It is About Guns (and other stuff too), but mostly Guns

It is about guns. And gun culture. And mental illness. And horrible, awful individuals who are of sound mind.  The tragic event that took the lives of 20 babies and 6 courageous adults has these factors baked in.

I’ve resisted posting my thoughts on Facebook or Twitter in the aftermath of all this because, I think, sometimes silence and reflection, not knee jerk responses, are warranted. And because, what could I say that would lessen the blow that some bastard had walked into a first grade classroom and just let off rounds. Those babies deserved better. Life is full of tragic circumstances, but the malevolence shown in that classroom on Friday morning feels beyond cruel. Beyond, ‘bad things happen to good people.’ Something this bad shouldn’t have happened to people who, by virtue of their young age, were this “good.”

I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the gun control (gun safety?) debate. Indeed, ultimately people are responsible for killing people. But let’s be honest: they kill people with guns. The gun is the most lethal, most effective, most easily accessible weapon for folks ready to take their own lives, or inclined to take someone else’s. For example, a robbery is a robbery to the criminal justice system. That is, unless a gun is involved, and then its “aggravated” robbery, and the conviction carries a higher sentence. For the empirically minded, here’s a bit of perspective: Of the 22 Chinese children attacked with a knife on Friday, not one had life threatening injuries. Eventually, they went home to their families.  …no gun to aggravate the situation, you see.

The statistics on gun violence in the U.S. compared to the other industrialized countries is staggering. Sure there are factors like racial and cultural diversity that make direct comparisons a little shaky, but still. There were something like 10,000 deaths related to gun violence in the U.S. in 2011. The next highest number was less than 50 in Japan. The U.S. is number 7 in high school graduation rates, and number 1 in deaths related to gun violence.  Something is wrong here.

While you may have been taught responsible gun ownership by dutiful parents, you aren’t shooting up elementary schools, movie theaters, places of worship, and shopping malls either. The bastard that took the lives of all those people on Friday did so with semi-automatic handguns and a fucking assault rifle, all purchased legally.

But not by him. And this is the conundrum in the discussion, where the legal regulations and the freedom to bear arms fail us. Thanks to Connecticut’s strict gun laws, the shooter himself was found unfit to purchase weapons. But someone’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment gave him a small home arsenal to choose from anyway. And so, the legal regulations that would have been sufficient to keep those kids safe fell through.

Because some of y’all think your right to own a gun is more important than our collective right to PUBLIC SAFETY.

And to this point about owning guns for hunting and personal protections: no. So you hunt for ‘sport.’ Where’s the sport in using a gun and motor vehicles, and devices to help seek out your prey? Where’s your bow and arrow, your spear, your camouflaged with buffalo skins in the bushes, on your knees, stalking your prey authenticity? You have all the advantage. Hell, if you don’t kill something with the odds stacked so heavily in your favor, then really, get your meat from the grocery store and find another way to harness masculinity.

Ah yes, masculinity — the socially and immaturely defined description that impregnates men with this thought:  ’Imma get me a glock/pistol/rifle (that I don’t know how to shoot), and put it next to my bed, where my wife and me sleep. So that when/if the perpetrator ever busts through my door, my gun experience from movies, music, video games and folklore, will surely direct my untrained firing of a dangerous weapon to center mass. I’ll be the protector.  I’ll be the hero.’  I suppose this could happen.

Or.   Your curious/socially awkward/depressed/angry kid could find it.  And use it.

What I’m saying is that both sides on the gun control debate have a valid point: people are horrible to each other whether or not they have guns and ammo behind them. However, the easy accessibility of guns, and our country’s obsession with violence as the ultimate display of strength, aggravates our tensions. It elicits permanent solutions to temporary, solvable problems.

Conflict and the fatalities that arise from them are inevitable pieces of the human experience. Truthfully, there are people among us with no redeeming qualities, whose sole purpose in life is to wreak havoc, making us miserable. Death, for them, may be a welcome destination, but I’ll be damned if we’re going to make it easier for them to take innocents along for that dark ride.

As individuals, we should be invested in building our own mental, physical, and spiritual health. And we should be invested in helping others build theirs too. We should seek first to help each other, not to ostracize and degrade. But we do not, and until individuals take better care of themselves and each other, a public safety hazard warrants a public safety response.

It’s beyond time to have the conversation about gun control. It’s beyond time for our culture to become more civilized, more evolved — both in terms of social interaction and our political responses. This is a uniquely American problem. We can’t blame brown-faced terrorists with Arab-sounding names, and this isn’t about the lack of God in schools. God is in individuals — God was in those children and teachers who protected those babies, whether or not it was sanctioned by the government. Can’t blame this on God or the supposed absence of God. A man killed 27 people with guns he shouldn’t have had. This is a man in the mirror moment for our people. Who are we as Americans? What do we want our future to look like?