Long ago in the mists of mythology, Zeus commanded Hephaestus the god of craftsman to fashion the world's first woman out of earth and water. Athena clothed her modesty, Hermes gifted her tongue with speech, and Aphrodite graced her with beauty. Zeus bequeathed to Pandora a beautiful jar along with the task of keeping it safe. Zeus also warned Pandora to never open the jar. Try as she might, Pandora could not deny that other bequest of the gods, curiosity. She opened the jar the merest crack and all the evils of the world were released. Pandora closed the jar as fast as she could but only succeeded in keeping Elpis the Spirit of Hope locked up as all else escaped. Zeus, unlike God with Eve, bore no malice towards Pandora for he expected this.
The evils of the world whether spread by Pandora or brought about by the sins of Adam and Eve, manifest themselves most forcefully in man's penchant to bring about death and destruction casually, and bring about peace only as a compromise to satisfy self-interest. As the year ends, national headlines reported the wounding of three New Jersey police officers in their own precinct house, the five hundredth taking of a life in Chicago this year, and the death of a New Delhi gang rape victim.
2012 has been a year marred by violence around the globe and for Americans dominated by the home grown massacres of innocents. The seven mass shootings in the United States this year account for a quarter of the attacks, wounded, and dead by mass gun slayings in the past twenty-two years. More than the lingering conflicts in the Middle East, the assaults in 2012 have left the nation mourning and vulnerable and asking what can be done.
The senseless slaying of twenty children five and six years of age, and six adults at a school in the now sorrow draped Connecticut town of Newtown seemed the horrifically nameless punctuation of the harm that people can so quickly and seemingly easily be capable of. The authorities continue to probe, and everyone seeks answers to why twenty small coffins now lay beneath the earth, sealed boxes on lives barely begun. We ask if the killer was deranged, we ask if the availability of assault weapons is to blame. The outcry reaches to the top of our nation, and no reasonable reply from any corner is heard.
Elements of the government are responding to calls for tighter gun control, while the NRA raises its craggy visage and calls for better armed schools. The NRA seems to have forgotten the fact that Columbine had armed guards yet Klebold and Harris were not impeded or repelled from their path of destruction. The government focuses on assault rifle access when statistics since 1990 do not support them as the primary merchant of death in these random slaughters.
The NRA pointed out after the Aurora movie theatre shootings that a better armed populace could have stemmed or prevented what transpired, but at no time since 1990 or before have any of the gun owning citizenry jumped into these situations as saviors. Neither gun control advocates nor gun supporters seem to spend much time noting that it is not the career criminal that bring us to our knees, but well armed private gun owners that are making us fear for our children in schools, and malls, and movie theatres.
Career criminals are far more cautious with guns. Guns are part of their stock and trade and are a link back to them every time they use those guns in commission of a crime. Guns also up the ante on any law induced end to their careers. These criminals are interested more in prospering than going on a rampage ending in suicide. Their guns are a tool and not a means to an end.
The ones we least suspect, the quiet ones are the ones that create the greatest grief and fear of the unknown. The wolves that creep among us in their sheep-like skins keep us glancing about furtively. How do we defend against ourselves?
The answer doesn't lie in knee jerk governmental control of a single type of weapon that bears little relation to the problem at hand save to appeal to some element of the voters. The answer doesn't lie with the NRA that makes the ludicrous defense of its position that killers will always find something to kill with. The NRA is mainly concerned with preventing losses to a thirty billion dollar a year industry and appeasing the dwindling majority represented by white male gun owners. I don't know where the answer lies, I just know that time honed myopic entrenchment of dueling false ideals is not the way to go about solving the problem or even stemming the tide.
The causation of these attacks are multiple and complex. The picture is composed of social triggers, and psychological predispositions, as-well-as the ready availability of guns. We live in a society not only grown used to, but one that expects immediate gratification through constant contact with the world through the internet, cell phones, and cable/satellite services. The entertainment industry and news agencies constantly try to outdo one another to such an extent that we have become desensitized to the point that only the most violent stimulation can break through our veneer. These things together with the proper personality type and readily available guns has proven to be a lethal combination.
Instead of pandering, the government should take a multi-pronged attacked such as:
- Finding sociological commonalities among the perpetrators of mass shootings
- Determining psychological commonalities among the perpetrators of mass shootings
- Develop laws that will limit access to guns through third party individuals such as someone buying guns for someone else
- Track guns better, perhaps through annual ownership taxes similar to automobiles, the taxes can be used to fund gun violence programs
- Better education of people of what may be tell tale signs of contributing factors such as overly morbid behavior and suicidal tendencies
As a native of the South, I and many people I grew up with were raised around guns. We were taught to respect them, how to use them properly. Not to say that we didn’t sometimes have fun with them as well. I can still remember using a shotgun on my first derelict toilet in a ramshackle barn. I realize that guns themselves don’t kill people, there has to be a person holding the gun with a willing finger on the trigger. Finding what makes a person decide to take as many innocents as possible with them when they decide to end their lives, is at least as important as reasonably implemented controls on firearms.