Last week in Maine, an Army Reservist went on a shooting rampage that left 18 dead and dozens more injured. The killing spree is notable in that it’s not especially notable.
It happens regularly – in America, that is. And whereas in the past, mass shooting sprees ignited a bitter gun control debate, last week’s shooting has prompted a more tepid response – suggesting that the public has grown fatigued/desensitized not only to mass shootings, but to the corresponding debate on how to prevent mass shootings.
It’s almost as if people have accepted that mass shootings are just a baked-in part of life in America, giving up entirely on the concept of gun control reform – a disconcerting capitulation.
Acknowledging a problem
Frequent mass shootings are a uniquely American problem. Objectively. Regardless of how you believe the problem should be solved (more guns, less guns) you’d have to be a special kind of ignorant not to appreciate that America has a mass shooting problem. Yet, a failure to acknowledge the problem does seem to persist in our public square – making reform difficult.
One species of the persistent denial is more a spin than a denial – it’s the idea that ‘we don’t have a gun problem, we have a mental health problem.’ We certainly do have a mental health problem (ironically, it’s often the people making this argument who are resistant to the idea of funding public health/mental health treatment), but as Barack Obama said once: America does not have a monopoly on crazy people; crazy people live all over the world; yet, only in America do we have frequent mass shootings.
Michael Moore suggested, in his documentary Bowling for Columbine, that America’s mass shooting problem didn’t stem from gun availability (Canada has a ton of guns, too) but rather from America’s media-driven culture of fear. Maybe.
What’s clear is that America has a problem where, all too frequently, people go on mass shooting sprees, leaving death and carnage in their wakes, and leaving the general population justifiably paranoid in public spaces.
Fixing the problem
Once acknowledged, fixing the mass shooting problem is another beast entirely. Banning guns entirely is not a realistic solution: there are more guns in America than people, so even if the Constitution was amended to negate the Second Amendment, you have the practical reality of rounding up a few hundred million guns, which of course, will never happen.
More practical solutions include the banning of mechanisms that enhance a gun’s rate of fire/magazine capacity beyond that designed for self-defense, hunting, and other uses that the founders envisioned. I feel comfortable saying that the founders did not envision automatic weapons or 30-round magazines on the streets of America; that ordinary citizens are walking around with such firearms, whether constitutional or not, is deranged.
Americans do have the right to bear arms, and should feel welcome to exercise that right – but that right is not all-encompassing and cannot reasonably be expected to include advanced modern weapons.
But the problem is complex, and a solution will have to be multifaceted. To that end, certain citizens should be restricted from carrying arms entirely. Individuals with a history of violent crime, for example. And people with certain mental health conditions – like the shooter in Maine last week, whose family warned authorities that he had mental health problems and was armed and that the combination was potentially deadly. Essentially, not just anyone should be allowed to own a firearm.
Of course, the solutions I’ve suggested won’t solve the problem. Mass shootings will continue to occur. But the status quo is entirely unacceptable, and concrete steps need to be taken, urgently, towards ending the American epidemic of gun violence.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.