Saturday, July 21, 2012

Son of a Gun

Apparently everyone's expected to have or contrive some sort of received wisdom as to the motivations of the guy who shot up the movie theater the other night. He's a liberal, he's a conservative, he's a fanboy, blah blah blah. Bad enough that people need to declare What This Means, but to transparently utilize it as a template for their pre-existing pet peeves is, at the very least, indecent.

The most noteworthy thing about this tragedy, sadly, is how commonplace it is anymore, and not just mass shootings of random bystanders, but the routine occurrences of family murder-suicides, which seem to be frequently in the wake of economic devastation. The biggest factor in this particular instance is not radical political leanings, or even mental illness per se, it's how easy it is for deranged nutbags to acquire firearms and start spraying crowds.

The horror we all feel is by now tempered with ironic bemusement, because in the wake of this incident, and the next one, and the ones after that, nothing will be done to address the ease with which anyone can acquire deadly force with less hassle than it takes to legally drive a car. It's hard to say that further gun control might solve the problem anyway -- Switzerland has plenty of guns, and almost no gun crime. Whatever is proposed has to be done in a way that doesn't punish the vast majority of responsible gun owners, for the actions of a demented few.

And any proposal for even modest gun control would obviously be career suicide for any pol who put it forth. Where the ironic bemusement comes in is in recognizing that, if anything is done, it will be along the line of increasing surveillance and oversight. Americans will accept the intrusions of the state everywhere -- if someone were to propose putting metal detectors in movie theaters and supermarkets (were they not, you know, privately owned), you can count on a decent number of people endorsing it. They will allow any and every other freedom to be circumvented, rather than make Jared Lee Loughner or the Virginia Tech shooter jump through even one more modest hoop.

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