Mass Fatality Fatalism

There is a bizarre sense of fatalism that surrounds these horrific mass shootings. Following each one, the cry from one side of the argument is there was nothing this law or that law could have done to prevent it.

In a very narrow sense, they may be right. We don’t like to admit it, but a motivated individual hell-bent on violence, and unconcerned with his (I don’t think we have to worry about the gender of the pronoun here) well-being will be able to do a great deal of damage before he’s stopped. Neither a well-meaning gun regulation from the left, or a well-armed good guy from the right is going to eliminate all of these shootings.

Yes, this isn’t a problem in other countries. But we simply have too many guns in the hands of the public, and the public is simply too heavily invested in the culture of firearms to think we can eradicate them.

But simply because these horrific incidents may still take place is not a reason to throw up our hands and do nothing, which has been the modus operandi for Republicans in Congress for far too long. Or, to believe the only possible solution is MORE GUNS.

Instead of worrying whether we can eliminate them all (which, of course, should be the goal), we should perhaps strive to limit the number that take place. Or mitigate the carnage when one happens. Or try to make a dent in the hundreds of shooting deaths, whether via homicide, suicide or accident, each and every day that aren’t part of a mass event. The Florida tragedy captures our attention and re-triggers the calls for some action, but it’s the everyday gun violence that is the true societal ill.


Perhaps we can take steps to keep the mentally ill from legally obtaining firearms. Or keep them out of the hands of people on the terror watch list. Could we have a better system of regulating gun shows and other sales? Maybe we can do a better job of following the weapons out there, or do a better job tracking the potential risk who begins stockpiling them. Require the owners to demonstrate some minimum of proficiency in handling them, or some understanding of gun safety before selling/licensing them. Possibly certain weapons whose only function is to kill lotsa people, lotsa fast can be reduced in the marketplace. Or maybe, and I know this is crazy talk, we can allow the CDC to study the causes and effects and correlations of gun violence, treating it as the public health issue it most clearly is. You know what they say, the only way to stop a nosy scientist with a slide rule is a well-heeled lobbyist with Congressmen on speed dial.

We don’t do any of these things. Not because Americans are opposed to them. A majority to super-majority of Americans, including gun owners, support many if not all of those things listed above. But we don’t do any of them because we have allowed a major element of public health policy to be written and decided and by the trade group representing gun manufacturers. Washington, D.C. lawmakers have abdicated their responsibility to seek out solutions to the scourge of gun violence to the NRA lobbyists filling their campaign coffers.

Thoughts haven’t worked. Prayers may have eased the pain of the mom who lost her son yesterday, but they haven’t stopped tomorrow’s disaffected high school student or disgruntled worker or angry white supremacist from taking out his rage on unsuspecting Americans tomorrow. And the next citizen good guy with a gun who stops one of these bad guys with a gun in the course of a mass shooting will arguably be the first.

We are the most heavily armed advanced nation in the world, by orders of magnitude. We are also the advanced nation with the highest per capita levels of gun violence, again, by orders of magnitude. Fighting fire with fire simply has not worked.

What will? I don’t know. None of us knows for sure. The problem is, we’re not allowed to even ask all of the damn questions.

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