Every time we have one of these highly-publicized mass-shooting events, or Heaven forfend another rampage killing, there’s always a sententious opinion piece on every news outlet asking “When will it end?”
And yes, the answer is “Never”. In Australia, a single event was enough to inspire the whole country to turn in their guns; New Zealand was similar. In the United States, we’ve had a dozen major shooting rampages, including in elementary schools, and public opinion is fiercely divided. It’s not too much of a stretch to conclude from this that the inevitable continued shootings will convince only scattered individuals while inspiring others to resist what they would term “government overreach”.
So let’s stop asking that particular question and move on to something a bit more proactive.
There exists a tendency in media to talk of “gun violence” under that one label, as though it were a single indivisible phenomenon. Some of the opposition to mass gun control springs directly from the evident intellectual dishonesty of that stance, because it’s clearly not indivisible. Those who bemoan the high numbers of gun deaths while advocating for a complete ban have a tendency to neglect that a hefty majority are suicides, that those age/gender segments most likely to use guns have similar overall suicide rates with other industrialized nations, and that there’s every reason to believe that removing the guns from the equation would simply force people to find different methods like they do in, say, Germany.
This is not to say that gun rights advocates are incapable of callously twisting death statistics to serve their own cause; they famously tout the right to self-defense while neglecting the masses of studies that show quite clearly that arming the untrained is a great way to get them killed with their own weapons. For political considerations, the right to defend one’s home against intrusion can’t possibly include mandatory gun safety courses. This of course is aimed to cater to the fears of those who expect tyranny from the government in the form of armed combat soldiers; it neglects cases such as that of Duncan Lemp, who was extremely dead half a second after the door was breached, and long before he could reach any of the multiple loaded weapons scattered about his apartment. We’ve evidently already passed the point of “Gestapo raids”. (Safety tip: If the police knock down your door, DON’T SHOOT AT THEM. -Editor)
So tangled are the hypocrisies, misapprehensions, and outright lies in this hyper-politicized area, and so emotionally charged are the consequences even of honest error, that it can safely be asserted that there are no neutral parties, no reasonable persons remaining to formulate intelligent policy. By the time anyone has acquired sufficient background knowledge to understand the issues at stake, they will either have generated insuperable biases of their own or picked them up from those they’ve associated with during the learning process. Alternately, it’s possible they might be functional sociopaths, quite capable of dispassionately weighing mass death and trauma as just another price society must inevitably pay — and who could trust such people to form policy?
(NOTE: The conclusions in the preceding paragraph necessarily includes myself. If one examines the basic facts, it’s a simple statement of a logical truism based in part on how we define a sociopath. No sane mind can encompass all the trauma and all the dangers involved and still function in terms of simple logic. To understand is to become involved; and who that is involved can possibly be unbiased when the issues are of such great import? -EDITOR)
So, the short answer: No, it’s never going to end.
This is not to say that nothing can be done, but instead that it’s foolish to attempt simple solutions on any complex problem — especially one with such vital consequences attached. Let us instead make a new beginning by always viewing the statistics with intellectual honesty. The first and most obvious step would be to divide suicides from homicides and treat them differently; after that, the homicides can similarly be addressed by cause. Available resources should, reasonably, be assigned to each cause in proportion to their impact, which leads us inescapably to the immediate and glaringly evident proposition that far too little is done in this country to address not the gun epidemic (gun deaths have been trending downward almost every year since the late ’70s) but rather the suicide epidemic.
Once we’ve all reached that point in the discussion, we can continue, but not before — because anyone who doesn’t arrive there is treating the facts dishonestly.
Unfortunately, so long as we persist in attempting to solve our problems simplistically, using discussion that’s precisely as complex as a campaign ad, we will never reach even this absurdly, tragically evident conclusion. Thus, we are doomed to repeat the same news cycle endlessly. CNN can pre-write the coverage for the next mass shooting today and broadcast it tomorrow, changing only the names and places.
What? You know that’s exactly how they do it. Why are you staring at me?
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