The events in Newtown, Connecticut, have been horrifying and gut wrenching. Unimaginable as it was, it was a pathology society has come to accept. A toxic mix of accepted (and benign) anti-social behavior, mental illness and guns has taken America by storm, once again. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a troubled youth, possibly with mental health issues, with access to a military assault weaponry collection, who kills his mother (who owned the collection and taught her son to shoot guns)—twenty first graders—six school employees—and finally himself, should be a once in a generation anomaly.
But it is not. It’s becoming a regular occurrence in American society, and by “regular” I mean more than a few over the past few years. Once is one time too many. That’s what we said after he nation was horrified by the Columbine mass murder, where a “gang” of white “troubled” youth killed 13 people and wounded 23 more in what was then called the worst mass shooting in American history.
Well, guess what? There has been (at least) 31 more mass shootings in America since the Columbine massacre occurred April 20, 1999. That’s 13 and a half years of mass murdering.
It gets deeper. Since 1982, over the past 30 years, there has been 61 mass shootings. That breaks down to at least two a year, understanding that in some years none occurred and in some years—more than two occurred, the point is—it has become, somewhat, normal for these events to occur.
The confusion comes in, after the shock, as to why they occur and what they do to stop it. That’s also where the irrationality occurs. It is irrational to believe that the most affluent, technologically savvy country in the world, can’t put an end to mass shootings. But it can’t because it can’t put its own love affair behind it. Its love affair with guns.
America’s gun fascination, turned assault weapon fascination, has come to a head. Assault weapons never had any business on the streets on America. They are a function of the overproduction of military weaponry, a vestige of the Cold War, when America refused to reduce its defense budget and allow the military industrial complex to broker weapons throughout the world—without regard for where they ended up.
When there was nobody else to sell guns to, they were dumped into the underground markets who it turn sold them on the streets of America. Where else would kids have military weaponry that no even the police had in the 1990s?
So, outgunned, the police had to get themselves some military weaponry too, as did gun enthusiasts, and of course, public safety enthusiasts concerned about crime. The bigger the gun, the better the social rush and the more outrageous the social behavior. And then video game manufacturers took “Cowboys and Indians” and “Cops and Robbers” to a whole other level, where every kid in America engaged in war games from the comforts of their living rooms and bedrooms. Killing for fun became commercial and it began to be played out in real life. Society has become a real life video game.
Every time a public assault with out of control weaponry took place, we (society) made excuses for it. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” “We need assault weapon to protect ourselves against governmental tyranny.” “Government can’t regulate our commercial rights with respect to guns.” “That which is not illegal, the government cannot take away.”
Well, why isn’t it illegal to own weapons of war? It’s illegal to own a tank, and drive it up the street. It’s illegal own hand grenades or explosives of any type. But you can own weaponry that can rip through steel and ammunition that can piece armor. Yep. That makes all the sense in the world.
Every time the Second Amendment is invoked, there is some irrational play behind it. Nobody opposes people owning guns. Everybody opposes people owning war weapons whose only purpose are to kill as many people as quickly as possible in a war situation. Is there a need for that?
Xenophobia and racism drives some of that rationale. And black males, Latino males, Arab males, Armenian males, anybody but WHITE males are profiled as potential dangers to the society. Yet, nearly every time one of these mass shootings occur—some troubled white male is at the center of it. We are so preoccupied with international terrorism, domestic terrorists are in our homes, communities, shopping malls, movie theaters and, most frequently, our schools.
The gun lobby in America (The National Rifle Association) owns our federal and state legislatures (some local ones, too) to the point where the public interest can be violated regularly for private discretion and profit. In America, you can shoot a Congresswoman in the head and get no legislation passed in the aftermath. That’s how irrelevant lawmakers have become on the issue of guns.
The only time mental illness conversation comes up is when there is a discussion about budget cuts. We totally ignore the effects mental illness has on societal destabilization. It’s almost as if we’d rather have a unstable society than regulate gun possession and gun usage.
The reoccurring discussion that takes place each and every time one of these events happen do nothing more than demonstrate how confused we are about what is right and what is proper. Each event gets more outrageous. The shooting at Sandy Hook touched us all in a way the others should’ve but didn’t. We were all kids once. Most of us have kids now. We understand their vulnerabilities when we let them from our sight. But for the grace of God, it could have been one of our own children. In fact, they are our own children if we call ourselves a civilized society. If we were confused before (which many of us weren’t), Sandy Hook should have ended that confusion. It should end our conflictions about assault weapons. It should end the discussion of what to do next. America has come to its breaking point on this issue.
If the world doesn’t end (which it’s supposed to Friday), an assault weapon ban and mental illness legislation are a must priority for a stable society. Whether it’s the next day, or in the next life, we can’t continue this societal confusion around what we know is common sense.
Anthony Asadullah Samad
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and the author of the book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.
Friday, 1 March 2013