Whether you were reading the local or world news, it was a nasty weekend for gun violence.
Most recent was the domestic violence-related shooting at the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, which happened Sunday morning at 1:30AM and left seven people wounded. Backing up ten hours from that point, at least a dozen people were shot during a car show in Kent on Saturday afternoon. And in perhaps the unlikeliest corner of the world to experience gun violence, residents of Oslo experienced a Friday that will surely stain the Norwegian psyche for years to come.
Are you numb, yet?
That sensation could describe the initial reaction of many Americans to these atrocities, especially the one-man jihad in Norway. Violence on this magnitude is difficult to process, despite a decade of combat operations overseas. Though we have spent the ensuing years since 9/11 keeping pace with the high body count resulting from IED attacks, we somehow balance our reaction to these numbers by the locations at which they occur, such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
It does seem reasonable to expect casualties when you send a large number of soldiers and weaponry into a war zone. But this weekend’s violence was clearly different. Instead of Baghdad, Kabul or Kandahar, we read about Auburn, Kent and Oslo.
Unlike the War Against Terror (at least the Islamic fundamenalist version), the shooters in these incidents appeared to be motivated by petty jealousy (domestic violence), a distorted version of respect (gang violence) and fringe politics (let’s call this mental issues). So, either we need to redefine our notions of war, or we need to figure out some way to take guns out of the hands of would-be shooters.
Clearly it’s a little late to redefine war, which Webster describes as “a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations.” Since nations, rebel groups and religious fundamentalists have usurped the term, we are left with the more mundane, but equally complicated word: crime.
Now that the aforementioned incidents have a definition, let’s move onto the answer. Note: if you are holding your breath until I provide you with a plausible remedy for gun violence in our society, then I welcome you to exhale. If you’ll pardon the levity on this most serious of topics, if I knew that answer I would be currently penning my acceptance speech to the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
While the greatest minds struggle with the the infinite realms of space, the building blocks of our bodies’ DNA, and the dilemma of global warming, our society’s version of the common cold–gun crime–remains an unanswered question. That is an answer we must continue to seek.
In the wake of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan we passed the Brady Bill. In the aftermath of 9/11 (not a gun crime, but a security breach nonetheless) we made our airports into a hampster maze. It seems as though we are always reading the words, “in the wake of…” or “in the aftermath…” which describe half-hearted or even futile attempts to shut the door after a shooter has already left the building.
Now that Scandinavia has joined the growing list of countries reeling from gun violence it is time to accept that the plague of gun crime, whether it stems from domestic violence, greed, gang activity or the single-minded actions of a lunatic, is a global problem.
If the answer is out there, we need to do a better job of finding it.