Sunday, December 16, 2012

There Is No Why

Even after giving it a couple days to sink in, words fail when it comes to last Friday's shooting. It's hard (for me, at least) to construct a coherent narrative that doesn't feel incomplete or even a bit opportunistic.

Mass murder and serial killing in particular tend to inspire questions of "why" and "how", and those pursuits always seem inadequate and pointless to me. As always, your mileage may vary. People process these things in their own way, whether with candlelight vigils, makeshift shrines, or attempts to comprehend the actions of incomprehensible people.

A few thoughts, many of them open-ended, keep cropping up throughout this national weekend of grief, take them for what you will:

  • When we talk about "gun control" after these tragic events, we should not only be careful, but also precise about what that would and should look like, and what effect it would have had on the event in question. The guns Adam Lanza used were legally owned by his mother, and as she had no criminal history nor issues that would have come up in a background check, no proposed stricture or regulation would have prevented her from anything.

    Now, if you're talking a ban on "assault weapons", that too needs to be written with precision and common sense, so we're on the same page as far as weapons that can fire dozens of rounds per minute, and not bickering over bayonet lugs and collapsible stocks, pretending that Something Is Being Done.

    Doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be done, just with the understanding that there are 320 million people in the US, and probably just as many guns, and punishing the 99% of responsible gun owners for the actions of a deranged, infinitesimal slice is not only unfair, but may not even work.

  • Gun-rights advocates, some bordering on the fanatical, have reflexively (as they always do after these events) suggested that if everyone were armed, these events would never occur, or at least be neutralized well before the body counts registered by "soft targets" such as schools. This is utterly ludicrous. Consider just two examples of countries where everyone is armed to the teeth:  Somalia. Afghanistan. How's that been going?

  • It is easier in the US to acquire, own, and operate a gun than an automobile. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing, and why or why not?

  • You can believe in the Second Amendment, and still believe that we need to find a way to prevent -- or at least reduce -- the ease with which deranged individuals can possess weapons of slaughter, and put them to use.

  • The Founding Fathers could not have conceived of handguns with 30-round magazines, or fully automatic assault rifles with 90-round (or more) clips. Had they been able to envision such an enormous technological leap, might they have written the Second Amendment any differently?

  • We grieve after every one of these tragedies, even as we lose count of them, they are so commonplace. Is it the cost of doing business? Is it the notion that they can all be prevented by arming (or disarming) everyone? Does anyone else find this cycle of public grief binging, purging, and forgetting even a little bit odd, and a lot useless, if nothing ultimately gets done about it?

  • It's interesting, to say the least, that calls for arming teachers in classrooms are now coming from the same corners who routinely demonize any and all facets of said profession. Really, Mister Random Conservative, are you sure you want lazy pothead librul indoctrinators packing heat? Maybe a couple Paul Blart types at each school, patrolling the perimeter with a Segway and a Sig Sauer? At least it'll create some jobs, right?

  • Before using Japan, Britain, and Switzerland as arguments for or against gun control, do keep in mind the significant cultural and geographic differences between those countries and America. And I do not mean "they're cultured and we're boors". It's a hell of a lot easier to enact control mechanisms on small island nations under constant surveillance, than a sprawling, teeming landmass. And Switzerland's vaunted mandatory militia, in which each household is required to keep an assault rifle, also has a proviso that ammunition is tightly regulated, registered in fact. Don't be surprised if any gun control proposals here lean in that direction. Or even simpler, mandating a limit on clip capacities. There is absolutely no logical reason you should be able to load a 30-round clip into a Glock handgun.

  • Opportunism comes in many forms after these things. It can be anything from sanctimonious assholes suggesting that we're just not godly enough, to intrepid journamalists pulling up their grief-pimping slacks and pestering second-graders outside the school where their playmates just got mowed down. Honestly, I don't know how either of those two very real examples of humans can look at themselves in the mirror when they get home at night. Probably through the bottom of a vodka bottle.

It would be nice if there were easy proposals or solutions. There aren't. Having a more comprehensive mental health care system would be a great place to start, but committing people against their will who haven't actually done anything presents another set of challenges. I dunno what to do, and I'm not going to pretend I do know. The easy answer is to point out that, again, there are 320 million people, and by the law of averages, some of them are crazy to some degree.

Hopefully the rest of us can figure out a way to prevent those folks from accessing weapons of a level of destruction that would have been unimaginable a hundred or even fifty years ago.

Also, too.

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