After hearing president Obama speak on Sunday night, I initially felt very optimistic and moved. He vowed to use his power to make sure these random acts of mass murder like what happened in Newtown CT on Friday never happened again. But then I looked back at other events like when James Brady was shot protecting President Reagan, and the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech. And I remembered all the anger and outrage following those events. Everyone was in an uproar, and wanted change. Yet here we are in 2012, and these senseless acts of violence continue to happen.
Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I don’t think this is an problem that can really be “solved”. There are too many contributing factors. Mental illness, bad parenting, bullying, lack of quality mental health care, and of course this countries fascination and love of guns. I supposed we can chip away and make small strides in each of these areas, but I wonder if we will ever see a day when these violent public outbursts no longer exist. The numbers are staggering. 32,000 US deaths from gun violence in 2011. 32,000 people! To put things in perspective, Madison Square Garden in NYC holds about 18,000 people.
I’m almost 40 years old, and I’ve never fired a gun. Sure I’ve shot toy guns, but never the real thing. I’ve fired virtual weapons in video games, and watched countless people get blown away on TV and movies. Yet I’ve never felt the need to squeeze off real rounds from a real gun. So I wonder what compels people to take things from the fantasy world to reality.
I have friends who don’t let their kids play with toy guns. Max has some Nerf guns that fire foam balls and darts. And he likes to shoot water guns over the summer. So after what happened in Newtown, I started questioning whether what was right or wrong. I played cops and robbers and cowboys and indians when I was kid. And had toy guns growing up, and it didn’t make me want to get a real gun when I was an adult. So again, Im left wondering what causes adults to want real guns.
I suspect that it’s like any other vice. Once you get a taste for it, you are hooked. Eventually shooting a handgun becomes mundane, so you want something bigger, that fires more rounds. There are families, where learning how to shoot is a right of passage. It’s been going on for generations. And most of them will never use the guns against another person. They will likely use it for hunting or target shooting. But there is a small percentage that gets obsessed. They may feel inferior and weak, and the guns becomes the great equalizer for them. It gives them the power and control they crave.
If you look at the people who carry out these horrible acts, they all seem to be outcasts. Teased and mocked for being different. It’s not the homecoming queen or the starting quarterback. It’s the quiet kids who don’t quite fit in. The ones who get ignored, left out and forgotten. So while everyone turns their anger towards the NRA, maybe be need to look at ourselves. Maybe we all need to be a little nicer to one another. Teach our kids that making fun of others is not nice. That being different doesn’t make you a freak. And maybe we should all take a little time from our busy schedules to look in on that “weird” neighbor. Maybe if we did more to make everyone feel included, there wouldn’t have so much jealousy and so much anger inside those who aren’t lucky enough to be part of the group.