A firearm in the hands of the wrong person can be deadly. The presidency in the hands of the wrong person can also be deadly. Air travel safety regulations have convinced some of us that a finger-nail clipper in the hands of the wrong person can precipitate a terrorist attack. From these examples, it doesn't make sense to ban either the presidency or manicure devices.
What makes much more sense is to focus on the issues that prompt a maniac to use a firearm to kill innocent people; a president to kill innocent people; or a terrorist to kill people. When it comes to the latter, those of us on the progressive side of the nation haven't spent much time blaming the explosive devices or the box cutters, but rather the policies which have fostered so much resentment against the United States. We all know the list and it has nothing to do with hating us for our freedom.
So what causes a maniac to murder 30 people in cold blood? It can't possibly be about the 9mm handguns, in the same way terrorism isn't about access to beverage containers.
Yeah, I'm one of those progressives who has long since conceded the gun debate. It's not because of the gun lobby's simplistic talking points, it's not because of the hunters who think it's most excellent to kill innocent animals, and it's definitely not due to a lack of thought about the issue.
It's primarily about focus. Who or what is really to blame for the shameful level of gun violence in America?
The focus has to be aimed point-blank at the cold, brutal reality that there exists a serious inability to cope with American pop, economic and social pressures; a criminal lack of understanding of mental and physical health issues; and the problem solving examples instilled upon us by our elected leaders in a time when visual and printed access to information is at an all time high. These are just some of the elements at play, and they each carry a significant amount of blame. Not the guns.
President Bush himself has told us that shooting without negotiation is the only answer. The generation of kids in my daughter's demographic has to struggle in order to recall a time without this preemptive war. The only evidence they possess that indicates reasoning and negotiating with an enemy actually works is what they read about in history books. Their president and vice president have told them that the Speaker of the House shouldn't talk to our enemies because open dialogue is somehow a reward, rather than a rational responsibility.
And irresponsible behavior doesn't end at the front gate of the White House or at the steps of Capitol Hill.
Every day we're bombarded from all sides by marketing that tells us that our bodies aren't ripped enough. Our credit score is too low, but a Visa card is priceless. We need a bigger car. We need more chemically polluted foods, then the diet pills to interdict with the chemicals, then more medications to interdict with the diet pills, then additional meds to give us boners and free-flowing piss when our organs stop functioning from all of the above. We need plastic surgery to feel accepted. We need acceptance in order to be popular on MySpace. We have to redecorate our homes, buy a souped up chopper, eat brick oven pizza with five varieties of cheese and we need to display bumper magnets that prove to the dickhead behind us in traffic that we unequivocally support the troops.
Meanwhile, the divide between the people who can easily purchase all of these items and the people who can barely afford to keep their city water turned on is growing larger and larger, while the middle class is disappearing. It used to be that a guy could work 40 hours a week in a blue collar job and still be able to own a home, send his children to college and take his family on vacation every summer, with a pension waiting for him on the other side.
In every city, as well as a staggering number of suburbs, crime is becoming the only way to keep up with the 21st Century version of the American Dream (now with easier pissing power!).
Besides, aren't our kids supposed to shoot before they talk?
Who should we really be afraid of, anyway? The black kid with the oversized NFL parka or the white man in the suit rationalizing that it's okay if he pollutes the air or pumps our kids with mercury-contaminated vaccinations and high fructose corn syrup until they're fat, diabetic, cancerous globules lumbering diligently from the drive-thru to the waiting list for gastric bypass surgery? Obviously the black kid in the NFL parka is the one to fear because, let's face it, even though it's going to be a painful torturous death, the white man will kill you with snack foods that come in "fun" shapes -- AND he offers a fully stocked biggie-sized menu. (The non-snark answer is that the white man in the suit selling high fructose corn syrup is the one to fear, given the choice.)
Despite all of it -- coupled with gun ownership -- most of us don't run around killing people. The answer, they say, is to ignore these societal factors if you choose to. Be your own person! An individual! You know, like they teach in schools where everyone is forced to dress the same and where the creative arts are being downsized.
Yet in an era when we're being marketed to and categorized without even knowing it, how can we possibly avoid the perils of the modern American Dream (now featuring Crazy Bread!)? Combine this with record foreclosures, record bankruptcies and a health care system that, if you can afford it in the first place, will provide you with something for your Restless Leg Syndrome while refusing to cover your psyche meds and therapy sessions.
Millions of American citizens with an array of mental illnesses are walking around without the means to be diagnosed in the first place, much less to be treated properly -- and a growing number of those Americans are Iraq veterans. Health insurance carriers won't insure you if you have a prior history of anything from basic depression to full blown schizophrenia (2 million diagnosed Americans with schizophrenic disorders and counting), even though many mental illnesses erase the ability to discern between a first-person-shooter video game and a group of students on a college campus. Mental illness is the difference between keeping a handgun for self defense and using it to liberate human beings from their oppressive world.
Give a person with an untreated and severe mental illness a handgun and a target, and another Virginia Tech massacre waits in the wings. Take away the handgun, and it'd be homemade explosives. Take those away and it'd be poison in the cafeteria food (beyond the legal poisons already mixed in). What else can be taken away? Basic freedoms and liberties, maybe? Video games?
The key, as best I see it, is to leave most of the guns alone (and the video games, Senator Clinton) and provide real health insurance for everyone, then to begin the slow process of rebuilding a viable middle class in America.
If the NRA, among others, truly wants to win this debate, it should dedicate a large percentage of its lobbying resources to promoting guaranteed affordable (free is better), comprehensive health care coverage for every American. Additionally, if you want to keep your firearm, tell your elected representatives that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans should be rolled back in favor of serious tax breaks for the middle class. This will begin to close the divide between crime and earning an honest living. Proper health care will begin to tackle the rate of untreated mental illnesses which, at the very least, will reduce the numbers of gun crimes by those of us who aren't able to handle or fully process the torque of modern American reality.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 4/18/07. Just wanted to add something here. I am most definitely not blaming the VT massacre on the president. You're welcome to believe that, but you'd be terribly wrong. All I have suggested is that the president's shoot-first preemptive approach isn't setting the proper example for an entire generation of Americans.
FROM THE COMMENTS: Virigina Tech student "Tim" has made some outstanding points:
It is not about guns. The deaths of over 30 students and faculty of Virginia Tech should not be blamed on two guns. Guns do not kill people, people kill. We choose the debate of gun control at this time, because there are no other times in which it is as appropriate. I question the thought process of those who state that this would have been less of a problem if more people carried guns - if only one of the students sitting in one of those classrooms could have reached into his or her bag to pull out a handgun to end the situation sooner.
We give names to people like the shooter at Virginia Tech - Monsters, Maniacs, Evil-doers. Before they were given those names, we gave them the names of son, neighbor, friend, and fellow student. In order to explain why one of us would do something like this, we must first expel the person from the village and label him an outsider.
When people talk of the need to bear arms in order for protection, they speak of incidents of unknown assailants in the home or down a dark alley. They speak of the hidden maniacs and monsters amongst us. They never speak of the person sitting next to them at work, at home, or in the classroom that has been emotionally been pushed beyond reason, because then it becomes a son, neighbor, friend, fellow student, or yourself.
In a society of concealed handguns, the dark alleys do not concern me as much as the emotions of myself and my fellow man who in the moments of irrationality can cause unknown horror.
Virginia Tech Student