Apr 21, 2007

Opining on the news

Do I have an opinion about the recent news? About a young man who opens fire and kills 32 other people, and wounds 17? I am asked by Norwegians what it means when Americans go amuck with firearms. What's with Americans and guns?

I cannot answer them. I don't know myself. I was not raised in a gun culture. Quite the contrary: My biological maternal grandfather was shot dead before my mother was born, and my grandma became strongly anti-guns.

I have fired a weapon. I had a friend and a paternal relative who let me try a pistol or two. It left me with a lot of respect for the things - and a huge gratitude that I normally was nowhere near any.

I have no clue what to say about America's gun laws. California is restrictive but has problems with illegal weapons; neighboring Nevada allows carrying concealed weapons and has experienced a drop in the crime rate. I don't like the idea of concealed weapons, but I do like the idea of a lower crime rate. I'm torn. What really bothers me is that handguns really have only one function: To threaten harm or do harm to another human being. It's hard to like something so negative.

I don't know any crazy people, American or Norwegian. I am one of the few people (apparantly) who does not have an alcoholic friend or relative (that I know of, at least). I don't do drugs and nobody I know does them, either. No mental illness or even clinical depression in the family. No jailbirds. And no beliefs about how we need to protect ourselves from some enemy. The people I know don't have any enemies..

I cannot tell you why such shootings happen or how to prevent them. I don't think the insanity behind them is uniquely American. What is uniquely American, is the access to firearms. But I cannot tell you that a tragedy would never have happened if the laws were different: Without firearms, the killer could have built a bomb instead or set a fire. And knowing that fellow students and teachers can be carrying concealed weapons might have been a good deterrent.

But there is another issue, and one that isn't uniquely American: Apparantly nobody noticed the young man, and therefore didn't notice he wasn't functioning well mentally and socially.

UPDATE: Some people have been thinking about the issue. Here is the last installment of a three-part series on how schools can avoid shootings. (Thanks to Beep.)

12 comments:

Paula said...

Nice post. I don't know either. Loads of people THINK they know, but IMO they're just scared and looking to latch onto a reason so they can feel better. My view is that it's totally unpredictable and there's nothing we can do about it. Sure, tell kids to quit bullying, try to pay more attention to troubled peeps, etc., but in the end a free society is not going to be able to stop a determined nutcase from doing harm in some way.

Keera Ann Fox said...

That's just it: We have maladjusted folks everywhere, and no ability to predict which ones will actually be harmful to others - nor can our police stop someone who's merely thinking about trouble. All we can do is try to make it as hard as possible for anyone to kill others.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Oh, and thanks for the compliment. :-)

Webmiztris said...

I don't think it would have changed anything if people had noticed he wasn't functioning mentally or socially. You can't force a person to get help until they do something crazy like this and by then, it's too late anyway.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Good point. All I can say is that he may have been treated differently (and therefore reacted differently) if people were aware he wasn't functioning like them. Starting with his family.

Mark said...

"neighboring Nevada allows carrying concealed weapons and has experienced a drop in the crime rate. I don't like the idea of concealed weapons, but I do like the idea of a lower crime rate. I'm torn."

No conflict from where I sit. There is a direct causality there. Firearms aren't for everyone, but everyone benefits from allowing those of us who choose to to own and carry them.

Israel is a prime example of this as well, which brings me to this:

"What really bothers me is that handguns really have only one function: To threaten harm or do harm to another human being. It's hard to like something so negative."

Not at all true, Keera. Sometimes, handguns are used to save lives. Quite often, in fact.

Keera Ann Fox said...

The only way a handgun saves lives is by stopping someone else with a weapon. But does that mean we shouldn't have handguns? Considering America's 2nd amendment, this jury of 1 is still out on that issue. But I'm not going to pretend that handguns aren't built to kill.

Mark said...

They are built to kill. But that killing is not always a negative thing. Consider this article:

http://www.paulasays.com/articles/on_israel/the_israeli_guard.html

Keera Ann Fox said...

Killing is not always a negative thing. The only killing I condone is the sort that puts meat on the table. Any other kind should be absolutely unnecessary.

Webmiztris said...

i understand mark's point, but I don't want to have to carry a handgun in order to feel safe. no way, no how. I don't even like to see guns.

Keera Ann Fox said...

The problem is not that handguns are meant to kill. The problem is how to handle them under the 2nd amendment. Other nations do not have the firearms nor the death by bullet (murder, suicide, accident) rate that the US has. But stating that handguns save lives works only when there are already other armed and harmful people around, which is not a normal scenario - not even in the US.

And that is the question: Must there really be that many armed (civilian) people in a nation? To me, that describes countries suffering from anarchy or at war, not countries with a well-functioning justice system or at peace. If a country is at war or its people inadequately protected, then arming the populace may be the solution.

What exactly is the US's needs as far as protecting its population and how should those needs be met? (We could get into the Iraq war at this point, but let's not.)

Mark said...

"What exactly is the US's needs as far as protecting its population and how should those needs be met?"

Well, it sure as hell ain't putting it all in the hands of the government.