Wednesday, March 29, 2023

I Am Done With These School Shooting Arguments

Here are the discussions I'm really tired of wading through in the wake of the school shooting du jour.

The problem is mental illness.

Every nation on the planet has mentally ill people. No other nation on the planet approaches our level of gun violence against children and youth. 

There's nothing to be done. Shooters gonna shoot. 

This attitude that there's simply nothing that can be done, so why should legislators even try, is a mysterious notion that is only ever applied to gun laws. Not abortion or drag queens or traffic violations or even elections being won by the other side. Somehow, gun violence is the singular area in which the United States government is powerless to even attempt anything. 

Laws don't make any difference.

Every other country in the world says differently. 

Every argument ever presented by people who want to ban drag queens and dirty books.

If you have been vociferously arguing that children must be protected from knowing that gay people exist and there are books with sex things in them, and also let's not expose them to versions of history that will make them feel bad, but you don't want to try to reign in stuff that can actually kill them, then just shut up. In fact, shut up twice. (If you haven't seen the Jon Stewart clip, here ya go).

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Catchy, but dumb. We're not talking about disarming the military or the police. 

But more guns make us safer!

I think we can safely say that we have tried this theory, and the empirical evidence suggests it is bunk, because with the number of guns we have, we should be the safest country on the planet, not the country with the most staggering level of gun violence in the history of the industrialized world.

Let's arm teachers.

This is a dumb idea that sooner or later is going to get somebody killed. Armed, undertrained amateurs in a high pressure situation will not help. Also, this keeps coming from the same people who also say that teachers cannot be trusted to choose books for students, but give them a gun. We can throw terms like socialist and groomer at them, but let's hand them a gun, too. It's almost as if you're not serious about one or the other or both.

Shooters are all angry white guys.

Other nations have angry white guys. They don't have our staggering level of gun violence.

It's those damned video games.

Other nations have video games. They don't have our staggering level of gun violence.

You can just as easily kill people with rocks or spoons.

Other nations have rocks and spoons. They don't have a staggering level of rock or spoon violence on par with our level of gun violence.

We shouldn't have taken prayer out of school.

Other. Nations.

Parents these days just don't raise their kids right.

Other.    Nations. 

This is just an excuse to come after our guns.

Yes, I sure remember when folks wailed that Obama was coming for their guns and then, he didn't. Because the government isn't coming for your guns. Gun and ammo manufacturers, however, would love to come for your money.

But the Second Amendment--

I love the Constitution a lot. I don't agree that the framers wanted to make sure that everyone could own an AR-15, but let's pretend for a moment that the Second Amendment says everything you think it does. The Constitution also failed to give women and Black folks the right to vote. We recognized that this was a mistake AND WE FIXED IT! Because that's what we do in this country. You know--just like some of you keep pushing for a constitutional convention so we can add term limits, balanced budget requirements, and other stuff that you think the framers overlooked.

Let's have the death penalty for school shooters.

This is double stupid. First, I'd rather prevent the violence than get revenge for it. Second, a goodly portion of these shooters have no intent of getting out of there alive, anyway. 

Here are some conversations I'm more than willing to have.

Let's not get too focused on school shootings.

School shootings are horrific and newsworthy, but children are still more likely to be victims of gun violence at home. Nobody is talking about it, but in a district in my own quiet corner of the world, a child shot their cousin, at home, in the chest. Nobody died, and it didn't even make it into the newspaper, making it probably the eleventy zillionth unremarked instance of a child getting their hands on a gun because some adult failed at adulting. 

So we have way more to talk about than the headline grabbing horror of school shootings. Way more. It's just that the one-at-a-time incidents don't generate quite the buzz, and at this point it's hard to imagine how much horror we'd have to be exposed to in order to move the legislative needle. I don't know how we break that cycle, other than by electing legislators who value children more than guns or gun lobby money. 

But while focusing on school shootings makes sense (including emotional sense), I suspect it's self-defeating because school shootings, as frequent, horrific, and terrible as they are, are too easy for ammosexuals to wave off as outliers. And they're not entirely wrong--school shootings are just the ugly tip of a grotesque iceberg of blood. We need to be talking about all the gun violence.

We can't get rid of all the guns.

If I had a magic wand, I'd be waving a mountain of firearms out of existence, but I don't, and no legislation imaginable could achieve that result. We'll never bring the toll down to zero. But we could be better. We could make it harder to get guns, to get ammo. We could outlaw the whole family of guns that have no purpose except to shoot other human beings (no--I'm not going to argue with you about what "assault" means--we all know what we're talking about). We could keep guns away from people who have proven themselves dangerous. We could require training and education for gun ownership, and mandate proper safe storage--you know, exactly the sort of stuff that responsible gun owners already do! The kinds of things we do for people who want to own and operate cars (which now are behind guns in number of children killed).

We don't need to talk about being perfect. But we sure as hell could talk about doing better.

It's a complicated issue, and we are not even close to having the complicated conversations needed to deal with it. This is not the best we can do. Shrugging after each death and saying, "Oh, well, price of freedom and all that" is not the best we can do. 

All the words on this subject are used up. Like the Onion's "No Way to Prevent This", Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens (which was first run in 2014), we're simply caught in a continuous, ineffectual, damning loop. We should do better, but we won't, and that is a hard thing to accept. 


  1. My mother considered murder suicide ("I would never leave you on your own. I would have taken you with me." - Top chilling quote by my mom who was suicidal frequently.) She loved me very much depression can put you in such a dark place that you think loved ones are better off dead.

    So I don't want mental health taken off the table. Nearly all of these shootings were murder suicide (where the person shooting either killed themselves or expected to be killed). I think suicide contagion factors HIGHLY into this and dealing with that is part of the problem. But it's not JUST a mental health problem, and mental health shouldn't be used to dismiss other solutions (specifically those having to do with guns).

    My dad was a gun owner and him having guns put me at risk, because while my mom wasn't allowed to own them due to her mental illness (and having spent some mandatory time in a hospital), my dad was so she had access.

    But, in recent years I also am seeing how some guns (actually used to shoot people) are necessary to thwart Tyranny. It always seemed a rediculous idea. But then I learned that the Black Panthers were one of the first gun rights advocates (and why...the ONLY time black people escaped when a lynch mob came for them was when they were armed). And also seeing how disarming a populace often is the first move of a government that turns authoritarian (and how that move helped keeps them in power in places like Venezuela).

    But that doesn't mean I don't support more gun restrictions. Age limits, gun storage restrictions where a minor is in the house, banning things like bump stocks, better red flag laws (and the ones we have used more often), maybe even some sort of mental health screening if you are going to own a gun, do a voluntary buy back of various types of assault weapons and send them to Ukraine for people who need them (that actually might entice more gun owners to "donate" to that cause).

  2. The Christian Nationalist GOP right needs to decide to worship God (in this case, God's children) or mammon.

  3. Amen. And yes, every single one of these arguments is bollocks. But the worst, I think, is the "What can you do eh?" Behind it is a smug, beefy, contemptuous right-wing attitude that trying to make things better is somehow the stuff of a naive child's dream, and that Real Men understand that life is a battle. What's extra poignant is that nothing could be weaker, or more pliant, or more supine and naive, than these people repeating what their commercial overlords are shouting in their ears.

  4. I suggest reworking of the Second Amendment, followed by a national gun buyback program, a ban on military weapons for people not serving in the military, a limit of one non-hunting gun per person, and bullets meted out according to number of people gunowners estimate they will likely kill over a given period of time. One? Three? Ten?

    Regarding the issue of race, police assume all Black people are armed and act accordingly. If few to none of us were armed, perhaps police would act differently. I don't know. Then we see White vigilantes shoot unarmed Black people. Fewer armed White vigilantes couldn't hurt, right? Martin Luther King, Jr ultimately decided he couldn't keep a gun, realizing it made no difference concerning his safety. Malcom X and the Black Panthers thought otherwise; who can blame them, really?