Sunday, December 6, 2015

What to do about Gun Violence?

Paris. Colorado Springs. San Bernadino.

Sandy Hook. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Columbine. San Ysrido. University of Texas.

The list of mass shootings in American society just keeps growing, and there seems to be no way to ever stop the carnage in a country that allows unlimited and untraceable access to weaponry. The media covers the mayhem non-stop and then asks whether Americans have become "desensitized" to the violence. Which, of course, they have in many ways because life goes on, and there is little evidence that any progress can be made in decreasing or stopping the scourge.

This week the Denver Post's Jeremy Meyers asks, "How Do We Cope with Mass Shootings?" It is, sadly, appropriate that a Colorado writer ask this question, as the Rocky Mountain state has been the target of a seemingly disproportionate number of mass shootings. Meyer effectively frames the issue and poses legitimate queries:

It could be argued those past events show how deranged our society has been for years, that gun violence and mass shootings have been our plague and likely will continue until something changes. That has been the call coming from everyone from the president to Facebook friends. Can gun laws be changed to prevent mass killings?
The answer to that question is probably a meek and resigned, "No." For Meyer acknowledges the research on both sides of the debate, explaining how such violence and mass shootings are either getting worse, or they're not. And, he notes that there is little chance the country would ever take extreme actions to decrease gun possession

Repeal the Second Amendment. Seize guns like in Australia. Round up everyone who scares us and turn our schools, hospitals and movie theaters into armed fortresses, he said. Clearly, this won't happen. Fox is probably right. Even with tighter restrictions, mass murders will continue. However, there is disagreement over whether tougher gun laws would influence the overall number of gun deaths.
Certainly, contemporary American society is a different place in terms of mass shootings than it was for its entire history up until the turn of the century and millenium. Truly, while overall violence and crime are down in the past twenty years, the incidents of mass random shootings are way up and unprecendented in history and among civilized, first-world countries. This conclusion is, interestingly, supported in another Denver Post article published today which advises, "Know the Drill? Security Experts See Shift ..." Truly, while violence and crime is down, the type of mass shootings first engrained in our consciousness with Columbine (though there were previous, but rare, examples in American society) and now becoming a regular event are on the rise and show no signs of abating.

And, while "gun control" advocates like President Obama are stating "Enough is enough," there seems to be no way that the NRA and GOP leadership will allow any restrictions on gun possession - even when it's the seemingly logical step of prohibiting people on the terrorists watch list from amassing arsenals in America. Americans already possess and are continuing to buy firearms at a staggering rate. While American citizens make up roughly 5% of the world's population, they own 40% of the world's guns. And, with the FBI saying that Black Friday background checks set a record, there is no way Americans are decreasing gun possession. Truly, a significant percentage of Americans support gun regulation, which could include licensing and registration, as well as tracking ammo sales, while an equal number of people believe that if all Americans are armed, we will "stop these shooters" in their tracks.

I truly believe that is naive, if not downright crazy. Mass shootings operate on a degree of surprise, and shooters can still take out dozens, if not hundreds, of people before any person with a concealed handgun could accurately respond. It just won't happen. But neither will a decrease in gun possession or legal access. All the discussions about terrorism and mental illness and background checks and "good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns" are really, in my opinion, pointless. And, that makes me sad. Perhaps that makes me desensitized. I certainly feel resigned to the status quo and simply hope I never randomly end up in the line of fire. I also think that some action is better than none. So, if gun possession is going to go up, I would like to see legimate regulation.

What that looks like is anybody's guess. So, like Jeremy Meyer, I don't know that there is an answer to how we cope with mass shootings ... other than just cope with mass shootings.

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