It is too much for the rational mind to acknowledge, to comprehend, to accept. We cry, “This could not have happened!” But it did happen. Then, “How did it happen?” We hear some few details of how, and turn away in horror from the rest. Next, “Why did it happen?” For that, answers abound, few objective, none useful.
And so we cry, in frustration and near despair, “How can we keep it from happening again?” Many answers, most wrong or incomplete or impractical: Confiscate firearms. Give guns to teachers. Re-populate psychiatric wards.
We want to cancel it, to go back and stop it before it began, to believe somehow it didn’t really happen. But we know it did happen, and we know that, barring impossible luck or improbable legislation and enforcement, it will happen again.
And so we resort to why? Why did it happen? Who let it happen, what mistakes — action or inaction — have we made? Here too, we fall short. Our analyses find too many causes rather than too few. We cannot sort them, assign relative importance. But at least it is a beginning.
We are a violence-prone society. TV shows, computer games, toys, popular novels. They all seem violence-oriented, much more so than any in our past.
Violence-prone, I said. Perhaps it is more nearly violence-addicted. But that is not the only fact of today’s world which contributes to our problems. We are gun-crazy as well. (This may seem at first an outgrowth of our fascination with violence. Or vice-versa. I think they are essentially separate factors which stem from common sources: media saturation and political extremism.)
[Disclaimer: I am an old man. That does not mean I am out of touch, or delusional, or necessarily wrong. I remember World War II; I served in the Army during the Korean War; I marched on Washington to oppose the Viet Nam War; I wrote and continue to write against our wars in the Middle East.]
Where shall we look for relief, for protection, for, if not an end to, at least a reduction in the deaths? Will Congress enact sane gun-control legislation, not ending private ownership of weapons, but stipulating which kinds of weapons and which kinds of ammunition are reasonable? What need has any civilian for assault rifles, for automatic weapons, for armor-piercing or body-splitting ammunition?
Will the Supreme Court step back and re-consider its tortured logic in defense of NRA talking points?
Don’t get your hopes up. This Court decreed that corporations have all the rights but none of the responsibilities of persons, that money is speech. We have no reason to expect rational decisions; the best we can hope for is less jesuitical hair-splitting and logic-twisting in the name of jurisprudence — an oxymoron, that — or perhaps looking at “original intent” with twenty-first century, not eighteenth century eyes. (More laughter in the gallery.)
Congress? This Congress lacks the courage — or the wit, perhaps — to challenge the Court’s bizarre rulings.
Our prayers and our tears flow for those victims in Newtown. The prayers may help the survivors, the tears may help us. What can we do, though, for the victims? We cannot restore them, cannot reclaim them. All we can do, finally, is try to prevent more victims.
I don’t know how to do that, but one place to start figuring it out is to ask two simple questions.
Which is more likely to kill you, your loved ones, your friends and neighbors:
- an Iranian nuclear bomb, or
- a lunatic with a gun?
Which of those dangers have we spent more time and energy trying to eliminate?
It’s a matter of priorities.