Another mass shooting. Eyes glued to TV, posts on social media, lots of horror and outrage... it's become a rote procedure, hasn't it? We gasp, we weep over stories of the dead, we question the hows and whys of the shooter, but, strange thing this time around: I noticed fewer posts on Twitter and Facebook, less discussion about the devastation and loss; only a select number of threads about gun control with cries of "what do we DO??"
It's not hard to figure, is it?
It all feels pointless at this point. Can't do much about it anyway, right? The NRA leadership is cemented to their immoveable positions of entitlement and "cold dead hands"; gun owners are convinced of their righteousness and delusions of safety; legislators are fearful of being recalled from their jobs, and all that leadenness has led to such little progress that apathy has crept into the conversation, infected the great, grand lot of those responsible for creating change, adjusting laws and making America better.
Which is tragic. And ridiculous, when you really think about it. Because this meme that guns keep Americans safer is a bunch of hogwash and if we didn't have mass shootings and almost daily "accidental deaths" to repeatedly inform us of this, we've got studies that do, the most recent by the American Journal of Medicine, not exactly a seething, left-leaning, anti-gun organization.
But come on... those studies don't mean anything, right? Alex Jones and other frothing guns rights bloviators are certain of that. Just listen to 'em! And infographics that indicate that there have been more mass shootings since Newtown than we've even heard about don't really matter either. We look at those statistics and, yes, we feel a knot in our stomach and hope to God our town, our school, our family does not make it onto those colorful charts ever, but what we feel and what we think doesn't matter. Because, truth is, Sandy Hook should have been enough. And it wasn't.
The mass slaughter of those sweet-faced children by a most likely mentally ill young man whose mother stashed assault-style weaponry in the house should have been MORE than enough to get every thinking, breathing, caring person in the business of gun control, mental health care, and the intersection of both to get so damn busy that Congress would've swayed under the onslaught of passion and smart, sensible measures that simply could NOT be ignored or left "unpassed." Many tried -- we heard about them in the ensuing months -- but those who are in the dollars and cents of guns (aka the NRA and their gun manufacturing sponsors); those who are still so deluded by right-wing spin that their concerns are less about dying children and more about how "Obama wants to take ALL our guns away!!" (something said to me just the other day by a neighbor), and those who can somehow create enough distance between "them" out there in the unfortunate killing fields and "the rest of us" over here who are not touched and therefore can't get involved, have conspired to see to it that, really, not much of anything gets done.
When it's reported that, just over a month before the most recent mass shooting wiped out the lives of 12 people, police alerted officials at the Newport Naval Station in Rhode Island of a call the alleged shooter made to them about "voices" he couldn't get away from; when it was known he was being treated at the Department of Veterans Affairs for "serious mental problems" and, still, still, he retained his security clearance, was reportedly able to rent a rifle and bullets, and later a shotgun used in the shooting, and could easily enter the Washington Naval Yard -- a place with armed guards and metal detectors -- without a problem, there is a breakdown of such huge proportions on so many levels it boggles the mind.
With what is known from our past and far-too-many experiences of mentally ill shooters and guns, how is it that the Department of Veterans Affairs isn't made to report mentally ill veterans immediately to wherever people get security clearances, wherever people get background checks to purchase guns, wherever people are granted access to places where guns are purportedly not allowed? How is it that a Naval yard in another state can get a call from the police about a worker hearing voices and apparently not report him in the same fashion and to the same places? How is it that any mentally ill people are not routinely reported and prevented from owning, buying, or having access to guns? What more do we need to know after Newtown, after... all of them?
Fact is, we don't need to know more. We already know everything we need to know. It's not about knowledge, it's about action. It's about ethically balancing the rights of those who wish to own guns with the rights of the rest of America to expect rational, safe, sane protections from those who own guns but who also happen to be mentally ill, morally bankrupt, caught in gangland drama, sloppy with securing their weapons, or, for whatever other reasons, incapable of dealing with life without brandishing and using firearms against others. Those people are killing us; our children, our friends, our families, our co-workers; those strangers over there in another place... human beings who deserved to be able to get their job done that day without risk of death because another potentially mentally ill man both slipped through the cracks and was able to handily purchase a gun.
But instead of falling into the same dreary routine of getting outraged and activated only after the latest mass shooting, let's not bother. Let's not have rallies and vigils and send out petitions and write our congressmen and women. Let's not litany through the names of the dead and weep for the loss of their loved ones. Let's not shake our fists at those who rush out like lemmings to buy more guns in the inane fear that somehow, in some magical world that doesn't exist, guns will just suddenly disappear. It's America, for God's sake!
Guns rule. Guns are necessary to protect us (forget all that research that says otherwise); guns are our right and our legacy. Those latest victims? The 12 dead innocents in Washington? Those at Newtown, those enumerated on the infographic since then; all those who came before and will come after? Collateral damage. Collateral damage to our blessed, vaunted, irrefutable, immovable, God-given, Constitutionally-protected right to own guns. There's always some collateral damage, right? Freedom comes at a cost, you understand?
With that noise as background, with yet another mass shooting to ponder, let's please not bother to talk about gun control. Though it might be worth it to ask ourselves why we are such a violent nation. Why, as my friend asks, "are we so violent when we live in a republic, with freedoms galore? We don't have a dictator massacring our people; we do an efficient job ourselves." That's something to talk about. But gun control?
What's that next step after talk?
Oh, yes... ACTION.
Correction: This blog was corrected to clarify that two days before the massacre, the shooter reportedly rented a rifle for target practice and then purchased the shotgun believed to have been used.