Hell, it’s been a weekend.
Saturday I spent some time with a musician friend working some demo recordings for a project we’re working on. We got some nice vocal tracks down for one tune (it’s a good one) before life’s problems started to intrude on the creative process. Everything seems to have worked itself out, thankfully, though we didn’t get as much done as we’d like. The recording rig I’ve built over the last year or two seems to travel well and I got some nice pieces I can work with. Seems I’m now a producer.
Rest of the afternoon involved some grocery shopping, some household stuff, some video games, and waiting around to pick up my sixteen year old who can’t drive yet from a friend’s graduation party. I gotta get that kid a license, stat. We also got a bit of a chuckle out of the “unusually small crowd” (like less than 25% capacity at the Colliseum) at Trump’s rally downtown. Sometimes my metro area makes me proud.
Of course, I woke up Sunday morning to the news from Orlando, which, by any definition, is devastating and horrible. Last count I heard was 51 dead, taking this well past the most horrific mass shooting in modern American history.
I found out about it when a friend (who happened to be near Orlando this weekend for a baby shower) mentioned that she was prompted by Facebook to “check in as being safe” because it pinged her location as near the shooting at Pulse. That Facebook implemented code to do such thing is worrying, but also kind of useful (we have things like weather emergencies and whatnot), but the fact that it *was* useful to someone in my circle because of this makes me unhappy, but not as unhappy as the fact that there are 51 one people who were unable to check in because one guy decided to shoot up a dance club early Sunday morning.
Let me talk about statistics and frequency and maybe a little bit of armchair analysis a bit:
The fact that somebody’s tracking the statistic for “most horrible mass shooting incident” in this country is awful. The fact that we have enough data points for this kind of event, horrifying by any objective measure, to establish different data gradients says that something’s wrong with the way we’re doing things.
Leaving aside any discussion of methodology and definition of what a “mass shooting” is (and there’s probably a discussion to be had regarding that), the Gun Violence Archive reports, as of Monday morning, we’ve had 136 “mass shooting” incidents in the US in 2016 so far. I am aghast.
This data leaves aside possible motive (and in the case of the Orlando shooting this weekend, it’s pretty clear that anti-LGBT attitudes were behind it – I’m not sold on the ISIS connection people are trying to draw, other than as a justification/cover on the part of the shooter; I think that’s also what was going on with San Bernadino), which I think is proper when we’re talking about these things. People have all kinds of reasons (valid and otherwise) to get angry about things; hell, the social and political discourse and division in this country, as well as our whole historical “rugged individualist” narrative we pride ourselves on, practically guarantees it.
Of course, other Western/industrialized nations have the same, or equivalent reasons for anger, frustration, and division; I’d argue that some of the others are probably more inflamed (i.e. Western Europe and the current refugee crisis, economic strife in Greece, Spain, etc). However, these nations don’t have the incidence of home-grown (domestic, radicalized or not, whatever…) shootings we do. The most obvious difference is the easy access to guns in this country. And troubled folks with guns (leaving alone the incidences of veterans with untreated PTSD we have, and other folks dealing with depression and anxiety and other mental issues* left untreated because of the state of health care in this country) tend to lead to bad things, with folks either hurting themselves, or, in this case, many, many others.
Now before somebody tears into me for maybe saying that guns aren’t a constantly good and virtuous thing (because that happens – look at your social media feed this morning, it’s there – go ahead, I’ll wait) because of the vibrant and robust gun culture in this country (just ask the open carry idiots who like to stand around outside my local WaWa drinking coffee with Glocks on their hips for some reason that I’m sure isn’t political at all), I’m not against gun ownership, necessarily; I grew up with, and have an appreciation for hunting culture, understand the appeal of shooting as a sport, and all that. I’m not necessarily down with the fetishization of weapons, personally, but I think I get it, especially when I look at my affection for musical istruments.
That said, as solid and heavy as a Gibson Les Paul is, it’s really unlikely there’s going to be a rash of mass killings by people using one as a weapon.
Maybe that’s not the best example – motor vehicles might be a better comparison; though it’s not perfect one. per the IIHS, there’ve been a little over 32,000 deaths due to vehicle crashes so far this year (Per the GVA, we’re looking at about 6000 total gun deaths for all reasons so far this year). Now, automobiles are probably more ubiquitous, necessary, and widespread than firearms are, but are just as dangerous, if not more, when pointed in the wrong direction or used irresponsibly. Nobody seems to have an issue with screening, registration, and required insurance for automobile ownership and operation; I’d posit that a similar system for firearms ownership might make sense, and a lot of the gun laws we have on this country get us part way there. A few more tweaks here and there would probably get us there.
Of course, there’s no Second Amendment for cars, and AAA is nowhere near as single-focused and political as the NRA. Car culture is looked at differently. I’m not sure why. Other than the 25-year import rule or the chicken tax, most reasonable car people are totally cool with automotive law in the US. The gun folks are constantly focused on somebody taking their weapons away and stealing their freedoms or whatever. I suspect it has a lot to do with the general culture of fear that goes on in the right-of-center parts of the United States; everything framed in right-wing narrative about “them” taking something away from “you”; guns, money, religion, “freedom”, whatever. There’s no “us” in the right-wing narrative without a “them” to be in conflict with**; this kind of frame/narrative just feeds the conflict, and I think that’s the biggest impediment to progress.
This is all just me spitballing here; thinking out loud in my little space on the internet, because in a way, that’s what it’s for. There are a lot of problems in this country we need to deal with; I just can’t think of even one that more guns, and unrestricted access to them, makes better or easier to deal with.
*- this is the reason why I no longer own any firearms or do anything involving them at all, really. It’s totally personal. If I gun wasn’t nearby, it’s possible (though not assured) that I’d still have someone very important to me in my life; mental disorders like depression suck, even when they’re treated properly (I know); as such, I don’t need those things around, both due to personal distaste, and the potential (if remote) risk involved.
** – I’m kind of curious to see how the right wing frames this one, as the media narrative thus far sets the “radical Islam” and LGBT others against one another. I want to see the mental gymnastics going into how this will fit into their headspace to feed the outrage (because it’s always about feeding the outrage). What I’ve seen thus far is leaving the LGBT out of it for the moment, framing it as an “attack against all of us.”, at least according to the woman arguing with Cokie Roberts this morning on NPR. I’ll have to get the word from Glenn Beck and Brian Fischer later to be sure.