A 24-year old white male entered a movie theater and killed 14 people and wounded another 50 in what appears to be an incomprehensible act of criminality that socked Americans and left them shaking their heads in wonderment asking rhetorically "what went wrong" and why did this happen?" The cynical response? We never learn. We'll be doing the very same thing all over again when the next sordid event unfolds. We'll be righteously pontificating anew about what happened and if the killer snapped blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum, unless we move to genuinely do something about gun violence.
Truth is we're a very, very violent nation. And we love guns. So when an event like the mass shootings at a bedroom community like Aurora, Colorado, happen we immediately focus on the wacko who pulled the trigger and sheepishly declare "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Trouble is, this foolish and primitive response, a holdover from man's hunter-gatherer evolution, cannot withstand any significant analysis or objective reasoning. Its bumper sticker appeal is only sustained by people who have become so conditioned to violence that it is now as American as yesterday's weepy-eyed funeral.
Of course, guns are inanimate object and can't kill people. I'll grant you that that's factually correct. But what this argument and conclusion ignores is that Americans live in a culture of violence where "kicking butt" is regarded as manly. Winning a fight is a badge of honor. And where ordinary citizens so crave power and control over others that the gun becomes a tool to gaining such power. Guns are adored, worshipped and protected as a crack addict looks over his fix guarding it from all interlopers. What a sick society.
From brutal "blood- sports" beamed to impressionable children to watching movies and fantasizing oneself in the shoes of the successful violent "star" character (Batman, Rambo, Jesse James et al) guns provide that sense of ability to easily win the fight and deliver subjective justice when we feel wronged rather than letting the emotion settle and thinking twice. And if guns don't kill people consider the fact that gun ownership is the leading cause of murders in the United States -- period. Nothing else compares.
As I said before America is a very violent country. Our homicide rate is four to 12 times that of most civilized parts of the world. Not even Iran and Iraq compares to us in societal violence. Murder by the gun is a serious problem in Aurora, Colorado, a little community town of just over 325,000 residents where on average 20 people are murdered each year. And let us not kid ourselves over 15,000 Americans get murdered in the United States each year -- the majority of them by guns.
Fact is despite the carping of the National Rifle Association and its cloaking of itself in the 2nd Amendment guns do give people a sense of inflated power. It's a negative social game changer. Guns cause people to make stupid and rash decisions and they embolden young people to do things based on a warped sense of personal wrong or a real or perceived slight. Without a gun you will avoid walking on a sidewalk where some thuggish looking young people are hanging out. With a gun you're going to go barging down that street because you have a right to walk anywhere you want -- anyone challenges that right and out comes your gun. I'll blow your brains out. Case closed.
Point is that while the law says that Americans have a right to own guns one cannot deny the fact that without so many guns in individual hands we would not have this high number of murders. Without guns people will be forced to weight their options in a confrontation and not simply react a la High Noon or OK Corral. Apart from the fact that violence is endemic and systemic in American society we live in a deeply socially, politically and economically stratified country with over 270 million guns in individual hands. That's a lot of guns. That's enough to arm every adult living in America and half of the children.
So don't be shocked when brutal incidents like Aurora happen because it is going to happen again and again unless we take a serious stance on gun violence. It is surprising that this kind of thing does not happen with more regularity. Of course, gun violence and murders are no big deal -- they take place every day, about 80 of them. The media does not consider murders big news and the general population has been so conditioned to violence, especially gun violence, that by the next day its business as usual.
And it does not help that the vast majority of the victims of gun violence are poor people. The media only takes note when some depressed anti-social lunatic kills a dozen or more people at once, especially in a normally innocuous public space, such as a multi-screen movie theater. In today's harsh economic climate a lot of people are angry, broke and on some drug to escape the tedium of their existence. In depressed inner cities these people live in ghettoized communities where gun violence is common and where a majority of the community are armed and dangerous.
Still, there are some gun-nuts and NRA zealots who are going to shut their eyes to this incident and say that "guns don't kill" and that this latest mass murder, allegedly by a guy with an AK-47, a shotgun and two hand guns, should not be used to tighten America's too lax gun laws. This argument borders on the absurd when you consider the fact that gun homicide in the United States is on the increase -- especially serial murders -- and that is due to the fact that there are way too many guns in the society and access to them is as easy as buying a pizza.
Guns are inherently dangerous because they have been created and designed to be that way. You don't plant potatoes or corn with a gun, give directions with it or use it to change a car tire. It has one use and one use only -- to kill people. Those people running around ignorantly reeling of the 2nd Amendment "right" to bear arms surely do not mean ALL arms, including nuclear arms. They cannot argue with the facts that over the past 10 years over 6,773 children were killed by accidental guns discharge. More people are killed by accidental gun discharges than victims of crime are saved.
Finally, people carry guns in public for very few legitimate reasons. To protect themselves? From what and whom? A guy you are going to have an argument with over a parking space? The kid wearing saggy pants because you THINK he's a hoodlum? Or that you will lose an argument and the only way to win is by whipping out you shiny new Colt 45? Not even the Neanderthals behaved so primitive and stupid. Packing heat in public or anyplace else for that matter is a dangerous thing because it allows an individual -- just as the whack job in Aurora -- to kill at any given time, intentionally or not.
The lessons from the latest sordid chapter of gun violence? Way too many guns in American society and we need more regulation -- not less. That and longer prison sentences for illegal possession of firearms, especially when they are used to kill innocent people. But the chance of this happening is as likely as a snowball surviving in hell.