We Die Again

This time it was children — horrifyingly young, startlingly many.  But if not children, then shoppers at an Oregon mall, or Sikhs at their temple, or movie-goers, or students at a university.  Every common place in American life — shopping malls, churches, movie theaters, and schools — has now been shown to be a place where Americans can expect to be shot down and killed.

Our country has very poor mental health services, especially for children and young adults.  Our country makes it very easy to get hold of extremely lethal, easily used, weapons of military grade for killing large numbers of people very quickly at a considerable distance.  And our culture glorifies guns and killing people, from TV and movies to video games.

The result of this combination is predictable — at frequent intervals, mentally disturbed young men will acquire semi-automatic weapons and use them to kill people.  We have seen children, politicians, and ordinary people gunned down again and again and again.

But we never spend the tax money to make public health care more affordable; even if you have health insurance, mental health care — often considered not a real or serious illness, even though it kills people through suicide and aggresion — is usually poorly and minimally provided.  Nor do we do much to make it difficult for ordinary people to acquire military weapons with high-capacity magazines and rapid rates of fire.

So you can count on this:  someone you know, someone loved and close to someone, will be killed when and where you least expect it; it’s just a matter of time before it happens again.

Gun rights advocates argue that if more people had guns, this wouldn’t happen.  That’s entirely false.  The people who commit these acts expect to die, usually killing themselves when their mass killing is done.  They won’t be deterred by others who are armed.  And once they start firing, if they have high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons, they will kill many before others can get out their guns and fire back.  And if we DO have regular firefights in theatres, shopping malls, and schools, more people, not less, will be injured and killed.  Those who prefer to travel without concealed weapons and be caught in shoot-outs will avoid public spaces, to the detriment of merchants, schools, and all of us.

Civilians have every right to hunting and marksman sport weapons.  Bushmasters are NOT for sport; they are for quick and easy killing.  They can only be put in the hands of civilians who fear they will have to protect themselves from the government, or from the anarchy that will prevail when government breaks down.  In other words, they are good to have for the day that America breaks down as a nation and becomes an armed battlefield.

Do a majority of Americans expect that this day will soon be upon us?  Fine, then most of us can expect to die and the rest should start their military training immediately.  If not, then the majority of Americans should insist that the rest of the country stop stockpiling weapons designed only to be used when that day comes.  To do otherwise is simply to ensure that Americans will die again, when they least expect it, in large numbers, not from a terrorist attack, but from the actions of young Americans who get too little help with their emotional and mental health, and find it very easy to get their hands on far-too-dangerous guns.  If we do not change this, someone you know and care about will die in a hail of bullets, not on a battlefield, but when going about their business shopping, attending school or university, or in a theater.  It’s just a matter of time.

About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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