Sunday, October 11, 2015

On Squeaky Wheels

Our Heroes
Year after year, a hundred thousand Americans are shot with guns. Thirty thousand or so die. Another 40,000 - mostly young men - are convicted of a weapons felony and sentenced to an average of 4 years in prison. The families of all these people, their parents and children and spouses and siblings and cousins and friends and lovers - they all find their lives disrupted, their incomes reduced, their security threatened. But what's really interesting about this social, cultural and community catastrophe is that nobody really cared. Oh, there were the usual liberal checkbox for gun control. There were occasional discussions around closing the gun show loophole, or banning certain types of weapons. Small bore, pointless feelgood legislative proposals that nonetheless never went anywhere. Oh well, ho hum, let's talk about taxes.

But along came a tiny population of violent, disaffected lunatics. There was Columbine, and the outrage that followed. Michael Moore made a film, hands were wrung about what we knew or didn't know about what our children were really doing. Then came Virginia Tech, where one crazy kid with two handguns shot 50 people, killing 33 of them (including himself).  Years later there was Sandy Hook. Another crazy man, this time with an AR-15 killed two dozen children and their teachers. And on and on it goes.

Time after time, our attention is grabbed, our outrage is fired, our social media explodes in pain and demands that we DO SOMETHING. Even though mass killings like this represent a tiny percentage of our gun violence crisis, and killings with rifles represents a tiny fraction of that tiny fraction, these are the events we care about. Not, apparently the hundred thousand people who are shot every year, or the million other lives affected or ruined. Just these black swan slaughters.

OK then. If that's who we are, so be it. Given this bizarre condition, we will eventually succeed in regulating firearms in the US, in line with all other developed countries. But only if we have enough of these horrific mass slaughters. Only if a thousand or so people are killed in a concentrated series of these highly unusual murders. We apparently desperately need MORE mass killings, more of them more often. Because it certainly appears to be the only hope we have of saving tens of thousands of American lives every year, and reducing the associated social and economic costs. The only way to reign in the ludicrous availability of deadly handguns in America. The only way to get hundreds of millions of guns out of circulation, increasing scarcity and driving up costs.

It shouldn't be this way. But these heavily armed mass killers of unarmed children, these twisted madmen who leave lakes and rivers of blood in a brief burst of fire and hate, these butchers may be our last, best hope for sanity. In an odd twist that indicates just how insane the gun problem in America has become, if we are ever to succeed in getting our gun crisis under control, these odious, damaged mass killers will be the heroes that made it possible.