According to MassShootingTracker.com — and that a website with that name actually exists says everything about America’s sickening gun culture — there have been 337 mass shootings in our country this year before today’s headline grabbing massacre of at least 50 dead with over 100 injured in Las Vegas.
Oh, if only there weren’t more good people with guns in attendance who could have shot back at the madman firing from the 32nd floor. Surely, the only conceivable way to stop something like this from ever happening again is to make sure that everyone is armed.
What, too soon?
Forgive me, I know, I shouldn’t be talking about gun control now. It is disrespectful to the victims and their families. I should remain silent as the usual news cycle plays out, or at least wait until we know more about what happened. But actually what we don’t know yet tells us a lot.
Since the incident has not been labeled “terrorism,” which is exactly what it is, we know there is no evidence as yet that the perpetrator is Muslim. Since race has not been mentioned, we know that the perpetrator is white. Since so many people were shot, we know the perpetrator had an arsenal at his disposal and that it would surprise no one if all of his weapons were legal.
The thing with mass shootings this year is that they have not been especially newsworthy. Just not enough people killed. Admittedly, the year got off to a promising start with four murdered in South Carolina on New Year’s Day, followed by five more in Oregon and five more in Florida over the next week. But with many mass shootings, the victims merely suffer traumatic injures rather than death, and that is so much less sensational. So what if 10 were injured by gunshots, including eight teenagers, in Tennessee? They lived, so what’s news about that?
Since race has not been mentioned, we know that the perpetrator is white.
In June, six were murdered by a former co-worker in Orlando, and while that got some media attention (work place shooting always make for compelling stories and possibly mini-series), with the dead still in the single digits, we couldn’t realistically expect more than 48-hours of coverage.
The Congressional baseball shooting in June was big news because of who was targeted, but again, with so many survivors and the feel-good story of Steve Scalise’s recovery, it now barely qualifies as horrible.
But now we finally have our first horrifically massive shooting of the year, one with sufficient shock value to demand our attention. It is already being called “the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” so we are going to be hearing about this one for at least 72 hours before it disappears from the news.
At least we can count on the president to respond with great empathy and sensitivity — no, wait.
Here’s the thing: I would like to turn away from this story this morning. Everything about it disturbs and repulses me. But I am sitting here at my desk reflecting on it because it is the only way I know how to express my sorrow for those whose lives were senselessly destroyed for the crime of attending a country music festival. It is also the only way I know how to grieve for my country, a country that has long lost its way as far as the sensible regulation of firearms. Our culture is sick with violence and our gun problem is more symptom than cause, though in reality it is both.
We are addicted to triggers and refuse treatment. And we all know what happens when an addict refuses treatment.
For our culture to get well, we need to enroll in a national 12-step program for guns. We must become deeply aware and take responsibility for the ongoing violence that our culture tacitly permits. Of course, that by itself is not the answer, because there is no singular answer. But until we admit that our guns laws, or rather lack thereof, are a key part of the problem, then we are enablers of the violence we claim to abhor.
Joe Raiola is Senior Editor of MAD Magazine and Producer of the Annual John Lennon Tribute in NYC. He has performed his solo show, “The Joy of Censorship” in over 40 states.