This is not being written in response to any particular event. There was probably one today or yesterday or last week, and CNN no doubt covered it with their usual attention to detail and mechanical concern. I’m probably pretty sad about it myself. This is why I’m writing this article on a day when the headlines are about something else. It’s important to keep perspective. You can’t create effective policy and solve social problems when you’re too busy yelling or sobbing or both.
Trouble is, I’m furious. Even today, I can’t help but be furious about this. Here’s why:
Every time there’s a big shooting, CNN makes millions in ad sales, Democrats shout common sense gun control, Republicans scream about liberty, and nothing changes. The reason nothing changes is that no reasonable gun control proposal would be effective. Unreasonable gun control would fail disastrously. But CNN still makes their millions, the political parties rake in your votes and contributions, and everyone only makes things worse.
More on that last in a bit; first, common-sense gun control:
A few years ago, the cry was for background checks; they got passed, and they help… a very little. Then the outcry was over plugging loopholes; that also doesn’t work and for the same reason. Ban ammunition? Same thing. Half of all guns used in criminal acts are purchased from street dealers. During the Second World War, when you couldn’t buy guns for love or money, the streets of New York were flooded with handmade pipe guns made from plumbing supplies. Bottom line is, the only thing stricter substance control laws ever do is create a flourishing black market.
Now, this is all true, but it’s also beside the point. Even if we could somehow remove all the guns from the country — we can’t, but let’s suppose we can — the root causes for crime and despair are still there, still unchanged.
Most shooting homicides are drug related; will removing guns end the drug business or disarm dealers? Do you suppose that people who can move thousands of tons of drugs across borders would have any trouble at all smuggling in some pistols and ammo? They face death on a daily basis and gladly; it’s their path out of the endemic poverty of the inner cities, a lottery where the fighter has an edge. Do you suppose that any possible sentence — even the threat of summary execution by police — would dissuade them from continuing their trade, fully armed and deadly? We need to address drugs and drug culture; frankly, guns are tangential.
Most shootings are suicides — by an overwhelming factor. Suicides spring from despair. Would eliminating guns reduce despair in any way at all? It’s argued that a universal handgun ban would reduce opportunity, but can that be enough? Besides, given the hugely disproportional number of police and military suicides, even a total ban could hardly be a panacea — and it would do nothing to address the circumstances that make suicide appealing by comparison.
If you want to see fewer mass shootings on TV, turn the TV off. This is not me being flippant; it’s got a solid foundation in fact. From Marxist revolutionary theory to present-day shooter suicides, the chief aim of these crazed, deluded, violent souls is public recognition. Among other things revealed by the Lankford study, the suicidal ideation is nearly universal, and it’s almost always a cry for recognition, for attention, to be taken seriously by someone — anyone — and to make their friends and family suffer for their failure to do so before now. One thing we can do to address this — something that’s even now being done — is to suppress reporting the name of the perpetrator. We can remove the cameras from the scene, take them off CNN, and stop with the memes — three recent shooters were internet meme trolls. Deny them their hope of fame and they’ll be less likely to act.
It’s understandable, even if it’s irrational: These rampage shooters are people that have an unreasoning need for attention, and the pressures of life simply force them to act. They can’t understand that their actions only make things worse; they’re compelled by passion and emotion, and facts don’t matter. So they act, and people die, and then they die.
There’s a parallel here.
When we see these horrific events on CNN, we’re traumatized. People were not designed to witness this sort of thing; it makes us crazy. (That’s why soldiers and cops kill themselves so often, remember.) And so we see this, and being compassionate humans, we want — need — are compelled to stop it. How can we permit these atrocities to continue? We must act! And so what if the laws would be ineffective, or inefficient, or whatever other bullshit?!
We’re compelled by passion and emotion, and facts don’t matter.
Which is why I’m writing this today, when my head is on straight: Because people are dying. We cannot tolerate it. And yes, we must act — but we must do so intelligently, wisely, and above all effectively. To do otherwise dishonors the victims — including ourselves.
It’s easy to point at the guns. It’s very hard to examine the roots of drug culture, endemic poverty, and pervasive despair in our country. But the easy thing won’t work, so let’s do the hard things instead. We must improve mental health care, create economic opportunity for all, fix our public schools, end the War On Drugs and prison culture — in short, we need to change our entire society so this sort of thing becomes impossible.
And anyone who says the words “common sense gun control” is either deluded or deliberately and cold-bloodedly lying to you for votes.
And you wonder why I’m furious.
Edit: I’m told there was another rampage shooter attempted death-by-cop in El Paso today. Apologies for the timing; it wasn’t intentional.
Further edit: Another in Dayton.