Guns in America: Musings on Our National Psychosis
Nelson's been talking to Mother Nature. Nelson is a close friend fighting a hard battle against a deadly disease. He's been having a series of very frank conversations with Mother Nature about, well, just about everything, from the origins of the universe to evolution to how and where homo sapiens fits into the natural order.
It turns out we humans as a species don't – fit in to the natural order, that is.
Did I mention that Nelson happens to be a retire neurosurgeon? Suffice it to say, Nelson knows as much about brains and how they work as anybody else walking on two legs.
But what we've been talking about lately is not why the human brain is so efficient or amazing but why it's so unpredictable, why we manifest such a vast array of psychological disorders, and why, for example, we alone kill for pleasure or motives that are simply too perverse for "normal" folks to sort out.
The latest atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in quiet little Newton, Connecticut, ought to be the last straw for the good citizens of this gun-crazy nation, but it won't be. The massacre in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, last July – 12 dead, 58 wounded – was another "last straw" event that wasn't. And before that there was Virginia Tech, 33 killed. Before that (back in 1999) the Columbine school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, 15 killed (including the two teenage shooters). Need I go on?
This morning when I checked my email messages there was one from Nelson. Here it is, word for word. (MN = Mother Nature)
Nelson: MN, I don't get why you would create a species with brains so screwed up that they kill each other at rates of thousands per year in our schools and on our streets.
MN: I've already told you I was just playing around and ended up with a bad result.
Nelson: I understand that but if you are so damned smart you would think you could let a few souls evolve that could solve some of this stuff.
MN: I'm not good at follow through. Today's killings of 20 kids and 6 adults in Newton CT even bothers me, and I've seen it all. I know how to fix it, but customs, politics, paranoid people get in the way. So I've pretty much given up.
Nelson: Solutions my eye! Try me.
MN: The gun thing is simple. People make idle talk about a fair playing field but they really don't mean it.
Nelson: What's that got to do with anything?
MN: Everything, don't you see? A thug or hunter with a gun has a huge advantage in any confrontation. The playing field is tilted far in favor of the guys with the guns. Sportsman, football players, students - they all want some kind of equal playing field so it shouldn't be too hard to give the animal or store clerk better odds by passing a simple law.
Nelson: OK, I follow you. So what's the law?
MN: All gun manufacturers would be required to make, say, one out of five guns they produce – 20% ought to be enough – with a defective metal barrel. When a defective gun is fired it could blow ones hand off, or worse. The guns look all the same so a hunter would just have to play the odds. He could still hunt but he would have to say, "Hmm, which do I want more, that white tail deer or my hand?" The odds are pretty good that he could get several deer before the gun got him, but there'd be no guarantee.
Nelson: And the same would go for hand gun users on the street or those that shoot people in schools and theaters, right?
MN: Right. But if human life is valued more than a deer, the odds could be changed – like one out of two handguns would be defective.
Nelson: The thug wants to kill a rival gang member for stealing his Mary Jane – could be his girl or his Jolly Green – wouldn't matter. Point is, the gun comes out and for that instant he says, "I could put him down but there's is a 50/50 chance I'd lose my hand…"
Nelson worries that his conversations with Mother Nature are too cynical, that if he tells people what She's telling him they'll want to kill the messenger, metaphorically speaking. But if it's the interlocutor happens to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, it's entirely possible that the impulse will be more than a mere metaphor.
Nelson worries that his conversations with Mother Nature are too cynical, that if he tells others what She's telling him they'll want to kill the messenger, metaphorically speaking. But if the other guy happens to have his own personal arsenal or sees a terrorist behind every tree or is a hardcore card-carrying NRA member, there's always a possibility that the impulse will be more than a mere metaphor.
It's too late to stop the killing. Too late for the 20 kids and 6 adults cut down in Newton, too late for the parents who are living every parent's worst nightmare. Too late for the others who have died in one of the 7 massacres in the US in 2012 alone, or the 31 school shootings since Columbine, or the 61 mass murders since 1982.
Too late and way past overdue. If President Obama does not demand laws to stop the trade in assault weapons, if Congress does not show that it cares more about this nation's children than about getting re-elected or losing money from Super Pacs like the NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, then the citizens of this gun-toting society will continue to be at risk every day in our shopping malls, movie theaters, and even our homes.
Worse, our children are at risk. Even schools in middle-class predominantly white suburbs and small town are not safe. It's not merely an "inner city" or "black" problem any more.
So let's stop kidding ourselves. Spending billions on "homeland security" to protect ourselves from real or imagine threats while turning our backs on a threat that's all-too-real is just plain stupid. Pogo had it right: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Meanwhile, Mother Nature's solution is extreme and Nelson would be the first to admit it. But then extremism is nothing new in this country. Just ask the victims of gun crimes.