The last thing I suspected to see when I clicked onto newyorktimes.com this morning was another college shooting, another death count, another image of kids holding onto police officers amidst otherwise scenic looking campus settings. It's always a shock, yet it keeps happening. Schools and colleges, places where we go to learn, places we should feel safe in, are torn apart by an angry, disturbed person with a couple of handguns. We hear the same accounts, people hiding behind chairs, behind projectors, behind anything, while a silent gunman has their way. And then in one final shot it's over, and the worst kind of silence descends. There's no other word to describe what happened at Northern Illinois University but tragedy. Those kids shouldn't have died, not there, not in a college classroom on a Thursday evening. It's not right and it's not fair. Those things are certain. What is less certain is what the reaction will be, if anything will change in a society that if we're honest, we have to admit is built around this myth and glorification of violence. What makes me sick is a reaction I've heard on several occasions. People suggest that the solution to these massacres is to equip teachers or professors, heck, even students with guns. That way they can defend themselves. It's this certain American mindset that produces an idea like that. Lord knows we shouldn't tighten gun laws, or ban automatic handguns or strengthen the mental health system. No we should just throw more guns at the problem, pile weapons of violence on top of violence, until every school and college in this nation resembles an armory. That's the world I want to live in, the world I want to send my kids off to. Freshman orientation will include seminars on how to properly shoot and clean your guns. Professors will start resembling law enforcement, with gun holsters attached to their khakis. That's going to make us safer.
I just don't understand how people can look at a problem as vast and complex and deep rooted as violent crimes and seek not to work on the actual problem but to paste on a faux solution, defense masquerading as offense. Sick and cowardly people, the ones who carry out these massacres, they see bloodshed and guns as the only solution to their problems. Do we really want to react to problems in that same vein? Why can't we reevaluate what it is about our culture that clings to violence and to weapons perpetuating violence? Why does the FCC freak out about a nipple or the use of the c-word, but have no problem about shows where one of the female leads has her head cut off, or the countless number of crime procedurals that compete with each other to see who can come up with the newest, most gruesome methods of portraying murder? Why does fuck merit an R-rating, while PG-13s can be chock full of bullets and bloody fist fights? Our government has no problem transgressing the Constitution when it comes to matters of individual privacy and liberties, but even talk about a closer examination of the Second Amendment, and you're called un-American. The truth is the language of the second amendment arguably doesn't even guarantee the individual right to bear arms. Take a closer look:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
This amendment talks specifically of civilian militias. The right of the people to bear arms does not necessarily mean the right of a person to bear arms. The language could be debated forever, but it's hard to ignore the fact that when this constitution was written, the second amendment dealt with civilian armies who might be called up for defense. Yet people who cry second amendment every time someone even looks at their gun ignore this historical fact. They claim the amendment guarantees the individual right to bear arms in their home, but they ignore the very real possibility that this right was never intended as individual, but rather as a collective right involving only organized military groups. Currently a case about a hand gun ban in DC is on its way to the Supreme Court, where for the first time in 70 years, the highest judicial body in our nation will debate the meaning of the Second Amendment. It's a potentially landmark case that could either greatly strengthen gun control laws or render them impotent. Yet regardless of the outcome, I still find myself wondering why people cling so desperately to a "right" that has become bloodier and bloodier with each year. And even if you must believe in the right to carry a gun, you should be able to admit that gun control laws in their current form are flawed and very often ill enforced. Because the people who carry out massacres like the one that happened yesterday are very often the people that these gun control laws are supposed to prevent from obtaining guns. They have histories of mental illness or have been in trouble with the law previously, but time and time again these people obtain firearms. I believe very strongly in personal responsibility. These shooters are not victims. They made a choice. But in a society like contemporary America, those choices so easily turn into rampages, fueled by a violence obsessed culture and easy access to weapons. And again and again, we turn our televisions on and are confronted by images of innocent people carried out on stretchers or running desperately away from a scene of unimaginable carnage. They are the real victims. They are primarily victims of the criminals who carry out the massacres. But they are also victims of a culture that has refused to change, has refused to reevaluate itself and its laws. How many more college shootings is it going to take? How many more random mall shootings or city council shootings or anywhere shootings are we going to have to endure before people admit that something is broken here, not permanently, but badly enough that it is going to take radical changes to fix. It's not un-American to question your country's values. It is un-American to stand by and do nothing while your nation strays so wildly from the nation it once was, the nation it still could be.