Solving problems with guns is in the American psyche

When you are a teenager everything is a crisis, everything is played out as a drama. Fortunately most people grow up, get a little wiser, kind of like “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”, as the song goes (by Bob Dylan).

But a young man at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas played out his teenage drama in deadly fashion on this just-passed May 18, leaving 10 dead and 13 wounded (the latest count).

In recent years high school mass shootings have become a thing, a phenomenon of the times. So much so, it is reported by various publications, that modern highs school students expect it — it’s just a question of when and whether they will be a victim.

That seems absurd and so wrong. Yet collectively we seem to be helpless. We don’t know what to do or how to do it in order to change this.

And there is no easy answer I am sure.

I had thought that banning assault-style rifles and the like would be a good start — and it might. But in this case the shooter used a more ordinary shot-gun and a hand gun. And heck, I suppose one could use a knife on a rampage or other weapon and get almost the same result, depending upon the circumstances — probably would not result in as many casualties.

Even so, it still seems that we should ban assault weapons and have much stricter regulation on all firearms. In this case, the shooter is said to have used guns owned by his father. Should there be strict liability on gun owners? Should there be an age limit on those who purchase, possess, carry, and/or use guns?

We of course have our Second Amendment in the United States, which has been interpreted as giving all the right to possess firearms with few restrictions — but not without restrictions.

The Houston, Texas police chief has been quoted as saying that he has “hit rock bottom” in his frustration with the inaction on gun control. He said in a Tweet that he believes that possessing firearms is not a God-given right.

And then there is the Lt. Governor of Texas who came up with the brilliant notion that the problem at the Santa Fe high school was that there were too many doors (for access I guess) to the high school. For that he was lampooned for calling for “door control” instead of gun control.

But this is not a joke. Stepped-up school security seems as this point the only readily available measure — others will take longer to figure out.

And what was the motive of the shooter? We don’t know (yet).

There are reports both that he was a bully and that he was bullied. I suppose both might be true. If I read it correctly, he pursued a romantic relation with a girl who rebuffed him repeatedly and ultimately embarrassed him in front of a class in order to repel him. She was among his victims.

He is said to have been on a high school football team. It was also reported that one student said he was not very athletic, even so.

Most strikingly he had a Facebook page on which he warned of the carnage to come (at least from what I have read). He also posted photos of various symbols or insignias representing disparate causes, everything from peace to Nazism to communism to anarchism. Even though these various things seem to run counter to each other, I have noticed that among the young and among the ignorant they don’t — and maybe the idea is that they just represent rebellion in general.

As I mentioned at the top, I think almost everyone in his or her life goes through a mixed-up period, usually in the teenage years. Most of us get over it (well maybe not completely), this young man has not.

And finally I offer this about growing up in America in my own life:

— I grew up watching shoot’em-up westerns in the 1950s and early 1960s on TV. The good guy always won out by killing the bad guy or guys with his handy six-shooter or in the case of the Rifleman (Chuck Conners), the apparently 19th Century version of a rapid-fire assault weapon. Those westerns have been replaced by violent action movies with the same basic scenario and modern video games, with death and destruction as the theme.

— While I did not grow up in a hunting family, I had friends who fit into that category. I attended a hunter safety course with one and got my first taste of firing a rifle. And I went on a so-called deer hunting trip with another. Never did see a deer. But we happened upon a squirrel that ran up a tree and an adult deer hunter came along and my friend and him took turns blasting away at the creature. I don’t recall that they hit it. So I got my taste of the gun lover’s life.

— Being a boy I suffered through the age-old rite of being the victim of bullies (being a bully is also an age-old tradition, but little peaceful and weak me could not have done that — could I?). On my first incident of facing a bully in high school I did not fight back, for had I, I am not sure I’d be here today. He was huge, and I so small. As it happened not so long after that the bully drowned in the river. I will not admit here whether I was sad about that — but I should have been. He was a human being with his own problems I am sure. There were other incidents with mixed results, but on two occasions I fought back, survived, and felt better for it. But I’m like the gambler — know when to stand, know when to run (as in the Kenny Rogers hit, written by Don Schlitz).

— And then I will never forget that day in gym class when we were given a presentation by two Army Green Berets just back from Vietnam. They told us all about the joys of killing the enemy and setting up Claymore mines that spew out nails in deadly fashion. I don’t know what my classmates were thinking. I was confused.

— And then I joined the army, but not for the joy of killing. I had other reasons that make no sense now — never did really. I did not go to Vietnam. I went to Germany, where we played war. All the fun without the deadly consequences.

As a nation, guns are in our psyche, you add that to the need to project masculinity (mass shooting seems a male trait so far) and fight off bullies real and imagined and finally you add the possibility of instant worldwide fame via the internet and perhaps you have some of the explanation for this trend in mass shootings.

And I have no easy solution to this madness.

p.s.

Girls of course can be subject to bullying too. And the U.S. is not alone in its appetite for death, but we just happen to have a steady supply of weapons to carry it out.

 

 

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