Another mass shooting in America followed by more empty words by politicians.
What can we do? Even if we cut the number of guns in America in half, there’d still be 200 million guns on our soil. OK, let’s ban assault rifles. But there’s already more than 20 million AR-15-type rifles in circulation. Well then, how about more “good guys with guns” to catch the bad guys? If more guns and more police worked, why do mass shootings in America keep increasing?
We need to change our culture of violence while strengthening communal and family bonds. And we need to talk a lot less about “gun rights,” as if guns are people instead of tools that kill people, and much more about personal responsibility.
I’ve owned guns and I hope I acted responsibly as a gun-owner. Most gun-owners do. We know the rules of gun ownership. Always assume a gun is loaded. Never point a gun near anyone (unless you’re truly in a life-or-death situation). Don’t have a gun unless you’re trained on how to shoot it safely.
But our culture sends very different messages about guns. I can’t count the commercials I’ve seen for cop and military shows where the gun on the TV screen is pointed at me, the viewer (and you too, if you’re watching). I can’t count the shows that feature SWAT teams and lengthy shootouts. Far too often, guns and the violence they enable are depicted as cool, as sexy, as manly, as good.
With six-shooters we had the Wild West mystique of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and the like; then in the 1970s came Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and similar vigilante-cops. Only in the last three decades or so has military-style action exploded on our TV and Cable screens, featuring machine guns, .50 caliber sniper rifles, and a seemingly endless assortment of assault rifles in highly-stylized gun fights, usually depicted on Main Street USA.
Add all that on-screen violence to military-style shooter video games and you get a culture increasingly immersed in both virtual and actual gunplay. Meanwhile, our wider political culture is increasingly fractured, people are increasingly desperate as prices rise and jobs go away, and politicians, instead of doing something to help us, instead seek to divide us further by blaming the other party.
Politicians talk about red and blue America, but when we talk gun violence, we’re all red because we all bleed red. Guns don’t care about our petty partisan squabbles and our inability to change ourselves and our culture. Someone squeezes the trigger, some angry, some hateful, some violent, guy (it’s almost always a guy), and lots of people end up dead.
That nearly all mass shootings are done by men, often young men, should tell us something. That so many often favor “military-style” assault rifles should tell us something else. America is like one vast gated community, armed to the teeth against enemies from without even as the most dangerous enemies are those living within the gates, those who are locked, loaded, and ready to kill.
Young men need role models. They need a culture that teaches them killing isn’t cool. And the rest of us deserve communities where words and phrases like “lockdown,” “shelter in place,” and “active shooter” make no sense because there’s no need for them.