And the Oscar for best killer goes to …
That’s how it’s starting to feel in America. Our real-life, mass shootings with the dramatic cell phone videos and gripping narratives by survivors resemble violent movies.
American popular culture long ago made violence cool. The proliferation of high-capacity weapons, far beyond what is needed for hunting or self-defense, means that if a hateful man wants to declare war on other people, he can.
There is a voyeuristic quality to observing a mass shooting unfold. We watch, maybe even tear up, then soon go on with our lives.
By the time Nikolas Cruz killed 17 children and adults at a high school in Parkland, Fla., I realized I had forgotten the not-too-long ago shooting at a church in Texas until it was mentioned in a news wrap-up.
The victims hadn’t been identified in the Florida shooting before there were the usual calls for “common-sense gun laws” and denunciations of the NRA, as if Cruz were merely a bystander.
We have many gun laws, and the Florida shooting may lead to more.
The problem with gun laws is the elected officials who write them come from two major political parties that fight like estranged spouses. They would rather hurt each other than get along for the sake of the country.
Democrats push the hardest for gun control laws, but at the same time they want to weaken punishment for many felony crimes – even those committed with guns.
Republicans refuse to budge, suspecting that Democrats will ban guns outright yet forgive criminals who use firearms. Gun control is also a class issue. There’s a perception that gun-owners are low-brow Neanderthals who only vote Republican.
It wasn’t surprising that after the Las Vegas shooting at a country music festival, a CBS vice president was caught on Facebook saying she had no sympathy for the victims because, as country music fans, they were probably “Republican gun toters.” (Hayley Geftman-Gold was later fired.)
Except for prison inmates, most Americans can obtain a gun – legally or illegally – if they want to. How come we aren’t all dealing with our various disappointments in life by shooting people?
It’s only a rare few of us who are consumed with a viciousness to cause pain in others. Motive is irrelevant. There is no justification.
If you could read the minds of guys like Nikolas Cruz, Stephen Paddock, Devin Kelley and Adam Lanza as they act out the starring role in their personal end of days, their thoughts as they destroy good lives could probably be reduced to: “Fuck you, motherfuckers!”
They hate life. They’re going to make the rest of us hate it, too.
How do you reason with someone like that? What concessions do you make? You don’t. It makes no difference whether Nikolas Cruz, Stephen Paddock, Devin Kelley, Adam Lanza, et al are mentally ill or evil.
In the context of killing people, the mentally ill are evil, and the evil are mentally ill. All it takes is a .38-slug to the head or heart to take care of men like these.
Civilians don’t need high-capacity assault weapons to do the job. Banning such firearms is a reasonable restriction, but bans are not new.
In 1989, California approved an Assault Weapons Ban targeting 50 brands and models of semi-automatic firearms. Ten years later, the ban was expanded to include some models of AR-15s. Congress has had temporary bans on such guns. If another ban passes, hold off on celebrating.
Outlawing AR-15s is not going to prevent a motivated man from taking a .22- rifle and tricking it out to perform like an AR-15. How many Americans had ever heard of bump stocks until Stephen Paddock came along? The human imagination isn’t restricted by man-made laws.
Gun laws need meaningful punishment. Even then, if a man is determined to get a gun and kill, no law will act as a restraint. It will take human effort to stop him.
The changes we need can’t simply be legislated. Laws can’t heal what’s wrong with our culture. In that regard, the power-influencers in the news and entertainment media have more clout than the NRA.
It took us a few decades to reach this place. Within 24 hours of the Florida high school shooting there was speculation that Cruz had a hard life and was lonely on Valentine’s Day. Hard lives and loneliness have always been with us, but they haven’t always been treated as excuses to kill.
Only one kind of person opens fire in a peaceful setting filled with kids and adults who are likely unarmed: a coward.
Don’t expect the people shouting loudest for more gun control to condemn Cruz.
In the Feb. 12-19th New Yorker magazine, staff writer Adam Gopnik analyzes what New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey calls the “great crime decline” in America, referring to the drop in violent crime in the past decade.
In his analysis, Gopnik is loathe to credit the decline to incarceration and aggressive policing.
“Liberal-minded people do not merely want mass incarceration to be the moral scandal it obviously is,” he writes. “We want it to be a practical scandal as well… .”
Gopnik acknowledges that Sharkey, “a sympathizer with progressive causes,” does credit incarceration for the lower crime rates. Now that the streets are safer, guess what Sharkey wants to do? Open the cell doors.
This progressive philosophy is intertwined with the gun control debate. It’s why law-abiding gun owners don’t want to give away their gun rights.
– Pamela Fitzsimmons
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