Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

3 Dec

The other day I was telling this kid about a dream that I have. The dream is to have access to a room with an exposed brick wall, a safety suit (including, but not limited to, safety goggles and heavy duty boots) and shelves full of different types of glass. Nothing too pretty. Bottles, mainly. Oh, and a cleaning crew on call that I would pay very handsomely.* The idea is that when I get really, really angry I can go to this room, put on my safety suit and throw glass forcefully against the wall. I imagine this would be very therapeutic. And then I would call the cleaning crew to clean up. Now, even in my dreams I am aware of the expense of having such a room, and so when I am not using the room (which would be often I hope) I would rent it out to other people. I think I would have to charge them a flat fee for the space itself but also a certain amount of money for each glass broken. Otherwise some asshole with a real rage problem could go in there, run his hand along a shelf and just knock all the glass to the floor, shattering it! And some more conscientious rage-a-holic would throw one or two glasses only more thoughtfully and end up paying the same amount. That would not be fair. And besides, it would not be a good business model to piss off people who get angry enough to hurl things against a wall and watch them shatter. I know. I am one. Anyway I told him this story and instead of getting the giggles that I anticipated (come on, it’s absurd!) I got the following question:

You get angry enough that you want to throw glass against the wall?

I was quiet for a second because, yea, I totally do.  But also,

Yea. You don’t? Do you read the news?

And that brings us here. To today. The day after yet another massacre in the United States, this time at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Many of us might, with disgust, realize that this is the second such massacre this week, the first one being in Colorado at a Planned Parenthood clinic. That, however, is incorrect. According to the New York Times, on average there is more than one mass shooting every single day.

On average there is more than one mass shooting every day in America.

So far this year, 462 people have died and 1,314 people have been wounded in attacks like the two that were publicized this week alone, attacks that oftentimes take place on streets and in public gathering places and universities. If we look at the number of deaths used by congressional researchers to categorize these events – 4 or more dead – the number of mass shootings does go down. But of course, the killing in Colorado would be left out of that measure because Robert Dear only managed to murder three people. Even without those shootings with less fatalities, the numbers are still harrowing. According to two databases that track all shootings with 4 or more fatalities — shootingtracker.com and gunviolencearchive.org, both unofficial — there have been 354 such shootings in 220 cities in 47 different states since January. According to the Times article,

“In November, six people were killed, five of them shot to death at a campsite in East Texas; 17 were wounded in a shootout as a crowd watched the filming of a music video in New Orleans; and four died, including twin five-month-olds, in an episode of domestic violence in Jacksonville, Fla. So far this week, five people were wounded Sunday morning in a shooting in Kankakee, Ill., and a shooting Wednesday, before the San Bernardino attack, left one woman dead and three men wounded in Savannah, Ga.”

Get ready for it though: it actually gets worse. According to Ted Alcorn who is the research director for Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, we have a much bigger problem. It is, he acknowledges, a horrible tragedy that 14 people were killed in one day in California,

“But likely 88 other people died today from gun violence in the United States.”

Alcorn’s organization has studied shootings occurring between 2009 and mid-2015 that left four or more people dead and found certain patterns.

“In only 11 percent of cases did medical, school or legal authorities note signs of mental illness in the gunmen before the attack… Domestic violence figured strongly: In 57 percent of the cases, the victims included a current or former intimate partner or family member of the attacker. Half of all victims were women. More than two-thirds of the shootings took place in private residences; about 28 percent occurred in public spaces… More than 60 percent of the attackers were not prohibited from possessing guns because of prior felonies or other reasons.”

Looking at that information, this whole thing got a hell of a lot scarier. These mass shootings that are covered extensively by the news, are fucking horrifying and exhausting. But that isn’t even the half of it. If we treated domestic violence with the same disbelief that we react with every time there is one of these seemingly random shootings on a street corner somewhere — no, scratch that, if we acknowledged domestic violence as a huge problem at all — it would probably be hard to even leave the house. Just like date rape and intimate partner rape is not treated with the same seriousness as stranger rape, murder at the hands of an intimate partner or family member is not categorized as a public health crisis, or a violence problem, or as symptomatic of the patriarchy but as a private issue. That the victims are mostly women only makes that case stronger. But that’s not the point. A shooting is a shooting is a shooting, a murder is a murder is a murder. Which brings us to something interesting. Something we should perhaps remind those around us, mostly conservative, who pitch a fit every time we think about increasing gun control measures.

Your hero, the man you herald as the Conservative of all Conservatives, was a supporter of gun control. That’s right. The one and only Ronald Reagan, in an op-ed for the New York Times in 1991, said,

“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns. This level of violence must be stopped.”

This, of course, was because Ronald Reagan, along with his press secretary Jim Brady, Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, was the victim of a shooting. Reagan was convinced that this event — a mentally unstable young man opening fire with a .22 calibre that he obtained at a pawn shop — never would have happened had the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (AKA the Brady Bill), named for Jim Brady, been law back in 1981 when the shooting occurred. The Brady Bill, signed into law by Bill Clinton on November 30, 1993, mandated federal background checks on gun purchasers in the United States and imposed a 5-day waiting period on purchases until the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was started in 1998.

Obviously, the Brady Bill and NICS falls extremely short of actually limiting access of fire arms to people just in general. The proof, unfortunately, is in the pudding. And it doesn’t help that the National Rifle Association is run by money grubbing nutjobs who somehow manage to convince people they are fighting for the Second Amendment when in reality they are a lobby run by extremists who block safety measures in order to continue to line their own pockets with all the blood money that rockets in their direction. (It is worth noting, by the way, that the NRA was not always so fucking insane. It supported the first major federal gun law back in 1934 and backed the 1968 Gun Control Act. Oh, how far they’ve fallen.) But like, the fuck? When does it end? When do we take the power back? When do we say enough is enough? And when did Ronald Reagan seem like the only reasonable Republican out there?

So, yea, I am mad enough I could throw shit. Often. The question is: why aren’t you? And what the fuck are we going to do about it?

*This word is spelled so weird! It goes from hansom to handsomely! Two extra letters. Both silent!

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