Another Mass Shooting in America

W.J. Astore

More Loaded Guns and Empty Words

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.

22 thoughts on “Another Mass Shooting in America

  1. “That so many often favor “military-style” assault rifles should tell us something else. ”
    Indeed.
    I grew up enjoying TV series such as “Combat!”, “The Rat Patrol”, etc.; and an untold number of films depicting Americans’ battles against Nazis (and ‘Japs’), in WWII. There was no question in my mind then (and only a little today) that there was at least a moral case at hand, and that the U.S. was fighting “the good fight”, the point is that war, ‘good and evil’ and superior firepower are linked.

    We were thus conditioned then to accept the premise that it is not only morally ok, but a moral responsibility to confront ‘evil’ with the readiness and willingness to blow the enemy away. Kill or be killed- that’s not just the necessary credo of the soldier, but by transference, of a good part of the population (mostly male, I’d suspect).

    Unsurprisingly, then, I too have long had guns. I don’t hunt. They are the result of my since-boyhood interest in guns and shooting. BB guns were good enough to go plinking at icicles in the branches. (and let’s face it, to some extent, interest in guns is a natural extension of other male urges: to throw snowballs (or even baseballs), to shoot targets with a bow and arrow, to hit targets with a slingshot, etc.

    Later I got a few ‘real’ guns (starting with a .22LR rifle and a target pistol from a policeman-friend who was also a dealer on the side; joined in black-powder shoots with another cop friend, winning a medal in the ‘newbie” category with his rifle; Joined a pistol club in one place I lived. (I have to admit, i never really got any good at all with the Colt Series 70 Gov’t Auto .45… and not long after sold it. I also wasn’t adverse to concealed carry for a brief time, when my then-neighborhood became a municipal center for robbery, assaults and murder.

    I stopped doing the latter after, having been accosted by 3 hoods intent on robbery one night while out and NOT carrying, I was so glad I didn’t have it and therefore wasn’t tempted to pull out a gun instead of giving them the $20 I had in my wallet. For if I had done so, I could very possibly been forced to use it; and if so, I might today still have the death of one or more young men on my conscience. Ah but for the grace of angels…

    But WWII TV series and movies may have set the stage, but look around at what kids are exposed to today. Not just film and TV, but the video games that so many seem familiar with, which allow for active participation and reflex-training.

    Add that to the seeming growth of stressors to mental health, lack of support for or adequacy of treatment options, and the deliberate sowing of hate (and divisions) by ideologically fixated people and groups, and their ready access to platforms of influence, and it shouldn’t be surprising that America in particular has such a mass shooting epidemic. It will only grow until we recognize the deeper reasons for it, and ourselves stop reflexively acting as if there is a single easy solution.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you Bill for yet another piquant post, in your series of editorials about our increasingly
    violent/ militarized cultural, political and media-dominated citizenry. Refreshing but discouraging
    to have a respected military historian acknowledge that not only have we witnessed the political/cultural
    extreme right and left join forces in promulgating this media blitz, but that we don’t really know how to
    create an anti-violence, anti-militarization cultural movement. Our leadership in all three Federal branches
    seems overwhelmingly wedded to policies and programs that favor military might and submission/dominance of the Middle and Working-Class citizenry, never mind the needs of the poor,
    the sick, the homeless–I know, I’m preaching to the choir (I’m a choral singer) or listening to the sermon one more time, but I’m a Vietnam combat Vet and a retired Psychiatrist; I don’t think this time in American history is going to end well–e.g. the most recent Debt Crisis at loggerheads over how to find the funds to pay our debts, without a single mention from any Congressperson or Executive branch of the obscene
    bloated DoD/MICCC budget that could cover all those struggling underfunded domestic/social welfare
    programs with a fraction of their already-awarded billions…

    Liked by 3 people

  3. speaking of Tv shows, I’ve noticed that now adays when cops or private eyes are going into a situation that is unknown, they have their guns out. That didn’t used to be the case, I’ve known cops who have said they have never pulled their gun, but what we see on TV is cops have their guns out basically all the time, so it’s no wonder they use them. The other “rule” we’ve all heard is ” don’t point your gun at anyone unless you mean to kill them”, I’ve always thought that was sort of dumb. But I note that no one ever thinks that simply wounding someone might be a better solution; the rule is always to kill. What’s with that? I’d be interested in your or anyone’s comments. I’m pretty old, so I remember cop movies and TV series where this wasn’t the case. Do you think think maybe the ease with which cops, P.I.s etc. kill people are training our young to assume that’s what they should do too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In re., “shoot to kill”: This was how I was taught, as well. Every law enforcement officer (as well as military, I’m fairly sure), are taught that edict. It seems harsh but there is a logical reason. First, if a police officer is in a situation where it is SOP to have a gun out (i.e. a threat of bodily harm exists), the situation is considered one in which their first priority is to protect their own lives, that of fellow officers and any innocent bystanders or victims. They are taught generally, to shoot at the center of body mass, because that will yield the greatest likelihood of neutralizing the threat. While some of us grew up watching, e.g. the Lone Ranger or other heroes shooting the gun out of a bad-guy’s hand, or hobbling them with a well-placed shot at the villains gun hand, arm or shoulder, that is hopelessly unrealistic expectation of most people – even those with shooting experience, in a tense situation. In fact, officers are taught that is what would get them most likely killed, simply because the odds of missing are so much greater.

      But I do agree… times have greatly changed. It was always interesting to see that British constables (and others) didn’t even carry firearms normally. If they do now, it’s a relatively recent development. But from the Wild West to the streets of Chicago, firearms were always seemingly a natural part of a police officer’s tools.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. In a word, Yes.

      On TV, I think it’s all about “drama.” I’ve seen so many shows where cops have their guns drawn, often with flashlights as well, as they enter various dark rooms, passages, parking garages, and the like, on the hunt for various killers. These scenes often end with the bad guy getting shot. End of story — no remorse.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for your reply Roger, but I still wonder if all this shooting to kill isn’t teaching our kids that that’s the “manly” way to behave. Seems like cop’s on TV kill without much remorse – just part of the day. It used to be, in real life, that if a cop killed someone they were required to go to counseling whether they wanted to or not; I don’t know if that is still true but it’s not portrayed on TV as though anyone takes it seriously – in Blue Bloods for instance, a main player Detective just brushes that request (not “requirement”)aside; over the years the show has aired he’s killed a few, though I note that this never bothers him much.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And you didn’t see blood on TV in Dragnet or any other of the violence magnified on TV then. There was more Comedy than violence.

        Everyone understands what a copycat killer is, buy no one sees even the remotest connection with the blood and violence on the streets that was especially embedded/indoctrinated watching TV during the COVID shutdown.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a point, Ranney. Certainly TV has been programming people and culture. We all, and maybe especially kids, get lots of programming and it certainly shapes our outlooks, fears, responses, etc.; including readiness to kill.

      I’m not so sure that the TV / film portrayals of such life-or-death scenarios are so much about manliness… note that in the more ‘woke’ culture of today, how many women (police & military officers) are given equal casting in those scenarios. I suppose one could argue that women are to an extent expected to ‘man up’ to be equal to a man.

      Still, there is an essential (if technical) point that shouldn’t be overlooked, in terms of use of firearms whether in war or in policing or even defending one’s life in the wild. The emphasis to me was always in two parts: a) “Never pull out your gun unless it’s necessary to avert a life threatening situation; and b) if you have pulled your gun out, be prepared to use it (and not lose it); and that means shooting to eliminate / bring down the threat.
      It isn’t primarily that ‘shoot to kill’ is the goal so much as that one can’t expect just to ‘wound’ to disarm or remove the threat; shooting for the center of body mass is the only way most people will be able to do it – and that can be the same as “shoot to kill”.
      Having worked (as a civilian in communications) I knew a lot of cops and knew very well the dangers they faced- and that was more than 40 years ago. Yet, notwithstanding the fact that many calls they went on COULD turn dangerous, it was far less common in those days to have a gun at the ready at first contact, unless the call already alerted officers that a suspect was armed and dangerous. As Bill said above, what we see on TV is dark and amplified drama.

      Then again, the increasing frequency of mass shootings does suggest a more dangerous world for both police and citizens – and maybe we’re seeing a vicious cycle – one in which our cultural media play a role?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think it’s inappropriate or shallow to opine that America has rotted from “outside”: our disastrous foreign-affairs follies, misadventures and disasters have “bled” back home (“inside”) — in a disdain for considering the “other’s” position and needs; in abrogation of active listening and diplomacy; in wholesale and callous disregard for human rights and life itself; in astonishing racism [Vietnamese = gooks; Arabs = ragheads]; in endless wars and “equivalents of wars” from Korea to Cuba to Vietnam to Panama to Grenada to Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria to Palestine (throw in Lebanon as another target of Zionist arrogance and state terrorism) to Venezuela (soon to Iran?), etc., etc. All those GIs and mercenary contractors with PTSD bring their illnesses back home; all those venal pol-prostitutes and MSM shills dispense hatred and hubris and faux news…voila: a coarsening of society, a vast/incomprehensible proliferation of guns and use of them, an immensely bloated and wasteful MIC…etc., etc., etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well said, Robert. The connections seem rather clear to me. In addition to ‘natural’ or culturally acquired xenophobia, dehumanizing the ‘enemy’ is an essential pre-condition and preparation for war, and America has done it in spades.
      W/r/t the proxy war in Ukraine, look at how successfully Russia-hatred had been promoted long before Russia’s SMO began in the Donbass. While it had already begun by 2014, it greatly amped up with all the Russiagate claims- painting Russia / Putin as “trying to steal our ‘democracy’ ” , blaming Putin / Russia for Donald Trump, and falsely going after Trump by saying he was “Putin’s bitch”. While some of the most obvious lies gradually disappeared (usually without any formal correction or acknowledgment), they had collectively done the trick. By the time the SMO began, the ridiculously baseless narrative that Putin was intent on conquering Europe on his way to global Empire was for many if not most Americans, an unquestioned article of faith.

      While the Russian command were initially instructed to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties and population centers generally, leading even U.S. commanders to remark in surprise at their restraint, for their part, the Ukrainian forces (particularly the ultranationalists) called the Russians (both ethnic Russians in E. Ukraine and Russians generally) “Orcs”… a reference to the hideous sub-human creatures of Tolkien’s fable.

      You’re right to see all of this violence also in the context of the endless wars (and ‘interventions’ ) that have for the most part (though not exclusively) been fomented by our own nation in its pursuit of both sustaining and expanding the Empire for the corporatocracy. (John Perkins, in his excellent book, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” was the first person who introduced that latter term to me. He wrote of the pattern by which nations were brought to heel: economic bribery to get them hopelessly in debt; engineering of coups should that not work; regime change wars if necessary. You mention a few of the example cases.

      We do appear, as you suggest, to be amidst a terrifying, seemingly inescapable vicious cycle of violence, with feedback loops from the violence and destabilization we have brought around the world. I sure hope that it is not inescapable, though… i.e. that perhaps more people will connect the dots and begin to withdraw their assent to the perpetuation of this system and its vicious cycles- perhaps in the process creating virtuous cycles.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Maybe we need a “Bechdel Test” for guns. The original Bechdel Test gauges whether women are respected and given agency in movies (and surprisingly few of them do, even in 2023). A gun-related equivalent could point out that movies or TV shows present unrealistic and potentially harmful to society imagery about guns. And often, as in the case of Indiana Jones shooting the great Arab swordsman in RotLA, it also shows that guns are often a crutch for lazy writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Rainbow is the Sign of the Promise the World will not end with a great Flood again, but looking into the World, the floods everywhere on Earth must be a sign History is repeating itself telling us something is terribly wrong.

    The same OT Book recording that Promise may have an alternate ending?

    For behold, the Lord shall come with FIRE, and like a tempest,
    His chariots, to render His anger with FURY, and His rebuke with flames of FIRE.
    For with FIRE, will the Lord contend, and with His sword with all flesh, and those slain by the Lord shall be many.
    Isaiah 66

    The New Testament says that a different way.
    Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
    But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto FIRE against the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
    But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
    The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
    2Peter3:6-9

    This is the FORM that FIRE will take, not possible before OUR Generations TODAY

    Scott Ritter confirms all that in secular, non-religious terms yesterday and what is at stake for ALL of us.

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  8. This tells me that changing our “culture of violence” is not going to be an easy sell to today’s teenagers, those who were born after 9/11 and endured The COVID Event… :

    JUVENILE CRIME SURGES, REVERSING LONG DECLINE. ‘IT’S JUST KIDS KILLING KIDS.’ [Extracts] by Dan Frosch and Zusha Elinson 012323

    Violence among children has soared across the country since 2020. One consequence: a mounting toll of young victims.

    A 13-year-old boy ran through the Bronx streets one May afternoon last year, chased by two teens on a scooter. Surveillance video showed him frantically trying to open the doors of an assisted-living facility. The scooter peeled onto the sidewalk and sped toward him. A 15-year-old boy riding on the back pointed a handgun and fired multiple times, police say.

    Nearby, 11-year-old Kyhara Tay stood outside a beauty salon after school, eating chicken wings and waiting for her friends to finish getting their nails done. A stray bullet struck the pavement in front of her, authorities say. Another pierced her stomach. She was rushed in critical condition to Lincoln Hospital 2 miles away, where she died that night.

    Violence among children has soared across the country since 2020, a stark reversal of a decades long decline in juvenile crime.

    In the U.S., homicides committed by juveniles acting alone rose 30% in 2020 from a year earlier, while those committed by multiple juveniles increased 66%. THE NUMBER OF KILLINGS COMMITTED BY CHILDREN UNDER 14 WAS THE HIGHEST IN TWO DECADES, ACCORDING TO THE MOST RECENT FEDERAL DATA.

    One consequence is a mounting toll of young victims. THE NUMBER OF JUVENILES KILLING OTHER JUVENILES WAS THE HIGHEST IT HAS BEEN IN MORE THAN TWO DECADES, THE 2020 FEDERAL DATA SHOW.

    Kyhara was one of 153 victims in New York City under the age of 18 shot in 2022, the most in at least six years and more than the 127 total minors shot in 2018 and 2019 combined, according to police data. The 13-year-old boy being pursued was unharmed, authorities say.

    In New York City, police said 124 juveniles committed shootings during 2022, up from 62 in 2020 and 48 in 2019.

    “THE TRAGEDY HERE IS THAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A GUNMAN WHO IS TOO YOUNG TO BE CALLED A GUNMAN BECAUSE HE’S 15 YEARS OLD,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark after Kyhara’s death. “These ages make you weep.”

    The jump comes amid an overall wave of violent crime in the first two years of the pandemic—particularly homicides and shootings—that swept through urban and rural areas alike.

    Police, prosecutors and community groups ATTRIBUTE MUCH OF THE YOUTH VIOLENCE TO BROAD DISRUPTIONS THAT STARTED WITH THE PANDEMIC AND LOCKDOWNS. SCHOOLS SHUT DOWN, DEPRIVING STUDENTS OF STRUCTURE IN DAILY LIFE, AS DID SERVICES FOR TROUBLED CHILDREN. INCREASED STRESS COMPOUNDED A SWELLING MENTAL-HEALTH CRISIS. SOCIAL-MEDIA CONFLICTS INCREASINGLY TURNED DEADLY.

    Dora Villarreal, the top prosecutor in Rock Island County, Ill., said she has never seen such young teens so frequently involved in shootings and firearms cases in her county of about 143,000. “During Covid, without school being a constant kind of stabilizing structure for many of our kids, that has helped lead unfortunately to this rise in violent crime,” she said… .

    … Fourteen-year-old K’Mya Marshall could see the changes among the young people she knew in her West Philadelphia neighborhood over the past two years.

    After months of isolation, teens became less able to cope with conflict and more frequently lashed out over small disputes, she said. With less to do, many also drifted deeper into social-media circles where guns and crime were glamorized.

    Firearms were seemingly everywhere, as gun sales skyrocketed during the pandemic. Kids got them from family members, purchased them on Instagram for a few hundred dollars, or bought homemade ghost guns from other teens.

    “They think it’s cool,” said K’Mya, a team leader at the Young Chances Foundation, a community organization that seeks to prevent violence. “They want that gun to define themselves and for people to be scared of them.”

    Full article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/violent-crime-rate-juvenile-11674485556 [EMPHASES added.]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure if you meant that the news reports of such shootings is intended to distract, but I have little doubt that they get far more attention than the mass killings that take place in wars and interventions with which our nation is more often than not involved. That’s somewhat understandable given that these mass shootings are closer to home – all our wars are ‘over there’. The fact that there is so little critically honest reporting about the causes and effects of the globally-dispersed wars, including the U.S.’ prominent role therein, does nothing to raise what we might think would stimulate an appropriate level of concern among the citizenry.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. And another…. . In California, which has among the strictest gun control laws in the nation.

    And apparently it’s not just young White guys who have this problem with guns; old Yellow and Brown guys seem equally affected.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CORRECTION: The Half Moon Bay mass shooter is not Latino, but Oriental, just like the Lunar New Year shooter. The victims were both Latino and Chinese.

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