OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS DISGUST IS NOT HELPING, EITHER
As I'm sure you know, there's been another mass shooting today -- one of the worst we've had in a while, with at least 26 dead, including 18 elementary-school children. It's horrible.
But we know, of course, what follows mass shootings, because it's so predictable. I don't think the usual NRA folks have started telling us that the death toll would have been lowered if Connecticut had less strict gun control, or allowed teachers and school administrators to carry concealed weapons in the elementary school, but you know that's coming. (Coincidentally, just last night the Republican-dominated Michigan state legislature passed a bill allowing trained gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools, churches, day care centers, and stadiums.)
Accompanying that will be pro-gun outrage at anyone who tries to (in the gunners' words) "politicize" the shooting by demanding more gun control. (White House spokesman Jay Carney has already tried to preempt that message by conceding the gunners' point: in his news conference today, he refused to entertain questions about gun control, saying "today is not the day" to have such discussions.)
So we'll get a chest-thumping defense of the Second Amendment from one side, and craven surrender from politicians on the other side -- as usual. But we also have a third ritualized response: many of the rest of us are going to stamp our feet and ask when the politicians are going to do something -- anything! -- about all this violence. Dammit, when is it "the day" to talk about gun violence?
Which doesn't help, either. These pronouncements are now just part of the ritual response to every school shooting. And the gun status quo never changes.
I don't know what needs to happen, but our standard conservation isn't getting it done.
We have some laws that are presumably keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, but some of our most notorious shooters (James Holmes, Jovan Belcher) didn't have criminal records. We have strict gun laws in a number of states, but as long as we have interstate highways and we don't post armed guards at every stare border, guns will get into states with strict gun laws. So who's got an answer?
We may need to change our gun culture. Guns are tools -- but much of the country doesn't see them that way. Much of the country sees a gun as both a religious object and a really awesome adult toy -- a combination Holy Grail and red Corvette. Read anything written by pro-gun types and you see this alternation between piety and toy-lust. To me, a gun is like a chainsaw or an acetylene torch. It's useful for certain things. It has a place in society if the owner handles it extremely carefully. Otherwise, it has the potential to be a menace to society.
I'm writing about the "respectable" gun culture, but there's also the badass (and badass-wannabe) gun culture. That consists of criminals and people who aren't criminals but romanticize violence and crime. But the "respectable" gun culture makes sure there's an overabundance of weaponry available to that culture.
And the "respectable" gun culture makes sure that plenty of weapons are available to anyone who's decided that his days of living a law-abiding life are coming to an end today, or tomorrow, or at some point in the near future. The mass shooters usually seem to fall into that category.
I've seen it said that what we need to do is stop giving media attention to mass shooters. Maybe there's something to that -- don't reveal their names, don't do feature stories on them, don't show their faces, as a voluntary way of depriving them of the ubermensch oxygen they crave. I'm not recommending censorship -- I'm just saying that maybe if we have a cultural consensus that we won't give them media face time, the way baseball broadcasters no longer show idiots who run onto the field, maybe they won't see this sort of thing as a quick ticket to a blaze of glory.
Apart from that, and apart from all the standard-issue pro-gun-control hand-wringing I've done on this blog over the years, I'm fresh out of ideas. Anybody?