GELFAND’S WORLD--If you look at the mass shooting totals since 1982 in Mother Jones (click on the link for the downloadable file) you will find that the total of dead and wounded has now surpassed the death toll from the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Admittedly the death total (more than 900) is lower, but when you add the number of wounded (more than 2200) the total surpasses the 3000 mark.
It's about the guns. It's on Trump. For the survivors, the event never goes away.
Each of these points is central, but in the aftermath of a weekend in which copycat killers put more than 50 people in the morgue or in the hospital, you don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. All the gun sellers and gun nuts and the president are guilty. The guns themselves are critical to the argument.
Here are the most chilling facts I've seen in the news:
A 25 year old mother was killed trying to shield her baby from the shots.
"According to El Paso police, the AK-47-style assault rifle the gunman used in the attack was purchased legally." (NY Magazine)
Solutions and stale arguments
By the way, Kevin Drum beat me to it this morning, as he pointed out that the only solution is to ban semiautomatic weapons. This isn't a new idea by itself, but it's something that the normal, sane people of this country might want to think about. It's actually the nightmare scenario for the gun-lovers, the ones who kept crying that "Obama is trying to take your guns away." It's a not-so-remarkable piece of psychological projection on their part, because they know that the only way to reduce the ability of potential murderers from becoming mass murderers is to reduce the firepower they have available. It's time that the country as a whole starts to think about the tradeoffs between the nearly unlimited right to carry around loaded weapons of mass murder vs. the need of any society to maintain the peace.
The latest argument on the pro-gun side is that the killers are mentally ill. That's one of the first things we heard from the president. Here's a simple question: Then why are you willing to put these weapons in the hands of such people?
Here's an argument that won't work: Well, we need to make counseling more available and try to find these people before they get into trouble. The problem with this argument is that these mass killers don't always reveal their problems or their intentions before they kill.
There are 3 choices here:
1) Investigate and arrest (or otherwise disable) hundreds of thousands of people who are depressed, or eccentric, or a little unstable. Medical science does not as yet have the ability to read minds at a sufficiently detailed level as to locate all the truly dangerous while exonerating the non-dangerous, so the requirement would be that anyone who is even potentially dangerous gets put away. Or perhaps the authorities will engage in some largely-symbolic gestures aimed at a few such people.
2) Do something about the availability of one specific type of consumer product (right now the .223 semiautomatic rifle) without outlawing things like revolvers and bolt action rifles, and without mass incarceration based on speculation.
3) Do nothing of any worth.
Why not blame the shootings on Rock N' Roll?
Besides mental illness, the pro-gun line of the day is that video games and the internet are partly to blame. There is a point to be made about the internet, but the pro-gun folks pointing the finger on this one seem to have a convenient memory loss when it comes to their own angry rants on that same internet. The killers apparently pick up cues from hate sites, but where do those sites originate, and who is populating them? Meanwhile, the argument about video games is about on a par with previous complaints about jazz, rock n' roll, and the mini skirt.
Post traumatic memories
As I was reminded by a colleague and in my own memory, for the survivors it never goes away. All those people who were in either of the killing zones will remember their experiences. Decades from now it will still be with them. For those who have suffered personal losses, it won't go away.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at email@example.com)