Thursday, August 27, 2015

Coming to terms with guns everywhere

On July 20, 2012, I posted this. That day, someone walked into an Aurora, CO movie theater and, instead of buying a popcorn and watching a movie, that someone killed 12 people and injured 70 others. He fired 76 shots in, roughly, 90 seconds.

In that blog post, after pointing out we have more firearms than cars in this country, I asked a simple question: "If people want their guns, what are they willing to accept as a result?"

Less than six months later, it took another shooter less than five minutes to kill 20 children and six adults at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, the answer to my question is painfully, awfully clear.

Our American culture, when the votes are tallied, will accept absolutely anything to preserve not only gun ownership, but also some intangible aspect of "freedom" that exists almost nowhere else in our culture.

Today, I'm happy that, at least as of 8 p.m. Pacific Time, no one has been shot and killed on live television. One of my discussions with a friend after the murder in Roanoke yesterday centered not on the sheer horror of the event, but also on the fact that we were surprised that this isn't a more frequent occurrence.

Twice in the past year, while hiking in the Cascades, I have seen people on heavily traveled trails openly carrying their handguns. Rarely a day passes when I don't hear about some manner of gun violence. In the meantime, guns have come to be accepted as being so ubiquitous that I have to pass through metal detectors on my way into sporting events and concerts everywhere. That is a trend that has absolutely increased over the past two years, likely as insurance companies accept the reality that a lot of us have our heads in the sand over.

It's not a gun problem, per se. It's a violence problem. The issue, though, is that the violence takes place with guns.

A favorite line from the gun lobby is "if you make guns illegal, only the bad people will have guns." Rather, it should be, "bad people will always do bad things, so as long as guns are this easy to get, bad people will choose to do bad things with guns."

And a bad person can do a lot of bad in a few seconds with a gun.

In this manner, it is perhaps oddly ironic that the National Rifle Association's twisted view that "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" is, perversely, the most accountable response to all the incidents. The NRA is flat out telling you that, yes, people are going to be shot. Frequently.

When the Columbine High School shooting killed 12 and injured 21, it was convenient to talk about everything from music to video games as contributing to a "desensitization" from violence. We missed the point then and we're still missing it today.

For starters, we're not desensitized to violence. I have seen more people discussing how to turn off video auto-play in social media streams over the past 24 hours than I ever have before. In general, people don't want to watch snuff films. All the first-person-shooter video games and movie special effects don't really seem to have a real effect on how little people really want to see random violence at any point in their daily lives.

Most people, don't like violence and are just trying to get through their days, hopefully making a buck here and there. We have a minority of people who are bad people bent on doing bad things.

Cultures have been dealing with bad people presumably since there have been cultures. We, in America, are just the first advanced culture in recorded history where the bad people are able to do so much violence in so short a time as ever before.

Taking guns away is impractical. In fact, I thought this piece nailed it today. This isn't something we can fight. This is America in 2015. People have been getting in fist fights at sporting events as long as I can remember (bad people doing bad things). Are those metal detectors the only things keeping an NFL game from becoming the newest venue for a mass shooting? I'd love to say no, but... in 36 months we've had movie theaters, schools, elementary schools, live TV segments, pre-screening areas of airports, malls, church prayer circles -- and this doesn't even cover homes, street crimes and more -- become venues for killing. There are few venues where a shooting has not happened.

As a culture, this is what we have reaped. Fighting any common-sense legislation to try and limit who can fire a gun and where they can be fired has led to a very literal free-for-all. Fighting proposals that seemingly would never affect the law-abiding gun owner sends a message that we believe that the death toll is worth it if it means preserving our gun laws as they are right now.

Guns aren't the only aspect of life where we do this; they just happen to be the deadliest. For example, if we really wanted to stop drunk driving, we could install a breathalyzer in every car and require a breath test as part of turning the ignition. We have the technology. Instead, we trust people to not drive impaired. As a result, the more than 10,000 people die in crashes where alcohol was a factor are the trade-off for not having to pass a breath test before you can turn a car on. Similarly, the more than 11,000 who are murdered using a gun each year are our collateral for the wide, barely-restricted availability of guns.

To me, that's the discussion we should be having. What's it worth? Do you want to have to go through metal detectors to get into the supermarket (supermarket shootings have happened)? Do we start drilling and preparing as this article recommends?

I'm starting to wonder. Because the alternative is assuming that bad people will suddenly not do bad things - and that seems hopelessly naive. Violence is not new in this country. Our good nature has always let us believe that some kinds of violence are just unthinkable.

Unfortunately, the unthinkable is our normal. We have a mass shooting nearly every day. We have smaller incidents of gun violence daily in every large metro area we have.


If you're worried someone from the government is going to come knocking on your door to take your guns away, you're not just paranoid, you're worried about the wrong thing.

Maybe you should be worried who has the gun in the restaurant you're eating at. And whether you will notice in time.

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