Dr. Strangelove, or how I learned to love the gun
NEW YORK—By the time you read this, statistically speaking, there probably will have been a couple more, if not several, mass shootings, now a deadly feature of the American landscape—and ravaged soul. As of May 8, there were 202 mass shootings for the year. That comes to an average of one and a half per day. A mass shooting, according to the Gun Violence Archive, is one where at least four people are shot, not including the shooter.
While offering their anodyne “thoughts and prayers,” the gun nuts, whose ranks include politicians mostly from the Republican Party, predictably lay the blame on mental health issues, and call for more people to be armed—including, in schools where mass shootings have occurred, teachers and students. Their rationale: If good guys have guns, then bad guys with guns will think long and hard before going on a shooting rampage.
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But imagine a scenario where a student and a teacher, both armed, get into an argument that quickly escalates into a deadly confrontation, Western-style, with the winner being the faster draw. The Wild Wild West brought into the classroom! A slice of Americana not only preserved but alive (if precariously) and (un)well.
These acolytes of the National Rifle Association and avid worshippers of the gun invariably point to mental illness as the primary reason for gun violence. They declare that it’s these crazies who kill. By focusing on the trigger puller rather than the trigger, the role of guns, particularly the assault rifle, is downplayed, simply backdrops in a depressingly familiar script.
They completely ignore the fact that other countries have mentally ill citizens as well, but not the same number of mass shootings. Why? For the simple reason that in those countries guns are very difficult to purchase. Japan is one such country. With more than 125 million people, Japan experiences significantly less gun violence, with the annual rate of firearm-related deaths in single figures, e.g., in 2019, there were only nine such deaths, according to the World Health Organization. It’s been estimated that the ratio of licensed gun owners in Japan is 0.16 per 100 people. In contrast, there are approximately 400 million guns in the US, more than one firearm per person.
Of course it’s undeniable that mental instability is a factor in mass shootings—a deadly combination when paired with the easy availability of guns and in particular of the AR-15 assault rifle, a weapon meant for war.
But it’s equally undeniable that mental instability is itself a crucial factor in the makeup of gun advocates.
You have to be deranged to think the formulaic “thoughts and prayers” is a magic incantation that will stop a bullet from shattering a skull.
You have to be unhinged to think the solution to this unceasing pandemic is to have more guns.
You have to be demented to believe that gun control is in any way an assault on the Second Amendment.
From 1994 to 2004 there was a ban on the sale of the assault rifle, but once that law was left to expire, the number of mass shootings where the AR-15 was used spiked. These assault weapons were used in the headline-grabbing events that have sadly characterized our era as one of random massacre: Sandy Hook in 2012, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 — and Uvalde, Texas in 2021, and again, in Texas this year, a rural area and a shopping mall.
What did Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican and staunch proponent of gun rights, have to say about the latest mass shooting in the Lone Star state? He latched on to some meaningless statement, saying, “We have got to find a way in this country where we can once again reunite Americans … and come together as one big family. And in that regard, find ways to reduce violence in our country.” Predictably, he once again avoided any mention of the elephant in the room: the availability of guns, particularly the assault rifle—the favored weapon of mass destruction.
Regulation and control do not equal abolition. Quite the opposite: something needs to exist in order or it to be regulated and controlled. These believers, for instance, would not argue that setting speed limits for vehicles, or requiring the use of seat belts, is aimed at eliminating the right to drive a car. But then again, they might, such is their twisted way of thinking.
No one would argue that a man (and all of the mass shooters in this country have been men) who goes on a murderous rampage against innocent people is sane.
By the same token, those public servants who knowingly allow the conditions under which this never-ending nightmare flourishes should themselves be classified as mentally ill and thus be barred from public office—and sent straight away to an asylum for much-needed treatment and possible rehabilitation.
Copyright L.H. Francia 2023