Newtown: A marker for how far we haven’t come in the gun control debate
As the details of Newtown come trickling in, now is the time for a little perspective and personal reflection.
Once upon a time, I wrote a satirical piece on gun violence in America.
I’m a typical common sense American. (You can tell by my commentaries, can’t you?) When it comes to guns, I love that Second Amendment, but hate all those guns.
But unlike the gun lobby, I’m not intractable. You might get me to compromise to say I love guns. It’s the ammo I have a problem with.
So when it comes to guns and gun control, I’m of a mind that guns are like the jalapeno in the stew pot. More is more. And if you add more, you’re only asking for it. Heat, after all, is heat. Guns beget violence, and nothing else. They’re not deterrents–not like, say, nuclear weapons can be.
With guns, it’s always “smoke’em if you got’em.”
Without guns in the equation, our nation would be a heck of a lot safer.
Specifically, if there were no rapid-fire assault weapons, then the crazies would have to ice-pick their victims one at a time. Ice-picks are very labor intensive. But not prone to mistakes. You don’t accidentally ice-pick someone to death. There’s no hair-trigger on an ice-pick.
An ice-pick might also give law enforcement a fighting chance to catch up with any number of deranged culprits.
I can live if there’s no advocacy for ice-pick control. But at a minimum, our nation should be pushing for the equivalent of the “slow food movement,” as in a “slow mass killing” movement. Maybe gun control would get past the NRA if we don’t call it “gun control”?
Anyway, in this aforementioned column 20 years ago, instead of a gun debate essay, I thought I’d write a satire that would take the issue to the most extreme point imaginable.
I was a relatively young father at the time, picking up kids from school. And the most outlandish thing I could think of was to write about my pistol-packing five-year-old with her very own Barney gun tote/backpack. Barney, of course, being the “I love you, you love me” purple dinosaur.
So what if we had Barney singing, “I shoot you, you shoot me…” How extreme, right?
My hope was the absurdity of a gun-toting five-year-old would bring those intractable NRA advocates to their senses about a more reasonable stance on gun control.
That was twenty years ago.
And what do you know, with Newtown, we’ve entered a new era. The extreme has caught up with us. First-graders dead from a mass shooting is our reality.
THE INFLATION OF MASS MURDER
The new era extends to the media. The Twitterverse was exploding as news organizations, cable, and the networks scrambled for the truth in Newtown.
Strange too to see Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News anchoring from Newtown.
I covered my first mass murder shooting with Scott. At KXAS in Dallas/Fort Worth, Scott was a show producer and I was one of the reporters covering the Alvin Lee King story in Daingerfield, Texas.
At the time, the idea of a man in battle fatigues, bursting into the church with a semi-automatic weapon saying, “This is war,” was truly unfathomable.
But look at the death toll in Daingerfield: Five. Two men, 2 women, 1 girl.
That was 32 years ago.
Now five dead barely rates as a special 24-hour cable news event.
It’s the inflation of mass murder.
And we’ve done nothing to try to curb it.
Maybe now that we are at what must be seen as a baseline, we’ll all be moved to get something done, for our own sake, as a society.
When you have six-year old victims, it may begin by acknowledging the debate has changed. It’s not about freedom and the Second Amendment any longer.
THE NEW DEBATE?
NRA-types actually believe that more guns in schools may actually be the answer to keep schools safe. But to purposely put guns in a school? You’ve just made a school more dangerous.
They’ve just had that debate recently in Michigan. But with Newtown, we all have to care now. One would hope. It’s just that nothing ever seems to move the debate on gun control.
In fact, we’ve all seemed to become a bit inured to it all.
When you have CSI this and CSI that in prime time, after blood-and-guts local news on TV, followed up by Jack Reacher at bedtime, as the kids play late night “Call of Duty” on their computers, we’ve got our fill of massive “pretend” violence.
But when it really happens, we’re almost too prepared for it. And do nothing.
Over the years, name your event.
Columbine? April 1999 seems like ancient history. Thirteen dead in a high school seemed shocking then.
Virginia Tech? The big one, with the Korean American shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was in 2007. Five years ago. 32 dead.
Earlier this year, there was the Oikos University shooting in Oakland. Seven were killed, three wounded. Almost all were people of color. It was diversity’s mass shooting. One Goh, the Asian American shooter, was just declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in November.
The NRA? Unmoved.
The event that surprised me was the death of Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old caught in the crossfire in Tucson during an attempt on Rep. Gabby Giffords’ life in 2011.
Giffords survived, but Christina, the innocent girl who loved jumping in puddles in the rain, didn’t. It prompted President Obama to famously say at the memorial service, “If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.”
But for all the publicity the Tucson shooting got, it barely moved the needle on the gun control debate.
One nine-year-old Christina Taylor couldn’t do it.
But maybe 20 Newtown elementary students will.