© Keith McWalter 2012
Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Oak Creek, Tuscon, Portland, Sandy Hook —the list goes on, too many towns and venues to remember, too many tragedies. The facts in common? A “shooter,” always a young male, nearly always white, kills multiple total strangers by waltzing into a public place – a school, a theater, a shopping mall, a place of business, a place of worship — and opening fire. The determination to kill (and not just intimidate, threaten, or maim) is always clear, and often, with the help of semi-automatic weapons, the shooter is highly efficient in his killing. Frequently he kills himself as well, rounding out a vivid self-portrait of cowardice and sparing us the trouble of proving in a court of law that he’s a mass murderer, but no one is spared the direct or vicarious grief, the sense of outrage, the diminishment of our collective sense of community, safety, decency.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, the latest and in some ways most shocking of these events, involving as it does the killing of little children who are even less capable of protecting themselves than the rest of us, the airwaves are, as always, full of psychobabble about alienation and dissociative behavior, traumatized childhoods and so on, and about how we should all be more watchful for nutcases in our midst and somehow, despite the cutbacks in public spending that we are also clamoring for, make sure these people are getting help. Fair enough. But if we’ve really had enough, what we should do first is make sure those nutcases can’t get hold of guns.
The mayor of New York, God bless him, has been screaming about the need for leadership on gun control, and each time something like this happens there is a brief nod in that direction, as in Obama’s veiled reference to “meaningful action” to prevent things like this. But these gestures always subside into a morass of inaction, with the President turning gutless on the issue and the gun lobbyists springing into their familiar stances, arguing all the unsung good guns do, how we never hear about all the cases where someone successfully defends him or herself with a gun, how hunters and other sportsmen (and they are almost always men) help regulate animal populations and have good clean fun doing it, and, finally, how (it’s the trump card) it’s a Constitutional right to carry a gun, a right that our current Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed in no uncertain terms, and any “meaningful action” will have to deal with that fact.
Let’s acknowledge that gun control alone can’t prevent a madman from killing children (though “madman” is too lofty a word for whatever kind of delusional moron this one turns out to be). Connecticut has one of the tougher sets of gun laws in the nation, and that didn’t save 20 kids from being shot to death in their classrooms. Combine the usual deranged white boy with inattentive, incompetent, and/or delusional parents (such as the now-dead mom who kept multiple semi-automatic weapons – all legal! — in her house with her no doubt demonstrably nutcase kid), and you’ve got an inherently increased chance of mayhem. So let’s hold parents responsible for the evil their children do. But if we’ve really had enough, stricter gun control is the only place to start.
So what if gun possession is a Constitutional right and Antonin Scalia waits at the end of the long judicial tunnel, ready to pounce on any significant barrier between a fool and his firearm? Amend the sucker. Amend the Second Amendment. If I hear one more pompous ass expound on the “Framers’ intent,” I think I’ll scream. Who can doubt that if you dragged the Framers, every last bewigged one of them, out of the past and introduced them to an NRA lobbyist, much less made them read the headlines, they would be utterly aghast at what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of their little Constitutional footnote about arms and militias? And by the way, who in Sandy Hook or anywhere else cares today what the Framers intended? They’re as dead as those 20 kids, and it’s our lives and the lives of the kids still living that we have to protect from another Sandy Hook, damn whatever stands in the way.
This may mean, yes, a Constitutional amendment. It’s been done before. What the Framers clearly did intend was that the document they were drafting be a living, evolving contract between the people and their government, not the ossified object of brain-dead idolatry that it has become.
Getting a gun in this country ought to be harder than getting a driver’s license, harder than getting married, harder than getting into college. It ought to be extremely expensive and difficult, and you should have better reasons for it than that you had a manly, violent urge when you happened to be in Wal-Mart the other day. Likewise, selling a gun in this country ought to be harder than getting a liquor license, or opening up a hair salon, or starting a charter school. But it’s far easier than any of those things, and that’s an outrage.
While we’re waiting for our President and legislators to do the right thing, let’s do what we can in our own homes and communities. Get rid of the guns. Don’t delude yourself that you keep them where the kids could never find them, or that they’re under lock and key. The odds of one of your kids getting shot are far higher than that you will need to defend yourself against that imagined burglar, and you know it. Get rid of them.
Let’s stop romanticizing guns in general. This is mostly a guy thing. Guys, grow up. Find another way to express your masculinity. Guns cost us all ‘way too much. Next time you pull one out of your closet or your pants, think about Sandy Hook and the look in the eyes of the last child you loved. Ladies, let each of your male friends and lovers and husbands and brothers know that you don’t think it’s at all sexy that he owns a gun, and that you think it’s repellent if he carries one. Women could probably clean this mess up in about a month if they set their minds to it.
Let’s end this destructive nonsense. As ever, all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.