Gun Crazy

A recent story is worthy of reflection:

ORTERVILLE, Calif. (AP) — The church bell that rings out to announce the deaths of tribal members on the Tule River Indian Reservation tolled repeatedly after a man went on a shooting rampage that left a daughter, his mother and her two brothers dead. The suspect also died in a shootout with police.

The story is doubly disturbing because the man is a member of a native tribe that has been relegated to the wasteland of this country — like so many Native Americans who were chased from their lands. Typically they end up in trailers in the middle of nowhere dependent on gambling casinos to keep body and soul together. And we wonder why they have drinking and drug problems!

But this man shot members of his family for reasons unknown. And this will go down as simply another mindless shooting that might have been prevented if we had tougher gun laws. I say “might have been.” As critics point out, even with tougher gun laws anyone who really wants one could buy it. “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people who kill people.” Yadda, Yadda. We’ve heard it all before and it is still nonsense. Guns make it a heck of a lot easier. With tougher gun laws it might be more difficult to purchase them in the first place, and this would be a step in the right direction.

It was reported recently that seven team members of the Kansas City Chiefs voluntarily turned in their guns after the murder/suicide by Jovan Belcher.  Defenders of the second amendment — which protects our right to bear arms only because there was not supposed to be a standing army — insist that this is “not a gun issue.” They say it is a “mental health issue,” or a “domestic violence” issue. Whatever. It does get tiresome. One of the seven Chiefs players turned in eight guns! Tony Dungy said in response to the report on “Football Night In America” that he once asked a room filled with his players how many of them had guns and 75% of the hands in the room went up. Carrying guns is becoming the norm, apparently, and states like Minnesota where I live now have laws allowing people to carry loaded weapons on their person wherever they go. The rationale is “self-defense,” but the notion that more people carrying loaded guns will lower the likelihood of violence is counter-intuitive.

Hannah Arendt told us years ago that violence is largely a result of frustration. The man in the story above must have been under a mountain of frustration. And it is a growing phenomenon in a country with a rising population where resources and money are becoming scarce — and where we have been told since early childhood that we can do anything we want to do and have anything we want to have. If we combine growing frustration with the ready availability of guns the formula is one for what we loosely call “tragedy.” We can expect more of the same until or unless the Congress has courage enough to take on the N.R.A. and pass tougher gun laws. If you believe that will happen I have some farmland in the Everglades I would like to sell you.