two three years since I first wrote this on the day after a madman stepped into a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and started killing people. Since then more than ten twenty thousand Americans have died from gun violence, three seven times more than died on September 11th, 2001, more than all the military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been so many mass shootings between the day I wrote this and now that I’ve lost track, one killing blurs into another and the bloody rampages seem to be our new national pastime.
I got a lot of email regarding this post.
And a lot of people told me I was wrong.
I’ve updated the text and have now updated it again and moved the essay forward in the Stonekettle Station timeline.
I left the original comments intact, but because those comments primarily address the Aurora Massacre (e.g. the original impetus for this essay) I’ve added a demarking comment dated April 3, 2014, for the first update and now another for today, June 19, 2015 for the most recent update.
New comments will appear after that. The line of demarcation should be obvious //Jim
It is easier for a crazy person to get an automatic weapon than healthcare in America.
- Shannyn Moore, Moore Up North
So, America, déjà Vu.
Here we are yet again.
Another mass killing.
Another hellish scene of smoke and blood and murder.
Another day of death and pain, panic and terror.
September 1999, Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman killed six people during a prayer service, then he committed suicide. October 2002, it was the Washington DC Sniper, ten dead. August 2003, Chicago, a gunman locked six of his former coworkers in a conference room and shot them dead, then he killed himself. November 2004, Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter got into an argument with a group of sportsmen over a trespassing issue, the hunter ended the argument by killing six and wounding two. March 2005, Brookfield, Wisconsin, a man walked into a church and shot seven people dead, praise the Lord. October 2006, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, a disgruntled truck driver shot five Amish schoolgirls to death and wounded six others before taking his own life. April 2007, Virginia Tech, an angry former student set a record with the deadliest mass shooting in the US in recent years, he killed thirty-two people and wounded fifteen others. Go Team. August 2007, Delaware State University, three students were shot and killed execution style by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed. And a month later, September 2007, on the same campus, a student shot and wounded two other students in a dining hall. December 2007, Omaha, Nebraska, a 20-year-old man killed nine people and wounded five others in a shopping mall. A few days later, on Christmas Eve, a woman and her boyfriend gunned down six members of her family in their house in Carnation, Washington. February 2008, Chicago, a gunman tied up and shot six women at a clothing store, five of them died. The gunman was never caught. February 2008, DeKalb, Illinois, a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University. He killed five students and wounded sixteen others. July 2008, Phoenix, Arizona, a former student shot three people in a computer lab at South Mountain Community College. September 2008, Alger, Washington, a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people, six died. October 2008, University of Central Arkansas, gunmen shooting from a car in front of a student dormitory killed two students and wounded a third. December 2008, Covina, California, a man dressed up like Santa Claus killed nine people at a family Christmas party, then he set the house on fire and shot himself. March 2009, Alabama, a 28-year-old drove through several towns randomly shooting people, he managed to kill ten. March 2009, North Carolina, a heavily-armed gunman stormed into a nursing home and killed eight elderly residents and wounded two more before police killed him. The object of his murderous rage, his estranged wife, was a nurse at the facility – she escaped unharmed by hiding in the locked Alzheimer ward. March 2009, Santa Clara, California, six people were shot dead in an apartment building. April 2009, Virginia, an 18-year-old former student followed a pizza deliveryman into his old dormitory, and shot the deliveryman, a dorm monitor, and then himself at Hampton University. April 2009, Binghamton, New York, a man shot thirteen people to death in a bloody rampage at the town civic center. July 2009, Houston, Texas, six people were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University. November 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, a U.S. army major opened fire on his fellows in the middle of a crowded soldier processing center filled with troops preparing for deployment, he killed thirteen and wounded forty-two. February 2010, Alabama, a disgruntled professor opened fire during a staff meeting of the Biological Sciences Department faculty. She killed three and wounded three more. January 2011, Tucson, Arizona, a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery store, he killed six people including a nine-year-old girl and wounded twelve more including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head. July 2012, Aurora, Colorado, a masked gunman storms into a packed movie theater and starts shooting, he killed twelve and wounded fifty-eight more. August 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin again, a gunman kills six people at Sikh temple before being shot dead by police. September 2012, Minneapolis, a gunman kills six including himself and wounds five more inside a small sign company. December 2012, Newtown, Connecticut, a 20-year old gunman with mental problems killed his mother and then shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and started killing people. He killed twenty small children and six adults and then shot himself. February 2013, a former Navy officer and Los Angeles policeman declared war on the LAPD, over a period of nine days he killed four people including three police officers and wounded three more before eventually committing suicide by cop. March 2013, Herkimer, upstate New York, a 64-year old man lit his apartment on fire, then coolly walked into a local barber shop and started shooting. He killed two and wounded two more. Then he drove to another business and killed two more. He killed a police dog and was subsequently gunned down by the canine’s human partners. June 2013, Santa Monica, California, a 23-year old man went on a killing spree that left six people dead and four wounded and ended when he was shot dead by police inside the Santa Monica College Library. July 2013, Hialeah, Florida, a man living with his mother lit their apartment on fire and then went on a rampage throughout the living complex, he killed seven before police returned the favor. Twelve more dead at the Washington Navy Yard. Another murdered standing watching on a pier in Norfolk. Four more dead, including the shooter, again on Fort Hood, Texas.
And now, Charleston.
Another massacre. Friends, bereft families grieving with loss and concern, a nation left shaken with shock and outrage, left wondering why? How?
Another murderous lunatic with a gun in his hand and a score to settle.
Another excuse from the National Rifle Association and a do-nothing Congress.
Another bloody horror.
And it’s a horror that has become all too common here in America.
It’s a horror that while it still shocks and appalls us, it is no longer a surprise – and hasn’t been for a very long time.
The fabled gun battles of the American Old West have nothing on the modern slaughter. Gun fuelled mass murder isn’t the exception any longer, it’s as common and as American as, well, apple pie and happens on average about once a month.
What’s that, you say? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a stupid haircut and a personal arsenal killed some people? Tsk tsk terrible isn’t it? Did they catch him this time, did he kill himself, or did the police shoot him down like the dog he was? People say he was a nice guy, quiet, kept to himself, kind of odd but, man, didn’t see this coming, no Sir. Here’s a picture of him smiling like a crazy guy, look at those eyes, they’re crazy eyes, anybody could tell he was going to snap. He probably tortured small animals and has his grandmother’s head in the freezer. It’s the parents’ fault you know, for not raising him right. It’s the atheists’ fault for taking Jesus out of the schools. It’s the doctors, why don’t they get crazy people off the street? It’s the goddamned police, they’re never around when you need them. It’s the government. He’s probably a veteran, you know, those guys are all on the edge. Guns don’t kill people, you know, no Sir, they don’t. In fact a good guy with a gun is the only … Oops, gotta go, Dancing with the Stars is on.
And now? Well, now we Americans will go through the same old oh so utterly predictable dance.
Stage One, Confusion:
Mass killings are still big news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans quickly grow bored with sequels. Unless the next act of mass murder is done by a guy in a Bruce Willis costume shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square, I suspect that eventually we’ll just stop watching.
Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse.
However, for now, mass murder is still the number one news show money maker, guaranteed to pull in a Forty-share.
Problem is, there’s just not enough actual information about the event to fill up the airwaves.
Nobody really knows anything.
But Americans aren’t interested in facts and they’re for damned sure not interested in waiting.
Americans want their news the same way they want their food, they don’t care if it’s good for them or not so long as it’s quick and it comes in SuperSize.
So, over the next few days, until America loses interest, the news outlets will each issue at least three versions of the story, all different, all mutually contradictory. Accuracy doesn’t matter, being first is what matters. Blame, that’s what matters, we need to assign blame to somebody, liberals, gays, commies, survivalist, somebody is at fault and the sooner we assign the blame the sooner we can get back to our freedom and liberty and civilization.
And besides, it’s not like those first false reports and poor reporting will be wasted, the conspiracy nuts will print those out and tape them up on their bulletin boards right next to pictures of that grassy knoll and WTC #7. False Flag! False Flag! They’ll shout gleefully and manufacture their own false information fresh from their fevered imaginations and within days the airwaves and the internet will be filled with their wild speculation.
You’ll get interviews with at least four witnesses who didn’t actually see anything, including at least one middle-aged hypochondriac who wasn’t actually there on the day of the massacre but once, way back when, happened to be in the same building, and so had to be hospitalized because she was so traumatized by the close call.
You’ll get interviews with at last three professional victims who weren’t there but were near similar events and whose stories are now somehow relevant.
You’ll get earnest opinions from two experts in fields completely unrelated to anything that actually transpired, and CNN will interview at least one former non-combatant Air Force Major who was stationed in Nevada during the Iraq invasion and now teaches law at a small Women’s college on the East Coast.
Eventually, each news outlet will trot out their one remaining gray haired genuine distinguished Newsman, and in dour solemn tones he’ll ponderously opine on the miserable state of journalism in this modern age – then he’ll condemn all the other stations for getting it wrong.
Stage Two, Speculation:
Since there isn’t any real information and by the time there actually is America will have completely lost interest, the important thing is to fill up the media channels with something.
The talking heads and paid conspiracy mongers will wax fat and feculent, they’ll condemn the president and talk about false flag operations, hiding their sly grins behind their plastic outrage while the money rolls in.
News anchors, talk shows, bloggers, pundits, and the endless ill-informed mouth-breathing Yahoo commenter will each and all put forward their opinion:
- The shooter is a liberal. It’s all part of a plot by the America-hating tree-hugging, New World Order to make peaceful, patriotic gun owners look bad, then the government will send Interpol in their sissy blue UN uniforms to take away our guns. Oh noes! To the bunkers!
- The shooter is a Muslim. Of course he is. You just can’t trust those people. They hate America. He probably thinks he’ll get forty virgins in Paradise for every American he killed. We should kill all the Muslims.
- The shooter is a member of the NRA. He’s a gun nut. Those guys are all crazy with their gun shows and gun magazines and gun clubs and guns. We should outlaw the NRA.
- The shooter is a member of the Tea Party. The shooter is a member of the Occupy Movement. Sure. They hate everybody and they can’t wait to start killing us all and tearing down America.
- The shooter was just fed up. He was an Illegal alien. He was a member of Al Qaida. He was a Jew. He was abused as a child, born again, gay.
By the time the sad truth comes out, if it ever does, that he was just another nut listening to the voices only he could hear, nobody will care. The only thing Americans will remember is that he is yet another sterling example of whatever political point they’re trying to make at that particular moment.
Stage Three, Comparison:
Speaking of furthering particular agendas:
The conservative channels will start running footage of Columbine, Fort Hood, and Waco. The liberal channels will start running footage of the Giffords shooting and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. None of those incidents really has much to do with the current horror, but they are images of bodies and blood and bullets and that’s what counts when you’re explaining how this event is what happens when the End Times are nigh or civilization is on the brink of collapse.
It’s important to associate this mass murder with other horrible events in order to shape public perception in the proper manner regardless of the fact that there is little connection or comparison to be had.
All channels will talk about Bath Salts and Reefer Madness and the unpredictable side effects of depression medication. There’s no indication as yet that the shooter was taking drugs, but then again there isn’t any indication that he wasn’t either.
And, of course, there’s the PTSD and, you know, we should expect more of this kind of thing as veterans start to come unscrewed. Especially if they were bullied as children. Or abused. Or into comic books, or video games, or porn. And, well, even if the guy had nothing to do with the military, it’s important to stress that returning veterans are murderously unstable and something should be done.
The simple truth of the matter is that you don’t walk into a crowd and start shooting people unless you’re, at least to some degree, nuts. But that’s just not enough for us, is it?
They can’t just be nuts, or rather they can be, nuts, but it has to mean something. Somehow. Even though the shooter might be completely insane, America will still demand a sane, rational, understandable reason for their behavior.
Which naturally will lead to endless arguments regarding the sorry state of mental health in this country.
Which, of course, will almost immediately devolve into a debate on Obamacare.
However, all of this, Steps One through Three are just the warm up act. Next we get to the main event:
Stage Four, Blame:
Let’s blame Hollywood. Violent movies and violent video games and rock and roll music. That’s what it is.
Let’s blame the families. It’s bad parenting, this guy’s folks should have their asses kicked for raising a psychopath. But since we can’t do that, we'll punish the shooter’s family by having every single news agency in the world camp out on his mother’s front porch, and we’ll ask her important questions such as “what are you feeling right now?”
Let’s blame the Liberals with their liberalism, their political correctness, their communist Nazism, their coddling of criminals, their gun control and the gay agenda.
Let’s blame the Conservatives with their conservatism, their guns and their bibles and their callous disregard of the human condition. It’s their fault, of course it is.
Let’s blame it on the Me Generation, these selfish little bastards, always with their hands out, me me me. It’s social media, it’s Twitter and Facebook and those self centered bloggers looking for attention.
Let’s blame the Muslims and the godless goat humping atheists and Fast & Furious and bad teachers and Benghazi and Obama and the secret manipulations of the Illuminati.
The politicians and their supporters will all, each and every one, gleefully make hay. Oh they’ll all, each and every one, wax poetic over the dead (with the exception of certain predictable talk radio pundits who’ll insinuate that the dead had it coming for being unprepared and unarmed and ungodly), and they’ll even wipe away sorrowful bitter tears and pause for a moment in patriotic remembrance with their hands over their flinty black hearts with the flags waving and crackling in the cold breeze at just the right camera angle, and they’ll condemn the other guy for politicizing the tragedy, and then they will make just as much political hay out of this as they can because somebody is damned well to blame for this mess. And it sure isn’t going to be them, no sir, it’s the other guy and his un-American agenda.
Somebody is responsible.
Oh sure, the shooter might have pulled the trigger, he might have planned it all and bought the guns and built the bombs and put on the body armor, but somebody else is to blame.
Stage Five, Bang Bang Crazy:
And so, once again, inevitably, we circle around the wheel to the perennial American argument:
Guns don’t kill people, crazy people with guns kill people who don’t have guns.
Therefore, we should ban all guns!
No, wait, if we ban all guns then only people with guns will have guns so they’ll kill the people who don’t have the guns and then there will only be people with guns left and then they’ll kill each other because if you ban guns only people with guns will be criminals and when the government comes to get our guns only the criminals will be free because liberty equals guns! Also what about bears?
OK, then we should give everybody guns!
But if everybody has guns then even criminals will have guns and brown people and yellow people and illegal people and crazy people who don’t love Jesus will have guns and they will break into our houses to steal our guns and rape our women and eat our babies and take our liberty so then police and the military will need bigger guns to keep us safe from those people but then we’ll need even bigger guns because otherwise we won’t be safe from the cops who will use their guns to take our freedom!
OK, well then how about a reasonable common sense compromise?
We all agree that as Americans it’s our basic right to keep and own firearms. But also, some people really, really shouldn’t be allowed to own even a Nerf slingshot, let alone a machine that can punch a couple hundred fist sized holes in a room full of people in under a minute. How about we maybe talk about some kind of reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and crazy people?
What! Communist! Nazi! How dare you? Second Amendment! Second Amendment! Every red-blooded true blue American has the God given right to own a fully automatic meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high capacity killing machine if they want to, the Founding Fathers said so! USA! USA! Dead kids? Mass murder? Blood in the streets? That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeedom! Besides if there had only been one, just one, god fearing patriot with his own concealed meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high-capacity peacemaker there at that massacre, why he’d have stood up in his genuine American made American Flag Shirt of Patriotic American By God Freedom and fired up his laser-sight and he would have put that animal down right goshdarned there! Remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away and idiotic empty NRA platitudes have saved more lives than Charlton Heston did in all those bible movies. Booyah, Baby, give me a Glock Nine and an extended mag any day. Also, we need more Jesus.
Stage Six, Acceptance:
By the time it’s determined that the shooter was just plain nuts and his bloody motivation was just plain incomprehensible to sane reasonable people, most Americans will have long since changed the channel and forgotten about it.
Meanwhile Congress, ever eager to do something, will yet again stage a mock vote to defund healthcare in America because they are completely unable to do anything that actually matters other than squabble amongst themselves like spoiled petulant children.
Nothing will be done about the real problem because nothing can be done.
That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeeeedom: crazy people with guns.
Besides, it probably won’t happen again.
Stage Seven: Déjà Vu:
See Step One.
Nothing, and I mean nothing not even religion or abortion, generates the hate mail that any article on guns does.
As I’ve said here many, many, many times, and will obviously have to say many, many, many more times: I’ve spent my entire life around weapons, all kinds of weapons – some of which you can’t even imagine. I started shooting when I was about four or so. I got my first deer at 14 and I still own the rifle I shot it with. I helped design, field, and test weapons and I used them for real in the combat zone. I likely know more about weapons and their use than any other ten people you’re likely to come across. I wrote US military war fighting doctrine regarding certain weapon systems. I own guns, all kinds. I’m rated an expert shot with either hand. I teach guns. I’ve taught guns for nearly 30 years now, I am a professional Rangemaster trained at the Smith&Wesson Rangemaster Academy. I used to shoot professionally, I trained with law enforcement and military instructors. I spent my entire life in the military, in warzones around the world. I have a Concealed Carry Permit and I used to have an FFL (I got tired of paying the annual fee, so I let it lapse).
I know something about guns.
I’ll tell you something: the ignorant, illiterate, and cognitively challenged NRA nuts who troll this site every time I post something about guns are the very last people I would allow on my range or allow to handle weapons anywhere near me or mine. If you’re taking orders from Ted Nugent, you are fucking insane. These people are every bit as insane as the murderous lunatics described in the text above who thought that guns were a solution for their own personal inadequacies.
These people have taken the Second Amendment and perverted it all out of recognition.
However, for the record, the post above does not, repeat does not, advocate for or against any additional laws, regulations, bans, or any other form of gun control.
What I actually said was that all the arguments were oh so tediously predictable.
What I said was the usual folks would call for gun control.
What I said was then in response the usual folks would scream about Nazis and fascism and explain why nothing ever can work and how dead kids are just the price you pay for freedom.
What I said was that nothing, absolutely nothing, will change. The slaughter will continue. The argument will continue. And nothing will change because we will not let it change, we would rather die than allow a reasoned conversation to take place, let alone any action of any kind.
What I said was that we can’t even have the conversation.
And that is exactly what is happening, because that’s what always happens. Every. Single. Time.
Both sides are perfectly convinced that they are right. That’s it and that’s all. Period. No compromise. No no no. End of discussion and fuck you, Liberals. No, fuck you, Conservatives.
You cannot reason with unreasonable people and the people on both sides of this ongoing monkey shitfest are profoundly unreasonable people.
People called me a cynic.
They said I was wrong.
But it’s been more than
two three years since I wrote the original version of this essay. How many mass murders have happened in that time? How many Americans have died in front of a gun muzzle?
And nothing, not one goddamned thing, has changed.
I think I’m entitled to say I told you so. // Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station
The follow-up series, Bang Bang Crazy, explores certain aspects of the insanity that is the American obsession with guns in more detail.
A note about commenting:
Comments on this post are now in excess of 200. When that happens you have to scroll to the bottom of the comment queue and hit “load more.” You may have to do this several times to see all the comments including the nested ones. This is a function of the Blogger platform, I have no control over it. // Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station.