03 December 2015

An Immodest Proposal for Reducing Gun-Related Violence

17th Century Dutch guns in Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
I've recently heard conservative friends make the point that these mass shooters never attack folks who are armed. "You don't see them going into gun shows," they say.

There is so much about this reasoning that is mis-guided. My first response is, "Yeah. If American history has taught us anything, it is that no one was shot at the OK Corral." There was a time when everyone was armed and ready to shoot to defend themselves. As it turns out, the folks who are best at shooting and / or most ready to pull the trigger are not necessarily the best human beings, most committed to creating a world safe for women and children. As it turns out, they are violent and a world that depends on the victors being more violent than those they defeat will be violent and so will the world they "protect."

And of course if it was right that more guns made us more safe, we wouldn't have 40X the number of gun-related deaths as the UK or 175X as many as Japan. We have more guns than the UK and Japan and we have more gun-related deaths. Since Obama has taken office, the paranoid right has bought guns at record numbers. According to their logic, that should make us safer. It has not.

Death dominates the news. Not, of course, the main causes of death like old age, heart attacks and cancer. Instead, we get a litany of violent tales, from bombs dropped in the middle east to guns fired here at home.

Perhaps the closest thing I have to magical thinking is this: what we focus on, what we meditate on, what we obsess over comes to define us. It might be mystical, the result of meditations manifest as our reality, the power of imagination to - for good or bad - shape reality. More likely it is akin to a child learning to ride a bike who can't help but steer in the direction he's looking. As a society, we stare at these mass shootings and all of us gravitate towards them. The mentally ill imagine themselves as Rambo, with the power to get everyone's attention. The fearful imagine themselves as victims and make their guns easy to grab, putting them in places where they turn out to be just as convenient for toddlers and their depressed selves in their darkest moments as they are for stopping mass killers.

So we obsess over this virus of mass killings, seeming to spread it with our obsession. Perhaps the starting point in bringing these numbers down is to simply look away, to stop giving it so much of our energy and attention. Let it go out of style like zoot suits and bell bottoms, its popularity diffusing as attention moves on to something new.

And maybe we could help this along by leaking reports that one shocking revelation about the shooters has come to light. As it turns out, this group of massassins that includes atheists and Muslims, Christians and satanists have only one thing in common: each one had an incredibly small penis.

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