Maybe I’m just a crude little man. After 9/11, when people talked about the tragedy to the families of victims, I always thought, “I’m sure glad my mother wasn’t killed by a drunk driver on that day.” Death is death, right? If 3000 people die unnecessarily, that is more tragic than one person similarly dying. But no one of those 3000 deaths are more tragic than one single unnecessary death.
So I feel bad that I look at the shooting in Aurora in a purely analytical way. It is a tragedy that 12 people were killed and 59 wounded in a senseless act of violence. It raises important questions for our society about things like mental health and gun availability. But thus far, I don’t see any discussion. I just see people wringing their hands about an event that is, in every way that matters, the same thing we see all the time. Later there will be liberals, afraid to call for gun control, asking if we mightn’t be able to stop the gun show loophole. (Is there still a gun show loophole?) And conservatives will counter, “Tyranny!”
Tonight, one 16 or 17 year old will die in a car crash. Today, two people will die from an accidental gunshot. People die all the time. For stupid reasons. For evil reasons. By saying this I am not suggesting that young men gunning down large numbers of people in public places is not a problem. But I am suggesting that the public hand wringing only serves to justify inaction. I am suggesting that noting that the world would be better off if humans were nicer doesn’t help. I am suggesting issues such as these need constant attention, not intermittent hysterical cries of outrage.
It would be great to do something about all these problems. But as far as I can tell, we can’t do anything about gun violence because gun manufacturers would block it. We can’t do anything about teenage driving fatalities, because car and oil companies want to get the kiddies driving as young as possible. We can’t do anything about global warming because, well, you know.
As long as we live in a corporatocracy, there will be few improvements. What ails us economically is the same thing that ails us culturally. We cannot have economic stimulus for the same reason we must watch our children die in movie theaters and on roadways. Conservatives believe that freedom is the lack of restraints. But when another’s freedom leads to my slavery, something has gone wrong. When one billionaire can spend as much money as he wants on political “speech” (Just like me!), we do not live in a democracy. Freedom is not an absolute; it is a compromise. Ditto for justice. As long as we allow conservatives to continue to claim that what is good for GM is good for me, we are lost.
As for the 71 in Aurora, I’m sorry. Now let’s get to work.
At least vote!
Update (20 July 2012 7:02 pm)
Darcy Burner has an article over at Crooks & Liars called Adult Conversation About Guns. She provides the following list of recent mass shootings, which gets to the heart of my point far more directly:
Update (20 July 2012 9:13 pm)
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is saying what ought to be said. However, I think the issue is bigger than just guns. But it is the main issue. Did I mention that Obama got a rating of F from the Brady Campaign?
Update (21 July 2012 11:04 am)
People saying a lot of smart and important things on Up with Chris Hayes this morning:
 There are three times as many murders committed with handguns than all other guns. There are four times as many murders committed with guns than with knives. Note: knives are far more common than guns.