06/06/2014 02:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Giving a New Meaning to Saying Mass

A question I hope some can ask the folks over at the corporate-owned NRA fringe group -- is it too early yet to talk about the Seattle Pacific mass shooting? Sorry, my mistake, what I meant was the Santa Barbara mass shooting. Actually, I'm still waiting for the NRA to give to OK to talk about Newtown shooting. And Virginia Tech mass shooting. And Aurora mass shooting. And Tucson mass shooting with Gabby Gifford? And the mass shooting at Columbine? I've been champing here at the bit, waiting for the All Clear horn.


The other day, talking about the mass shooting at Seattle Pacific University, the eminent host on "Fox News," Bill O'Reilly said that...oh, wait, sorry, again, he was talking about the Santa Barbara killings. It's so hard to keep them straight without a program. No matter, they're all basically interchangeable, except for the names of the lost lives and wounded. Anyway, it's not that important to dwell on it. After all, as Bill O'Reilly said, "No matter what society does, there will always be mass murder. Always."

And "always," that's a really long time.

Mind you, no matter what society does, there will always be diseases. But that hasn't stopped scientists from coming up with some pretty swell vaccines for polio and tuberculosis and smallpox. And no matter what society does, there will always be gangs, but that hasn't stopped society from creating police departments and laws to limit the danger. And no matter what society does, there will always be death, but that hasn't stop mankind from pushing the average lifespan from 34 to 75.

For that matter, no matter what society does, there will always be terrorist, but that hasn't stopped us from stripping society of civil rights protections and creating anti-terrorism forces and going to war for a decade to us as safe as possible.

No matter what society does, there will also always be mimes, but that hasn't stopped us from developing other forms of safer entertainment.

And ultimately, no matter what society does, there will always be cold-hearted, mean-spirited, self-important reactionaries who want to live decades in the past and not want life to change or accept science or that black people can be president, but that doesn't stop us from developing airplanes, radio, television, rockets, computers, electric light bulbs, telephones, mobile phones, automobiles, the heart-lung machine, and the Internet, and electing black people to public office. And give womenfolk the vote.

The point, of course, is that just because "there's always been mass murder" doesn't mean that society shouldn't try to do whatever it can to limit how many people that "mass" is when the murders occur, or limit how often the mass murders take place. That would be a good thing, no? That would be a worthwhile goal, right? There may always be mass murder, but can agree that trying to have it so that such things are harder to occur is something of value, can't we?

Besides, Mr. O'Reilly may not even be right about his certainty that "no matter what society does," mass murder can't be stopped. There are countries throughout the world that have far-stricter gun laws than exist in the United States where they have far fewer mass murders. So, even if they can't be stopped, apparently they can be much limited.

My favorite commentary about all this might be from conservative columnist John Fund, writing here in the National Review after the Newtown mass murders of little schoolchildren. Good news!, he wrote. "Mass shootings are no more common than they have been in past decades, despite the impression given by the media." (And by all those dead bodies...) This happy fact would be oh-so-more cool than the impression given by Mr. Fund if the mass shootings in the past decades hadn't been so high.

"Incidents of mass murder in the U.S. declined from 42 in the 1990s to 26 in the first decade of this century," he cheerily goes on -- ignoring the basic math that this great number works out to averaging over two mass murders every single month. Month after month.

But even John Fund can find at least one bit of shining great news in all of this: "The chances of being killed in a mass shooting," he writes, "are about what they are for being struck by lightning.

And even less if you live in Finland, Norway, Switzerland or even Israel.


To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.