Just How Many Campus Shootings Before We Wake Up?

02/20/2008 07:29 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Many people more eminent than I have decried the insanity of our outmoded gun laws, which along with our current wasteful, protracted foray into Iraq, constitutes an international embarrassment.

How many acts of gun violence among our young people (not to mention all others) need to happen before our representatives in Washington summon up the resolve to act?

I am not looking to the Republicans or Mr. McCain to lead the charge, as they have historically courted the sadly influential support of the N.R.A in the past, an organization which in my mind is moving ever closer to certain hate-groups, both in its relevance and contribution to today's supposedly more enlightened society.

I wish these profoundly misguided people would spend more time hunting deer (whose numbers are proliferating), and less blocking measures that would make it more difficult for troubled, alienated nineteen year olds to procure automatic weapons.

Here we have globalization, which ties us closer to the rest of the world and keeps us closer to trends outside our borders. Pick three other countries, and see how many campus shootings have happened there. Then compare our per capita homicide rates against theirs. You'll be shocked (I hope) by the disparity between other nations and our own, unless of course you belong to the N.R.A. or happen to be a politician who knows these facts but still can't find the "consensus" to act on them.

We now even have fearsome speculation about Obama's continued success because we suspect some right wing fringe-dweller may think it appropriate to take a pot shot at him-with a loaded gun, one that's almost as easy to procure as a Tootsie Roll.

Scarier still is today's story on CNN about a student group that advocates over-ruling the national college ban on students carrying concealed weapons. While this may seem to some like a sensible safety precaution, it also reflects a regression of 150 years in our country's history. The last time I checked, the days of Wyatt Earp and the Wild West were over.

For me, there can be no doubt: the phrase in our constitution concerning "the right to bear arms" is absurdly out-of-date, and should be amended. So here's an urgent, heartfelt message from an outraged citizen (and father) to the congressional, judicial, and executive branches: change the gun laws.

As a film columnist, I'll also offer some pointed commentary to those Armani-suited executives in the media and entertainment world: Turn down the violence. Granted, eliminating guns from action films is akin to eliminating kissing from romances. But again, the watch-words should be restraint and technique.

Even when graphic violence in film really started -- with Bonnie and Clyde and Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, the bloody sequences were either accents or culminations in a picture, and portrayed with a kind of choreography that took some of the gruesome sting out of it.

Today, as I observe the degree of fully integrated violence, not just in films, but other media -- in particular, video games targeting adolescent boys, it's hard to believe that this stimuli does not in some subconscious fashion contribute to the recent mayhem on our campuses, and elsewhere.

The enemy here is a numbing apathy, and it is a powerful force. Just as we now allow ourselves to watch people's heads being blown off with automatic weapons in the name of entertainment, we are forced to confront a scary reality. What might have repulsed us ten years ago, we can now watch, perhaps cringing a bit, but also allowing a certain numbness to blanket us.

Unless we actually do something about the level of gun violence in this country, my own nightmare vision is that the campus shootings will continue, perhaps even grow in frequency, and we will all gaze at CNN with that same numb, helpless feeling.

In the name of all that's still decent in this country, let's not let that happen.