Legal immigrants in upstate New York taking a class to help them prepare for the test to become U.S. citizens…
Senior citizens in rural North Carolina in the middle of an exercise class at a rehab center…
A loving extended family celebrating a housewarming in Santa Clara, California…
32 students at a major university in Virginia…
What do all these people have in common with Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords plus U.S. District Judge John Roll and the five other innocent people slaughtered this past weekend in Tucson?
All have been gunned down in mass murders by mentally unstable individuals over the past few years. And that’s just a partial list.
And how do the news media and politicians react to this latest demonstration that it’s too easy for nuts to get guns in America nowadays?
Most media and many politicians are blaming the overheated rhetoric in the political environment today. Some media that have blamed violent words for this violent deed include CNN, CBS, The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Associated Press. Now while it’s true that Sarah Palin, Carl Paladino and others have used inherently violent weapons analogies in their speeches and comments, I believe that by focusing on “words” instead of “actions” our politicians and columnists are silent about the real problem.
Words did not shoot and kill these people and the many more victims of mass murders over the past few years. Nuts with easy access to guns killed them. And while most reporters seem to assiduously refrain from telling if the shooters got their guns legally, we know that many of them did.
And even if they did not get the guns legally, they had them because of the ease with which anyone can buy a gun in the United States. Over the past 10 years, many state legislatures have loosened guns laws, always the most permissive in the industrialized world (which goes a long way to explaining why the rate of violent crime is so much higher in the U.S. than virtually all other democratic industrialized nations).
Make no mistake about it: our gun laws are too liberal in every area: requirements and testing for gun ownership; identification needed to purchase a gun; waiting period before purchase; number of guns allowed; number of ways that guns can be purchased; types of guns permitted to be owned; places where guns can be carried; recertification requirements. In all these areas, we should add new restrictions. The result would be fewer guns in the street and fewer guns in the hands of irresponsible and mentally unstable people.
Those who spout the hoary and false adage that “when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” ignore the large number of deaths from friendly fire that occur each year. One study reveals that a gun in the home is four times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.
The millions of responsible hunters, some of them friends of mine, should willingly submit to the hassle of greater regulations and limits to protect society, just as all of us submit to the hassle of greater airport security and the requirement to get and renew a driver’s license and hold automobile insurance.
Focusing on the violence of language as the cause for the latest mass shooting is a convenient way to ignore the real problem, to be sure. Toning down language is also an implicit part of any “healing process,” and after a mass murder, especially of prominent people, society in general wants to heal. For these reasons, it’s understandable why so many are connecting this latest mass violence to heightened political rhetoric.
But if, in addition to or instead of healing, you want to prevent more mass murders by nuts with guns, you’ll start clamoring for stronger gun control laws. You’ll write all your elected officials supporting gun control. You’ll donate to organizations and associations fighting to strengthen gun controls. And you’ll support candidates vocally in favor of more control and vote against candidates who want to loosen controls even more.
This latest mass murder really shook up our household because, as usual, it was so senseless. It made me think of Yoshimatsu’s “While an Angel Falls into a Doze…,” a wonderfully moving musical evocation of a momentary rent in the fabric of existence that makes everyone and everything seem to drip with sorrow. A poem I wrote more than 25 years ago that appeared in the last issue of Yawp! in 2003 tried to express that idea, too. Here it is:
AN ANGEL PASSES OVER
Villains and heroes die often, in many ways,
in text, in song, in film and theatre.
On monuments to war, innocents and soldiers
die together, their causes dying with them.
Presidents and martyrs die one time each year,
while every night the news displays the incoherent death
of many, some by name, some by implication,
all dying twice, once at six, once in recap.
A friend may die on several days each week,
another every time a certain song is heard.
A favorite aunt will die in prayer.
A brother dies in every mirror.
A father’s death occurs in boozy dream,
while in a trembling moment after sleep,
a mother dies, again and again. A wife, a child,
who can count the times they die each day?
in shrieking brake, in distant slam,
with every ringing phone, on every turning page.
The rain falls twice upon this pall of earth,
once so hard, droplets bounce
from bricks, from cars, from glass,
flicker candle-like, and fall a second time.