Monday, October 5, 2015

Guns in America, Part I

Uncomfortably Numb

These mass shootings have become all too "routine," as Pres. Obama said, but so too has the response to these incidents.  Sheriff John Hanlin didn't want to release the name of the killer, so as not to "give him the credit he probably sought," but the name was eventually released and the usual speculation followed suit.  No, the shooter wasn't American-born, rather British-born, with a whole host of grudges built up over his time here, which was found among his papers and thumb drive and stash of guns and ammunition at his apartment.

The shooter was a student at Umpqua Community College and took his aim on classmates for reasons that were apparently religiously motivated.  Seems he didn't believe in God and felt the need to strike down those who did.   This of course resonated among religious conservatives who already feel they are being persecuted in America.  It helps having a motive, at least as far as the media is concerned. The guy had clearly lost all perspective of society.  He could have just as easily shot and killed persons based on what color shirt they were wearing for it all mattered.   I doubt it helps in the grieving process.

Chris Mintz has been made into an instant hero for taking seven shots in his attempt to tackle the gun man, after pulling alarms and warning others to flee the building.  The shooter probably would have killed more persons had not Mintz taken such bold action.  In the end the shooter took his own life, sparing us the painful ordeal of a trial that must be awful for the parents and friends of the victims.

The only question now is what do we do about it?  This was posed to the presidential candidates and we got pretty much the answers we expected.  Hillary wants more gun control.  The Donald basically said, shit happens, and that this is a problem that will go on for millions of years, assuming of course our species lives that long.  Chris Christie says he would lock up persons who speak out violently, indicating that this is a problem for the mental institutions, not gun control.  So on and so forth.

I suppose we could try a buyback scheme like they did in Australia to reduce the roughly 300 million firearms currently in distribution.  It might put a dent in the massive gun stockpile but probably wouldn't make much impact on shooters like that at Umpqua.  The person had quietly amassed 13 firearms and a large amount of ammunition over a three-year period, avoiding any attention.  There was nothing to indicate he was mentally unstable.  He had no criminal record.  He had pretty much harbored his ill feelings and ill intents right up to the time of the shootings.

These persons live in their own inner anarchist world, waiting for opportune moments to carry out their contempt for society.  They seem to bide their time until everything is in place or they just simply "flip" and go on a rampage.  The targets are usually vulnerable, but this shooter took the precaution of wearing a flak jacket.  I guess he figured there might be an armed security officer on the premises.

The sad part is that there really isn't much you can do to guard yourself against incidents like this.  Letting everyone go around carrying a gun on campus, as is now allowed in Texas, isn't going to solve the problem, as a shooter could just as easily pick a vantage point like a school tower, as Charles Whitman did in 1966 when he went on a 96-minute shooting spree at the University of Texas. He shot 43 persons, 13 of whom died.

Yes, this is an age-old problem, but the frequency with which these shootings are taking place has rapidly increased, resulting in public outrage.  It doesn't seem to do much good to vent though.  All it does is harden positions, and result in a spike in gun and ammunition sales.  The gun rights lobby is strong, well-funded and ready to mobilize at a moment's notice when such incidents take place.  Not to mention the vast number of persons who immediately take to the social media in defense of their second amendment rights.

Mostly what you get are grandiose statements meant more for public consumption than anything else.  The President tried to strike a somber tone but he wasn't fooling anyone.  The conservative media immediately fired back, with the right wing blogosphere hinting at potentially more executive orders to curb their second amendment right.  The type of knee-jerk reaction we have come to expect.  James Woods is purported to have a 180 IQ, but obviously emotions come into play here, not intellect.

There isn't much sympathy expressed toward the victims' families and friends except in the local media, which tries to mend the shattered lives with soothing words.  As many efforts that have been made to remember the victims' names, it's the shooters we remember.  But, as you've probably noticed, I didn't mention the shooter's name, and will try as quickly to put him out of my mind.  I wish I could do the same with the politicians and pundits who try to capitalize on these events for their own political or personal gain.

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