a father and daughter were senselessly killed while on a trip to a campus to buy textbooks for that daughter’s summer classes.
But the possibility that the sickening grip of gun disease will only tighten if we don’t use every opportunity we have to dialogue about it demands that we not just throw up our hands and be sad.
Instead of prompting readers at the end of this column to weigh-in with their thoughts to The Mirror, I’m asking you to do so right here at the top.
To provoke that dialogue, I’d like to address what I think are only a few of the component issues involved in the syndrome of resolving conflict and personal problems by means of gun death. I implore readers to react and respond.
“We Can’t Turn This Around”
I would suggest that we examine what I believe to be, in some but not all ways, a similar period in the history of our nation: Prohibition.
At that time, Americans organized to move against what many felt was a threat to family and even the fabric of society.
Enough people organized and fought such that there was, in fact, prohibition of alcohol.
In his excellent book, “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” author Daniel Okrent declares in the final pages that prohibition was a complete failure.
He’s right, but to study that fascinating period is to understand how American citizens did rise to answer what they felt to be a dark force, even when that particular approach proved unwieldy and even wrong.
Prohibition failed; Mothers Against Drunk Driving was a more evolved response decades later. Alcoholics Anonymous turns around broken lives. Rehab is now compassionately viewed as personal growth.
The notion to simply give up on alcohol’s potential to destroy lives never really took hold. Accepting that all we can do now is buy-in to the NRA’s “more guns” view is to give up without trying.
The Second Amendment
Is it the argument of Second Amendment defenders that the citizenry of the United States should ultimately be armed to the degree that at any given time they are able to take down the government and the armed forces of their own country?
Why would we then stop at guns and not continue with easy access to tanks, ground-to-air missiles, or chemical weapons?
As often as it has been written, I’ll write once more that the Second Amendment never anticipated “semi” automatic weapons and large-load magazines in the hands of citizens.
But that’s where we are now and that’s how people are dying.
We Can’t Keep Guns From Troubled People
In the last few weeks we became aware of the degree of surveillance that is occurring in our digital age. There was an outcry.
If you are uncomfortable with surveillance, let me posit that there is no greater violation of your personal privacy than having a complete stranger put a bullet in you for no reason other than you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We surrender personal details of our lives to the Internet on a daily basis in the pursuit of “Likes” and easy shopping for shoes.
Are we then going to draw some line at gun purchase background checks while our children continue to be killed?
In a digital age teeming with potential life-saving improvements such as digital medical records, we must use the tools we have to separate troubled people with known mental health issue histories from guns.
Accepting A Tragic Pathology
We are unfortunately past the time where we can only speculate on the pathology of gun tragedies: The patterns now repeat with sickening sameness. Those overwhelmed by depressing or frustrating developments in their lives turn to accessible guns, design their black scenarios and pack their bags with 1,300 rounds in clips. Then they move forward to execute… engorged with the intoxicating and fatal power of guns.
We now possess more nauseating certainty about these shooting patterns than we do about climate change and both are killing us.
Why would we integrate the makeovers in our lives imposed by better diet and exercise, and then remain limp and uncertain that we can break the patterns of our gun death epidemic?
Let me suggest that guns have become a deadly drug, one so brutal in its ugly assimilation into society that it can hardly be mitigated by parameters of “personal use” or the morally offensive notion that to protect our freedom we must accept as collateral damage this loss of innocents on our streets, in our schools, in our workplace…everywhere.
Let me just offer any and all of this for your response, since in the time it took me to write this more have died from guns.