Anyone out there who’s been looking at my analysis of Isla Vista murderer Elliot Rodger’s “manifesto” might be saying to themselves, “Hey, what happened to part 3?” Well, here’s the deal: since I started examining Rodger’s writing in the hopes of finding something useful to say about mass shooters, we’ve had three more eruptions of gun violence. Yup, that’s right: three since May 23rd. The latest just happened today, at an Oregon high school. Two were killed: the gunman plus one student. Remember Richard Martinez’s call for “not one more”? We’ve had seven more since then, and that’s just counting the deaths. It hasn’t even been a month since Martinez spoke out.
Typically, the NRA goes silent for a while after a mass shooting, before they come roaring back and claim the answer to gun violence is more guns. At this rate, the NRA won’t be able to trot out a statement at all. What will they do if we keep having a shooting or more per week? Will they call for more guns, even as well-intentioned good guys with guns without crisis training get killed because they bravely try to intervene when a mass murderer shows up?
Right now, I don’t care about Elliot Rodger. I don’t think digging around in Rodger’s psyche is going to help much, beyond showing what narcissism does to insecure egos. (Yeah, that was my minimally knowledgeable bottom line on Rodger. The narcissism underlying his misogyny. Still important, but not so much right now.)
Right now, my prescription for dealing with Rodger and other mass murderers with guns: better gun legislation.
Here’s a little story from my own life:
I spent every Sunday with my mother’s family–my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my aunt and two cousins–in the little mountain village where my mom grew up. Most of the men in town, including my grandfather, were hunters. They owned rifles locked away in gun cabinets. My grandfather was also a World War II vet. He fought in the Pacific and was part of the force that occupied Tokyo after the war. He was also a wonderful, loving, and highly protective father and grandfather. My cousin Jake and I played in his bedroom (Pap was a snorer, so he and my grandmother slept in separate rooms), loved jumping on Pap’s bed, collapsing on it, chasing monsters, and all the other stuff you do when you’re four and your cousin is six.
Pap also slept with a loaded .357 magnum under his pillow. It was to protect his family from intruders. Jake loved to talk about Pap’s gun, and how tough Pap was, and how much damage the gun could do to a bad guy.
One Sunday, Jake and I were rolling around on Pap’s bed. I’m guessing we were playing lava monsters or magic carpet or something like that. I reached under the pillow and felt a hard object with a strange, bumpy surface. I slid it out. I could tell before I had uncovered it completely that I was holding the handle of Pap’s .357, tucked in its leather holster. Immediately, I let go.
After that, there’s a gap in my memory.
What happened next, my mom filled in, much later in my life: she came to check on us kids (age four and six, remember), and found Jake, gun in hand, playing. I was in the room, too. Immediately, my mother made Jake give her the gun, took the gun down to the living room where Pap was reading the newspaper, and told him we were leaving and would never come back until Pap put the gun away for good. Pap was horrified. He teared up, he agreed to lock the gun away. He knew that in an instant, Jake could have been dead. I could have been dead. My mother, his darling baby girl that he’d raised through serious illness, could have been dead. He’d already lost his only son to a childhood accident (not gun-related). Pap barely lived through that loss.
So Pap locked the gun away with the rifles in his cabinet.
My point is this: I know responsible gun owners. I know there is such a thing. I also know that, when the situation warrants it, responsible gun owners put their guns away. Right now, we aren’t just leaving our guns under a pillow. We practically have a Take-a-Gun, Leave-a-Gun tray sitting on our front lawns.
And I have something else to say to all the responsible gun owners out there: it’s not the murderous, women-hating, cop-hating, spree-shooting assholes that are making you look bad. You’re clearly not one of them. It’s the NRA that’s making you look bad. The NRA is friend to no one but gun manufacturers who want to make money. They want to take your money and put it in their pockets. If they have to terrify you into thinking any gun law is going to take away your guns and your constitutional right, so be it. There are ways of enacting gun laws that only hurt the people who are murdering us. You, responsible gun owners, know how to handle guns, know gun safety better than any of us. We need you to contribute to new gun laws in this country so we don’t live our lives waiting for the next mass shooting every week.