Perform an experiment.
Take a look around your local gaming store.
How many video games do you see that are not shooters?
No. Stop. Don’t roll your eyes, instead do what I ask, go to the store and count the video games. Ask the clerk for a video game about science, or engineering, or exploration, or nonviolent problem solving. Look at the games on the shelves, in how many do the players solve the problems with brains, or reason, or diplomacy instead of firepower?
Then answer the question, how many are not shooters?
Damned few, that’s how many. Less than five percent by my count.
Now, go get your kid’s MP3 player.
How many of the songs on it are about violence? About guns and blood?
No. Stop. Don’t roll your eyes, instead do what I asked, go get the MP3 player, turn on the radio, go to the store and look at the albums. It’s not just Rap, or Hip Hop, or the stuff that glorifies the thug life, it’s country music too. Listen to the music and answer the question.
Turn on your TV. For the next week, count the percentage of shows where guns solve the problem. No. Stop. Don’t sigh and roll your eyes, do it. Turn on your goddamned TV and count the number of times that guns solve the problem. Count the number of shows that contain a gun. For extra credit, count the number of times brains or non-violence solve the problem – without a gun also in evidence – then compare the two numbers. How about cartoons? Kid’s shows? Movies?
Even in “family friendly” G-rated fare such as, oh say Star Wars, the problems are solved with guns (or light-sabers, same difference).
How about the news? How many times in the last 24 hours have guns solved the problem? How many?
So what I'm I saying here?
That video games and music and TV cause gun violence?
Is that what I’m saying?
That’s not what I’m saying.
I’m saying that we are a violent people, we Americans.
We glory in violence. We revel in violence. We worship violence.
Our sports are violent, both on the field and in the bleachers – and often in the parking lots after the game. Our politics are violent and confrontational and uncompromising. Our international policy is violent and bloody. Our religions are violent. Our rhetoric is violent. Our law enforcement is violent. Our history is violent. Our heroes are violent.
Hell, for us, even peace is violent.
We are a violent people, we Americans, and we have always been a violent people.
We solve our problems with our fists and with our guns, that’s who we are.
Is it any surprise then that our video games, our music, our TV shows are violent entertainments filled with guns and blood and body counts?
Is it any surprise whatsoever, that the violent prone and the simpletons and those with a tenuous grasp on reality turn to guns and violence to solve their own problems? Why shouldn’t they?
What other solutions, what other methods, are they offered?
Media that provides examples of non-violent problem solving, Sesame Street say, are constantly in fear of violent defunding. They’re always in the crosshairs, always the first to face the chopping block. Meanwhile, even the Learning Channel is filed with shows about guns, about making guns, or buying guns, or using guns in one fashion or another.
America’s gun fetish is only one symptom of a much larger malady.
The terrible events this week at Sandy Hook are merely the latest in a long, long line of similar horrors.
Hell, Sandy Hook wasn’t even the first mass killing this week, on December 11th, 22-year-old Jacob Roberts killed two people and himself with a stolen rifle in Clackamas Town Center, Oregon.
Before that, on September 27, five people were shot to death and three more wounded when Andrew Engeldinger went on a shooting spree after losing his job at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis. Engeldinger killed himself as the cops closed in.
And the month before that, in August, six Sikh temple members were killed when angry ex-Army veteran Wade Page stormed into their temple and opened fire in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four others were injured. Page then killed himself.
And of course you remember what happened a month before that, right? On July 20th, during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, James Holmes gunned down twelve people in cold blood and managed to wound fifty eight more. Unlike the others, Holmes didn’t suicide, he calmly waited outside the theater for the police to arrive and was arrested without a fight.
A month before Holmes went on his bloody rampage, on May 29, a guy named Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle. He killed five people and then himself.
April was a busy month for mass murder. On April 6th, Jake England and Alvin Watts drove around Tulsa, Oklahoma, and shot five black men at random, three died. And on April 2nd, One L. Goh killed seven people at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, earning himself the distinction of carrying out the deadliest attack on a school since the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007.
And so it goes. Every day, every month, every year it’s the same thing here in America. In 2011 it was Jared Lee Loughner who made the headlines, but Eduardo Sencion also shot twelve people eating breakfast in an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada, five of them died – including three National Guardsmen. And don’t forget the eight people who died in a hair salon in Seal Beach, California, when Scott Dekraai opened fire.
You can follow the blood trail all the way back to Columbine and beyond.
These killings, this slaughter, it’s not the exception, it’s who we are.
Look around, look at our games, our religion, our politics, our sports, our entertainment.
This violence is who we are.
Oh, you don’t like that, do you?
You don’t want to hear it?
You don’t want to believe it?
You don’t agree. It’s not us, America isn’t like that. No, not really.
No, of course not.
Listen, you know how you kick drugs? You know how you quit drinking? You know how you stop smoking or finally lose weight and keep it off? You know how you stop being an abusive asshole?
You start by facing the truth.
You start by admitting that you have a problem. The drugs and the booze are destroying your life and the lives of the people around you, the smoking is killing you inch by inch and it’s killing your kids, the overeating is giving you diabetes and high cholesterol and it’s going to kill you if you don’t goddamned stop putting shit into your mouth. You can’t control your temper, you hit your wife, you scream at your husband, and one day your kids are going end up trapped in the same cycle of violence and abuse if you don’t grow the fuck up and do something about it.
That’s you and the only way to fix it is to first take a long deep look into the mirror and admit to yourself that you’ve got a problem.
I know a guy, a recovered alcoholic. He had it bad. Booze was his life. He didn’t think he was hurting anybody, but of course he was. He hurt his wife, his family, his friends, and his co-workers – all the people who cared about him. But he couldn’t see it. He had a bunch of close calls, but somehow he always managed to keep on, ignoring the signs, ignoring the symptoms, living in denial, refusing to admit that he had a problem.
He believed that it was his right, his right goddamn it, to drink if he wanted to and nobody was going to tell him otherwise.
Then one night, blind drunk behind wheel on his way from one drink to the next, he hit a little girl.
And that’s when the light finally came on for him.
That’s when he knew, finally, that he had to do something.
That was the moment when ultimately he had to look into his own eyes, look himself in the mirror, and admit that he had a problem. That was when he had to admit, finally, this is where it ends, this and no more. Then he went to find help, and it was a long hard damned road, and he spent a long, long time making it right, but eventually he beat it.
All it took was admitting that he had a problem, and a will to fix it and to find a way to make it right.
He still fights it, every day he admits that he is an alcoholic even though he stopped drinking forty years ago, and he keeps looking for a way to make it right.
I don’t know, maybe we as a nation aren’t there yet.
A hundred dead kids , a thousand, ten thousand, maybe it’s still not enough and how many more will it take?
We’re still in denial.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
How many times have you heard that tired old phrase this week?
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. True, I suppose, but I’d argue that while guns may not kill people, one hell of a lot of people are dying in their presence. Guns may not kill people, but one hell of a lot of people are dying while idiots argue over empty phrases, semantics, and NRA sound bites.
I’ll grant you that people kill people, but guns make it a wholesale operation.
It wasn’t like this back in the day.
How many times have you heard that in the last week?
It wasn’t like this back in my day. People didn’t solve their problems with guns.
And what time was that?
These people are suffering selective amnesia. There may have been brief moments in our history that are relatively free from violence, but they are few and far between. Where do you think our legends come from? Our entertainment? Our heroes? Our villains? Billy the Kid? Wyatt Earp? Bonnie and Clyde. The Gangs of New York? Wounded Knee? Southern Lynchings? Lizzie Borden? Charlie Manson? Ted Bundy? Al Capone?
It’s never been this way?
Hell, it’s always been this way.
Where the hell have you been?
This is what happens when you take God out of the schools.
How many times have you heard that in the last few days?
This is what happens when you take God out of the schools. Which god? Every god I’ve ever heard of has plenty of blood on his holy hands. If you’re looking for an example of non-violence, the guy who drops people into pits of boiling pitch for all eternity and slaughters the first born sons of an entire nation probably isn’t your best choice. I’m just saying.
This is what happens when you take God out of the schools. This is another baseless idiotic statement, not provable, not falsifiable, it’s something people pull out of their asses when they don’t have an actual argument of their own. God, there, I win.
It’s just another form of denial.
More guns will end gun violence. Banning all guns will end gun violence. Neither of those statements are true, extremism rarely is. Extremism is what people resort to when they are unable or unwilling to reason. Extremism by definition is a position adopted by people who know they are wrong, but refuse to concede, refuse to compromise, refuse to reason, refuse to admit that they have a problem.
And we have a problem, whether we want to admit it or not.
We may not all agree on what inalienable rights, exactly, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution bestows upon Americans, but the one thing we can all agree on is this: The Second Amendment was never, ever, intended to place the rights of gun owners over the lives of our children.
America has a problem with violence, with blood, with death, and with guns.
We solve our problems with fists and bullets.
And it’s about time we admitted it.
That’s the first step.
Addendum 1: Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity
Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun. I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family. Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.