Why do I bother to care about gun violence? The recent Umpqua Community College shootings near Roseburg, Oregon but one more in the continuing occurrences of similar and related school shootings. While shocking and disgusting, the news also left me feeling numb. Whether you set the number of school shootings, starting with Sandy Hook, as 10, 34, 74 or 142 (all numbers I’ve seen on the internet) hardly matters. One is too many, yet they happen so often I wonder why we have done nothing to strengthen our gun laws. Are we lazy, stupid, willful or so greedy we pretend not only that easily acquired guns are not the problem, but also they are not even part of the problem.
Mental illness, some presidential hopefuls say, that’s the problem. But we are not doing anything to address that problem either. Meanwhile, the media talking heads look and sound solemn and serious, but keep whatever the current tragedy is splashed across the screen and the day. It’s possible to avoid such news, but is difficult and possibly guilt inducing. Some people wallow in such tragedy, glued to the news day and night. Whether this is prurient interest in the misfortune of others, relief that they are neither the killer nor the victim, an honest assessment of the news or a hunger for spectacle, our psyches are exposed 24/7 to these or similar heart-wrenching stories. Often, the facts are unknown, so newscasters vamp and fill, repeating whatever information they have been given, with minimal regard to its accuracy.
The argument over stronger guns laws isn’t truly about guns as a category. What’s being sought are better background checks and proper waiting periods to confirm the information provided. Also, we need to limit the possession of assault weapons to those who can pass the background checks, to the military and law enforcement. Even then, such weapons should only be used in the direst circumstances. This will not eliminate legitimate gun ownership, nor remove them from the hands of those who already own them. But, as has been shown in other developed countries, it will hopefully slow the incidence of mass shooting. Still, it’s hard to remain optimistic when the sale of the weapons in question spike whenever such premeditated massacres occur. Further, when I hear that the sheriff, John Hamlin, leading the team investigating Unpqua college shootings has posited that Newtown was a government conspiracy to disarm the American public, I lose faith in our legal system.
Perhaps mental illness is indeed the problem. Certainly this is true of those who commit mass murder, whatever the scale or duration. When those we consider children are killed in this manner, no matter their age, we are horrified. Why aren’t we equally aghast at the mental illness displayed by our so-called leaders when they value profit over life and guns designed only for killing people as more important than the people themselves? The same appears to be true of those who scream loudest about 2nd Amendment rights. NRA forever as long as they and theirs are safe.
Cannot we perceive that such choices are madness motivated by fear and greed? We appear to be unable to change or grow because of the small percentage of our population we allow to have power over our lives. I wonder why.