Ever since the school shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, this writer has wondered what’s involved in the mental makeup of that ever-growing number who commit murderous acts. That incident, and the many others that followed it, left me ‘lost at sea’ because nothing even remotely like it happened at the high school in Oregon I attended.
Not able to make sense out of these malevolent acts, I have searched to discover explanations that assist me to understand reasons for murder in high numbers of other citizens by assault weapons usually seen nearly exclusively overseas in guerilla warfare and subjugation activity. Dave Cullen, who’s written extensively on the horror of Columbine, has afforded some credible clues to what’s going on with people who commit these crimes.
Cullen first reminds us of conclusions reached after Columbine. One was that the “Trench Coat Mafia outcasts” who had found their school experience miserable, were taking revenge against bullies.
However, a team of FBI experts, psychiatrists and psychologists came to a different conclusion. They came together a few months after Columbine, concluding from discovery that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold dreamed much bigger than an impulsive act on students and teachers to vent their rage. In fact, that pair of killers were reported to have laughed at previous school shooters and planned a massive scale bombing where, fortunately, the propane bombs they set in the cafeteria didn’t explode. A way of interpreting what they intended: Their vision was to create a nightmare so devastating and apocalyptic that the entire world would take notice of the power they wielded.
But the beat goes on in the U.S. where we’ve had mass shootings on an apocalyptic scale, one after another. Obviously, then, there is a great hue and cry here to put together and implement stronger and more effective mental health efforts. It’s certain we’d do better at stopping these awful acts of violence if we set our nation to doing so and prioritized that objective at the top of a national list of urgent particulars. Troubling in the extreme is the American population seems to possess an ever greater percentage of the citizens not able to accept and deal with life matters at a personal responsibility level while our national leaders do not lead responsibly.
The U.S. is different from other post-industrial nations in noticeable ways.For one example, our Constitution, although written more than 200 years ago, immediately after the Colonists fought a war with the most powerful nation on earth, had self-protection fixed firmly in their minds in order to defend themselves. We need to adjust laws for modern times with special attention to interventions that keep guns—by universal background checks and the closing of loopholes—away from the infirm, the psychotic, the psychopathic and those raging, for what results in infamy (not the kind of fame they seek) through dastardly deeds.
We could try the Australian approach to gun controls. After all, the government in Canberra went about collecting guns by buying them from owners and destroying them, the result being a marked decline in shootings there. We could try that approach but it would likely get in the way of anything effective because of the Second Amendment. It would also go against the dictates of the National Rifle Association. The NRA has a vested interest in keeping dues intact as well as do the gun manufacturers, gun sales outlets, gun shows and private hands sales whose profits would fall from bans and strict controls.
Fits and starts have gotten underway in a few places throughout the nation, resulting from the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida. The youth from that school have launched a protest that’s reverberating throughout the country. Every effort remains unsettled at this time as, while the enthusiasm is stratospheric now, the foot-dragging and finding reasons to say “No!” again, and outnumber the “Yes!” votes. Then there are the predictable law suits that follow every reform effort. One solution to the gun issue that would not receive approval from this retired educator: placing guns in the hands of teachers, and, thereby, forcing gun controls in the U.S. on them.
The original scare-inducing argument among those who want no restrictions is the perennial “slippery slope” argument, the one that says, if even one gun is taken away, the government will come for all the others. It’s material for an SNL skit depicting how absurd some of us can be. Case in point: having lived a long life in the U.S.A., and having known hundreds of gun owners, I’ve never known of a gun confiscation unless it was associated by hard evidence with having been used to commit a crime.
And so it goes in the United States of America. No person is safe anywhere in this nation because guns are everywhere and those who have them, unfit or not, have the freedom to use them at will. All of this adds up to mean no citizen here is immune from harm and thereby can be hit by a bullet while in bed, attending school, a music festival, shopping at a mall, viewing a movie or going to church. There are many ways we could bring controls to this mania but it won’t happen until a whole lot more of us get fed up enough to act when we declare, “We won’t take it anymore!” and end the careers of those politicians who don’t serve a majority of Americans. Until that time, the gun beat goes on, madly, insanely and endless.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)