Happy last day of March, y’all. It’s been quite an eventful month for Bill and me. We lost our beloved Arran, finally took a road trip, and watched the weather gradually turn from wintery to springlike. I always enjoy spring, even though April is historically kind of a “cruel” month. Especially when it comes to gun violence.
I remember back on April 20, 1999, when we first heard the names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, of Columbine, Colorado. News of the Columbine High School shootings was on every major television network. People were incredibly shocked by the violence of it. Until February 2018, the Columbine High School Massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. It is still the deadliest mass shooting in Colorado history.
What initially prompted Harris and Klebold to do what they did? I read that they had originally planned to bomb their school. Were they influenced by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two men who were behind the Oklahoma City Bombing in April 1995? Reading up on Columbine, I don’t think Harris and Klebold were motivated by the same causes McVeigh and Nichols were, but maybe they admired the sheer number of people who died. And now, their community’s name is a code word for the mass shootings that have plagued the country over the past 24 years.
As I sit here typing this, I remember April 1995, when the Alfred P. Murrah building was blown up. That incident was inspired by another incident– Ruby Ridge in 1992 and the 1993 Waco siege carried out by US federal officials. The one thing these incidents have in common is a violent precursor. The old saying goes– “violence begets violence.” When someone is hurt or killed in a violent way, it inspires a violent reaction in other people. And, just like the cursed COVID virus, it spreads apace.
I have a Facebook friend who is an Air Force veteran and an ex Mormon. He lives in Texas, and espouses surprisingly liberal views. I haven’t seen him posting much lately, but when he does post, he often refers to “ammosexuals”. I like that term, because it really does seem like a lot of people are practically in love with their guns. Like… they almost get a sexual charge from owning and carrying a weapon.
While a lot of those folks claim to care about gun safety, and often bring up their Second Amendment rights, they have what I think are inappropriate reactions to mass shootings. It’s almost as if they forget that real human beings were hurt or killed by the shooter’s bullets. They have no empathy for what that must feel like. I’ve never been shot myself, but I would imagine it feels like a searing hot pain that blasts through the body as the person’s insides are suddenly given egress and blood and other “stuff” comes bursting out. Again, I am only speculating. I could be totally wrong. Maybe this is only inspired by what I’ve seen on television. Still, the idea of it is horrifying to me. Especially when it involves already born children.
Last night, I happened to run across an argument two people were having about gun control. The argument became quite disrespectful and abusive in a hurry. I later found out that these two people had been friends for decades, but they had a fundamental disagreement over guns. One person argued that we need more gun control. The other argued that guns aren’t the problem; mentally ill people are the problem. Then they queried whether or not we should be banning motor vehicles, since they can also kill or hurt a lot of people.
I was observing the argument and it occurred to me how ridiculous the gun lover’s argument was. Cars are meant for transportation. Guns are meant for hurting or killing living things or– maybe– target practice. But a person doesn’t need an actual weapon to practice their aim. They could use a laser gun for that purpose. Guns are intended to hurt and kill. Cars are intended to get people from Point A to Point B.
Yes, cars have also been used to hurt people, too. The recent case of Darrell Brooks comes to mind, as he drove an SUV into a Christmas parade and killed six people, injuring another sixty-two. However, Mr. Brooks’ case is a relatively rare one. It’s not like dozens of angry, mentally ill people have decided to crash their cars into parades, or other public events. The only other incident I can think of off the top of my head took place in Charlottesville, Virginia back in the summer of 2017, when a young woman named Heather Heyer was killed by James Alex Fields, Jr., a right wing terrorist who deliberately drove his car into a crowd. Besides the one fatality, there were another 35 people injured, which is no small consideration.
Although I do believe that people who go on shooting sprees are often mentally ill, in a sense, I also want to point out that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not dangerous. These shootings, which often involve radicalized white, male, right-wing terrorists, aren’t typically the people one might find in a psychiatric hospital. I’ve also noticed that the same people who blame the shootings on the “mentally ill”, are also people who don’t seem to want to do anything to help the mentally ill. They don’t vote for affordable and accessible healthcare, nor do they want to be mandated to have health insurance. They’re all about their “freedoms”, but they don’t seem to realize that feeling the need to pack heat every time one goes out in public isn’t very “freeing”– especially for those of us who don’t want to be armed.
I’ve mentioned before that I find living in Germany quite liberating. There are far fewer people with weapons here, so there are a lot fewer stories about people being killed because they were in the wrong places at the wrong times. I like the fact that anyone who carries a weapon in Germany has to go through a lot to prove they can handle the responsibility. It’s way too easy for Americans to get guns, and way too hard for Americans to access mental healthcare… or regular healthcare, for that matter. To me, this problem seems very obvious.
I understand that some people think the horse is already out of the barn on this issue– there are so many weapons out there that it’s impossible to collect enough of them to make a difference. And some people really don’t feel safe without their Smith & Wesson strapped to their holsters. I wonder if it’s going to take them being personally affected by gun violence before they realize that more guns aren’t the answer to this problem. Even if it really is an issue of the mentally ill running amok, there’s still the problem of them getting guns so easily, so they can do real damage to people.
Audrey Hale owned seven guns, all of which were legally purchased. Because of that easy access to guns, six people are dead. Meanwhile, Tennessee is banning drag shows and forcing people to stay pregnant. When are we going to realize that mentally ill people and guns don’t mix? Hale had a history of receiving mental health services. I’m sure in that respect, healthcare privacy laws were respected, and no one asked questions when Hale bought weapons. If Hale had been pregnant and wanted to terminate the pregnancy, people in Tennessee would have had a lot more to say about it. It boggles the mind…
Anyway… it turns out that my friend who was engaged in an argument about gun control is no longer friends with the person with whom he was debating. The conversation spiraled out of control from the get go, and became offensive in a hurry. No one’s hearts or minds were changed, and a very long friendship seemed to come to an abrupt end. My friend told me that the end had been coming over the past few years… probably when Trump came on the scene. It’s sad to see friends and family members so polarized over what, to me, seems like a common sense issue. But when it comes to guns, some people really are “ammosexuals”. They can’t stop being attracted to that killing device, and the imagined powers it gives them… until they actually hurt or kill someone and have to answer for that in some devastating way.
Well, tomorrow is April Fools Day. Maybe I’ll have a cheerier topic to write about then. Have a good Friday, y’all.
I took the featured photo at a Mix Markt store a few years ago… it’s a depiction of another thing that doesn’t mix– guns and booze! But even in peaceful Germany, some people worship weapons!