I was on my way home from work when I heard about the shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, CO. On a whim I popped into a local pizza place to grab something for dinner. I hadn’t called ahead so I had to wait. The muted TV in the dining area was on CNN with the “BREAKING NEWS” plastered on the screen. When I saw the title Sheriff in front of the name of the man speaking, and the word ‘Shooting’ in the box graphic I thought “Another one, huh?” I heard the assistant manager behind the counter fuss at another employee for not cleaning the walk in cooler, and mention something about a big order she needed to get ready. As I watched silent images of teenagers walking around a track with their hands in the air a middle aged woman came in, and asked about the order she’d placed.
Nothing had changed, and nothing will change. Nothing will ever change due to a mass shooting in America. It didn’t after Columbine. It didn’t after Aurora. It didn’t after Newtown, and it won’t after this one. We’re not Australia, even though they haven’t had a mass shooting since 1996. We’re not Britain, Scotland, Norway, or Finland. Sure those countries have had mass shootings, and a history of private firearm ownership but they are not defined by them. For those people guns are not an object of worship to be placed upon the reliquary of Liberty upheld by a sacred text. Our 2nd amendment has become a commandant that is only questioned by the unfaithful, or an apostate like me. Gun ownership is too ingrained in our culture, too entrenched in the image of what it means to be an American for any single event, no matter how horribly catastrophic, to change that.
The problem isn’t the desire to enact change in our gun laws, it’s definitely needed, but when that desire manifests. It’s usually around the time there’s a mass shooting and like a bad sitcom plot the terrible script plays true to form: Mass Shooting followed by ever-diminishing reactions of shock and horror, (i.e. the “How Could This Happen?!”), the inevitable raising of the obvious question about our insane gun culture, the “It’s too soon! What about the victims?!” reaction from the Pro-Gun side of things, describing the shooter as an outlier, blaming something other than guns (i.e. video games, parents, Hollywood, etc.), Politican(s) giving speeches, same tired ass arguments wheeled out by the Pro-Gun gun side followed by the same tired ass reaction from the Gun Control crowd, the NRA dumps a shit ton of cash into the entire mess, and the media moves on to a celebrity’s vagina, roll credits.
See, guns don’t affect people in the same way in America. Why we’re surprised, and shocked by school shootings is because they happen in our “safe” world. Ask anyone who lives some of the roughest areas of Compton, South Central Los Angeles, Baltimore, Detroit, or any inner city in America if they have a gun problem. Most mass shootings that make the national news are in nice neighborhoods. They’re in places where the only gun violence that happens comes from suicides, or spousal abuse. Those are things that can be quietly ignored because it might make us question our values. It might make us question the sanity of having more guns than people, or there’s really no way to know if it’s more or slightly less since we don’t have reliable data on how many guns there are in the US.
That’s the beauty about living in the suburbs, in the “safe” world. You don’t have to give a shit about the problems that plague the rest of the world even they’re just blocks away. Gang violence isn’t a problem because it doesn’t exist in your world… until it does. Spousal abuse and suicide are “man, that’s such a shame” until they happen to someone you actually know and care about. Then it’s an injustice.
Guns will never be the issue because they can’t be. It would be too much, make us question ourselves too closely, something we’re not very willing to do. It would mean violence may not be an acceptable problem solver. It would mean we aren’t so sure of our own moral certainty. It would mean our entire ethos is up for grabs. It would mean impugning on the absolute liberty of some so that others might live. We’re the last superpower left standing, and our knees are starting to shake. Now is not the time to be questioning ourselves!
It’s going to take a movement of unceasing insistence to change our cultural mentality on guns. It’ll have to be done incrementally, and there will be a lot of frustration along the way. It’s not simply changing laws, but a religion, a cultural psyche. Mass shootings might seem like the time to push for change in the laws, but we’ll merely be labelled as reactionary, that we’re using the sensationalist aspect for our own gain. (Remember we’re the heretical ones) We can’t just ask the question around mass shootings, which seem to come around once a year now. We have to ask them when Carla Scott, 26, was shot by her former boyfriend as she sat in the car in the parking lot of McDonald’s in Elizabethton, TN with her two young children. We have to focus on the great and the small in order to make a difference otherwise we might as well just hold up our hands like those teenagers in Arapahoe. Or we could just arm everyone. I’m sure that’ll solve it.