Yet Another Post on Gun Violence

Today was another day when I woke up to discover Americans had been shot.

Yet another day when police SWAT teams in army regalia were swarming American streets.

Yet another day when news outlets posted videos and pictures from witnesses, words from good Samaritans giving first aid and comfort to the wounded as they bled.

And so, as always, we’ll wait for the response.

And as always, we’ll be told by lawmakers that all Americans have the right to own guns, even suspected terrorists of any color. Even those who have expressed a desire to kill. They all have a right to carry a loaded weapon virtually anywhere.

Because at some point in the past, that became the American way.

I really, really want someone to re-evaluate what the American way is. Somehow, I don’t think this was the idea when those vaunted Founding Fathers carved out our democracy.

Somehow I don’t think they thought, we really ought to make sure everyone in the country has an insanely powerful gun, even if they have a grudge against our government, even if they have a history of violent behavior. Because that’s only fair.

Dear infinite, unknowable God, please please please do something. It’s apparent that no one on Earth has the power to stand up and do the right thing.

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The Good Guy with a Gun Myth, Debunked

Hey, Fickle Readers! I don’t normally like posting a lot of video clips. There are plenty of web sites that used to be actual news outlets until at some point they decided it was much easier to slap together a bunch of clips of Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore. (I’m looking at you, Salon.) But this segment of the Daily Show is really worth watching. In it, Jordan Klepper shows how completely impossible it is for the casual, well-intentioned gun owner to stop an active shooter.

While you’re watching this, remember: video clips and arguments may not change minds, but the goal of representative democracy is only to change POLICY. Get lawmakers to do what you want, and if they ignore you, send their asses home.

No More Prayers. Action.

Today, I posted my reaction to what I thought was the latest mass shooting in the U.S. Later, I found out that two other mass shootings had taken place today: one in Savannah, where a gunman killed one woman and injured three men; the other, which happened practically as I was typing my fantasy of flaying the last shooter, in San Bernardino, California, where a small group of gunmen killed 14 people and injured as many as 17 others in a facility for people with developmental disabilities. This afternoon, there was also another shooting at a women’s clinic in Houston, although reports are murky as to whether the person shot and killed was a victim or suspect, or if the shooting was directly connected with a political agenda.

At some point I remember blogging (or possibly thinking about blogging) that if I tried to keep up with all the gun violence that happens in this country I’d spend all my time writing about it. Turns out my prediction was a lot more accurate than even I could have imagined.

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here in my little corner of the Internets. But I’m going to say this anyway: this has got to stop.

Guns are not technogadgets. Guns are not fashion statements. They’re weapons. And our country is not a firing range or a real-life movie set. Civilization isn’t sustainable if every ten minutes there’s some disgruntled individual out there preparing to open fire on a supermarket or a bank or a strip mall. Nor can we have a functioning society if we let everyone with a trigger finger have a gun. Too many guns means too many opportunities to use them. I think the well-publicized fact that there have been more mass shootings than days in the year this year bears that out.

I’m sure many of you Fickle Readers out there know of Chekhov’s gun, the rule of writing that says if you introduce a gun in a play, you’d better be prepared to fire it before the play is over. Well, now we’re discovering that if you allow unfettered access to guns that people will find occasion to fire them. Even if they don’t start out as “bad guys with guns,” they often wind up that way.

Remember Steven Jones, the Northern Arizona University freshman who killed one fellow student and wounded three others in an early morning fight? Jones was reportedly very familiar with guns and was even a certified safety instructor. Now he’s murderer, and even though he’s maybe not going to jail for the rest of his life because he’s young and white and grew up in a nice neighborhood, he’s still going to have a criminal record for gun violence following him for the rest of his life. Because of something he did at age 18.

You know who else is going to have gun violence following him for the rest of his life? Laquan McDonald. And Tamir Rice. And Trayvon Martin. And Michael Brown. That’s because all these people are dead because of guns. Or, more accurately, because “good guys with guns” decided to reach for a gun instead of a phone or a pair of handcuffs–or instead of maybe just trying to communicate with words. The good guys felt threatened, and a gun was within easy reach.

I could go on about suicides and murder rates, both of which go way up when guns are present. I think I’ve made my point, though. The way things are is unacceptable. The golden age of guns, guns guns! has to end. Now.

[UPDATED] Gun Violence Today: This Is What You Get When You Let the Kids Run the Candy Store

UPDATE: In case anyone’s interested, the Washington Post now has an article on the Michigan Home Depot shooter, who has yet to be charged. Officials haven’t disclosed her identity, either. (Twenty bucks says she’s white. If she isn’t–if she has brown skin or is of any ethnicity other than Caucasian–I want to be the first on record to applaud the Auburn Hills PD for their restraint. In some places here in the U.S., had a brown-skinned woman opened fire in a public area, she’d probably have a bashed-in face from being forced to the pavement, whether or not she was “cooperating fully with the investigation.” In some places here in the U.S., such a shooter would be dead.)

For what it’s worth, I’ve had a really hard time talking about the latest shootings in Oregon. I feel like at this point, half my life would be taken up with writing about the latest gun-related deaths, and how needless they all were, and how fueled by entitlement, paranoia, and madness. Hell, I’m starting to feel like I don’t even need to post links to any specific articles anymore. We all know this shit is wrong. We all know our country has a problem, even though some of us aren’t willing to admit it.

But this story out of Auburn Hills, Michigan, really takes the cake. It seems that a 47-year-old woman, who HAS a permit to carry concealed weapons, decided she’d help out a Home Depot by shooting at a pair of fleeing shoplifters in the parking lot. Yes, you read that right. No this wasn’t some late-night fiasco. This happened in broad daylight, in the afternoon, while there were many other shoppers in the area.

Scott Eric Kaufman gets props–if he really wants them–for titling his article for Salon.com : “Good woman with a gun shoots up Home Depot parking lot trying to take down suspected shoplifters.”

And the SERIOUSLY depressing thing about this whole story is not that U.S. citizens seem to think it’s okay to treat all public places in the country as Wild West shoot-em-up zones. Nor is it the fact that someone actually thought it was acceptable to use deadly force to bring down a suspect or two in a space where many innocent bystanders could have been killed.

No, the truly upsetting little detail about this story is that the local authorities DON’T KNOW IF THEY’RE GOING TO CHARGE THE SHOOTER WITH ANYTHING. Because, you see, the woman didn’t hit anyone. She took out one of the tires on the fleeing car. The shoplifters still got away, but she maybe seemed like she knew what she was doing, maybe? She didn’t cause any injury, so the police are going to give her her own deputy star?

Do I really have to say this? Okay, but I’m not going to say it in giant capital letters…

What the fuck, America?

More to the point, what the fuck, Michigan? Do you really want random individuals with concealed weapons and law-and-order fantasies to pull out their pistols when the situation merely suggests that something dangerous is going on? Or have you been so beaten down by the NRA that you’re afraid to make one little peep that might be construed as a knock against the sanctity of guns?

Does it make a difference that this woman doesn’t seem to have had the slightest fucking CLUE about how GENUINE law enforcement officials judge whether or not they can get a clear shot? Does this woman understand that she could have KILLED SOMEONE JUST SO SHE COULD BE THE GOOD GUY WITH A GUN?

Yeah, I lied. I did use capital letters after all. But all of these situations, where masses of people are getting shot at on a daily basis, is so blatantly unacceptable that I personally don’t know how I can discuss the matter without letting out some of the inchoate rage that I feel about the subject.

Let me be Mother Fickle for a moment. Guns are not toys. Guns are not fashion accessories. Nor are they acceptable conveyances for expressing your own private outrage of the moment.

The “good guy with a gun” image is just that–an image. As in, exists in people’s imaginations. Good guys with guns don’t stop crimes in real life. And some people even start out as good guys with guns (ie, gun enthusiasts, men and women who legally purchase weapons) and wind up as bad guys with guns (murderers or murder-suicide perpetrators).

Seriously, folks. This isn’t about denying anyone’s theoretical rights, or quashing anyone’s ego, or attacking anyone personally. This is about safety and common sense.

We need to stop screaming at each other and start getting things done. Start talking to each other like adults. Start acting like parents and not children.

Seriously. Didn’t parents use to be in charge of the country back in the day?

 

Reading Elliot Rodger, Part 4: A Plea to Responsible Gun Owners

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.

Please help.

Reading Elliot Rodger, Part 2: Memoir and the Credibility Problem

I feel like crap today.  Not just because I’m getting the rancid cold that’s been festering in my house for weeks.  No, it’s because there’s been yet another mass shooting, this time at Seattle Pacific University.  You readers out there probably know all the details by now.  The basic story is the same.  Yesterday afternoon, I was wondering if writing about Elliot Rodger, trying to dig through his psyche and look at our responses to his words, was really a worthwhile thing.  But here we are again.  Seriously, folks, we need to talk about gun violence every damn day.  Otherwise, the dead bodies are just gonna keep piling up, and I really don’t relish the thought of my country turning into an apocalyptic war zone over something as stupid as Wayne LaPierre and his cronies.

On to the topic at hand:

Another thing that really bugs me about the Elliot Rodger “Manifesto” (and I’m always going to put that term in quotes when I talk about Rodger’s long written goodbye; see Part 1 from yesterday) is that for the first week or so after the Isla Vista murders, news outlets all over the Internet were citing him at length for every question anyone might have had about the event.  Why did he do what he did?  Well, it says right there in black and white: girls wouldn’t sleep with him.  How did he pull off such an awful crime?  Here’s a handy timeline.  Why did he really do it?  There are more answers out there than you’d ever have time to read.  He was a misogynist!  A racist!  An elitist! Mentally ill!  Autistic!  (Except maybe not.)  He was a self-hating bi-racial man!  He might have been gay!  He was trying to gain respect from white men!  He was immersed in nerd culture!  I mean Hollywood culture!  And on and on.  Many of these articles quote huge chunks of Rodger’s document as evidence on What Actually Happened and Why, but very few have added any caveats that a) Rodger may not be a reliable source, and b) even if Rodger didn’t purposefully lie about anything, the memories he relates are all going to be colored by his final frame of mind.  (A notable exception is this recent NYT article, which states, “The obsessively detailed self-published account of his life inevitably raises questions of how much was real and how much was hopelessly distorted by the filter of illness.”)  One of the big problems with memoir as a genre is that memory is far more fragile and susceptible to revision than people want to acknowledge.  Literature and writing students all over the country grapple with the problem of uncovering the past using the faulty equipment of the human mind.  These days, memoirists often explore how “my truth” and other kinds of truth interact, how close subjective versions of reality come to actual reality or if there’s an actual reality out there to be found.  But for the most part, the genre of memoir puts its author in a position of authority because memoir requires a first-hand witness to piece together an event or historical period.  This is the way things went down, says the memoir writer.  I know because I was there.

I’m happy to see that a day after I wrote my post criticizing the media’s use of the word “manifesto” to refer to Rodger’s writing, the LA Times posted an op-ed by Matthew Fleischer calling Rodger’s work a memoir and pointing out the importance of reading it.  Clearly, great minds think alike.  Others, however, were out there, too, using the memoir label for Rodger’s work; the first writer on the ball seems to have been Dennis Lynch of the International Business Times, although Lynch calls Rodger’s document a “memoir-manifesto” and doesn’t say anything about the reliability of Rodger’s perspective.  (I should say, too, that I haven’t taken in much of the TV coverage of the shootings, so I can’t vouch for whether, in the constant chatter of the 24-hour news cycle, anyone bothered to mention the issue of Rodger’s credibility.  I’m a cynic, so I’m guessing not.)  I’m concerned, though, that even if we start changing our language–saying “memoir” instead of “manifesto”–without an awareness of the memoir’s conventions and failings, we’re still going to place too much importance on the story itself and continue to ignore the issues that might lurk beneath it.

Let’s look at Fleischer’s op-ed, for example.  Fleischer writes about how his opinion of Rodger changed once he’d read Rodger’s narrative:

The language is clear and precise, the misery palpable. Rodger was no crank philosopher. Instead, he was a memoirist, able to describe the details of his sad, lonely world with surprising candor. In the process, his story touches on almost every corner of American society — race, class, gender, divorce, sex, bullying, entitlement and empty materialism.

Fleischer doesn’t downplay the many noxious attitudes and beliefs that others have criticized Rodger for.  The commentator does, however, point out that picking and choosing excerpts from a 137-page text gives a fairly lopsided view of what Rodger’s experience was.  Fleischer observes that Rodger’s “racial contempt is thinly veiled posturing to cover up the self-loathing of his own ethnic identity.”  He was (and here Fleischer uses the killer’s own words) “half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with…. I had to make every effort to rectify this. I had to adapt.”  Rodger, says Fleischer, was bullied “on a regular basis,” got picked on when he and his mother lived in an apartment (instead of a house, that is), and “rarely, if ever, had a social interaction that wasn’t facilitated by his parents.”

All of these observations are true, according to Rodger’s story.  Yet, just as cherry-picking inflammatory comments doesn’t sum up Rodger’s entire perspective, uncritically repeating the tale of his “sad, lonely world” doesn’t take into account the many ways that this story, written by someone who calls himself “a good liar,” manipulates the reader into sympathizing with him.  I have no doubt that Rodger was the victim of bullying, but the fact that in the 12 pages that cover the time period (eighth, ninth, and the beginning of tenth grade) that he says he was bullied, he devotes only 13 paragraphs–about a page and a half–to bullying.  The incidents of bullying, mainly name-calling and shoving, are vaguely described, unlike, say, his anecdotes about playing World of Warcraft with friends (and yes, he did have friends) at a favorite cybercafe or the horrors of going on an eight-week vacation to Morocco with his stepmother and a “whelping baby” (his new half-brother, Jazz).  He specifically says, near the end of eighth grade, that one of the reasons he was bullied was because he was picking fights with other kids.  Why?  To get attention, and because “it felt good to be confident enough to pick fights with the popular kids.”  Unlike some bullying victims, his parents were sensitive to the treatment he was receiving from his peers at school, and when he spent a terrible first week at a public school in tenth grade they immediately withdrew him and sent him somewhere else.  Also, the incident Rodger claims as “the worst” of when he was bullied?  Listening to a recording of a boy having sex with his girlfriend after Rodger himself questioned the boy’s claims that he was sexually active.  (Unlike the rest of his torment by his peers, this moment is described in minute detail.)

So what does this tell us?  To me, it says that maybe the bullying wasn’t as significant a part of his life as he says it was.  I was the target of bullies for a long time in grade school, and I know how painful and damaging the experience can be, even when you’re not being physically abused or assaulted by bullies (and there are many stories out there of people who suffered physical scars from bullying along with emotional ones).  True, Rodger could just be omitting parts of his story that he found embarrassing or believed would demean him.  But if that’s true, what else might he have omitted?  Could he have left certain events out of his story because they didn’t make him seem like a poor, defenseless creature, utterly devoid of blame?  And why, when he states that he had food dumped on him on the first day of ninth grade and later had to wait till the halls were clear so he could walk to class without being harassed–why does he feel that the worst thing a bully ever did to him was force him to listen to teens having (real or simulated) sex?  To me, that right there suggests that Rodger’s biggest problem with his peers had to do with his aversion to sex and women, and that the rest of the bullying stuff was thrown in because people naturally feel sorry for bullying targets, and he wanted his story to garner him as much sympathy as he could get.

Other parts of his narrative are starting to look a bit more questionable, or at least more complicated, now that family, friends, schoolteachers, and others in the Isla Vista community have begun speaking to the press.  This week, a New York Times article discusses the difficulties Rodger had connecting with people, his parents’ struggles to help him, and his problem behavior (panic attacks, lack of communication) at school and in friends’ homes.  In an interview with ABC, Chris Rugg, one of Rodger’s roommates says that Rodger would regularly avoid conversations and turn down invitations to go out.  Yet Rodger says of his time in college, “I was always an outcast, even among people I knew.”  During the year he lived with Rugg, Rodger’s opinion of his roommates is clear: “Of course, I had no desire to be friends with them, because they had absolutely nothing to offer.”

The bottom line here is that, just as we don’t want to portray Rodger as some monstrous, hyper-political manifesto writer, we also don’t want to romanticize him as a long-suffering, helpless memoirist who could only make the world understand the extent of his emotional damage through his writing.  Both of these representations of Rodger distract us from trying to approach the messy reality of his life, and ironically both play into the self-image he tried to project. He strove to appear as a god-like bogeyman, so people would tremble in fear of him.  At the same time, he wanted to be a victim, so no one would blame him or hold him accountable for the problems he created.  I don’t like the feeling that Elliot Rodger is playing us, playing me, the same way he played everyone around him throughout his life.  I want to pick away at the myth he built, so we can all see who the little boy was under the monster mask and stop him from terrorizing us one second more.

Coming soon: Let’s find out who you REALLY are…

Dear God: Please Let California Start the Cascade

My God is the God of Stories.  That may sound blasphemous, or snarky, or stupid, but I assure you it’s not.  Stories are vastly important to human lives.  Stories take raw experience and reveal patterns, form meaning, and communicate realities across wide cultural landscapes, even when the receivers aren’t equipped to understand everything that’s being conveyed.  (The plural, stories, is important, too.  In the same way that there’s never just one teller, there can never be just one Story.)  And I’m not talking only about fictional stories–fairy tales and myths and novels and the like.  We’re always making so-called “real life” into some sort of narrative, be it political or religious or cultural.  We not only want to know what happened at any given historical point in time, we want the background and the fallout, too.  We want our stories whole.

That said, I’d like to make a personal plea to the God of Stories to start sending those of us here in the States some better endings to our narratives about gun violence.  Seriously, God of Stories.  Stronger, more meaningful endings.  We need them desperately, and we need them now.

Here’s a story I only found out about last winter, when a Canadian friend posted a remembrance on his Facebook feed.  Yes, I know, the link is for a Wikipedia entry, and yes, I also know that Wikipedia is not exactly a fount of unfailing accuracy.  Still, at this point in its life cycle, Wikipedia has gotten reliable enough that if you want a quick snapshot of some thing or person or event, you can skim over the Wikipedia entry and then find links to more reputable sources where the anonymous Wikieditors researched (or, in many cases, lifted) their material.  Also, on the Internet, if you’re searching the real world for narrative structure, Wikipedia can’t be beat.  Have a look at the first three paragraphs on the Montreal Massacre (the story at the link) and notice how much information you get on the subject, particularly if you’ve not up on your Canadian history.  I’ll paraphrase here:

On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine walked onto the campus of the École Polytechnique in Montreal and, with a legally purchased semi-automatic rifle, entered an engineering classroom, separated the men and women, and proceeded to shoot the group of women, nine in all.  He then left the classroom and shot four men and 15 more women until he shot and killed himself.  Throughout the rampage and in his suicide note, he presented himself as an anti-feminist crusader and claimed that feminists “ruined his life.” Fourteen died at Lepine’s hands, all of them women.  After the attack, many Canadians argued about the true meaning of the incident and why it had occurred.  In addition (according to Wikipedia), “the incident led to more stringent gun control laws in Canada.”

Nicely crafted, isn’t it?  The narrative, I mean.  Madman hates women and wants to kill them.  Madman goes to a university and kills and injures over two dozen people with a legally purchased gun.  The horror of the event leads the country’s lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws.  A beginning, middle, and–most importantly–a solid, sober, meaningful end.

Now, on to the content of the story.  For those of you who live in the U.S.: does anything about this narrative strike you as familiar?  Maybe it’s the fact that this past week, a woman-hating madman with a legally purchased gun (oops, no–he had three) went to an area near UC Santa Barbara and shot 16 people before he killed himself.  Maybe the separation of males and females in a classroom reminds you of what Wikipedia calls the Amish School Shooting, when a truck driver named Charles Roberts walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse, dismissed the boys and adults, including a pregnant woman, and tied up and shot the remaining ten girls, aged 6 to 13, before shooting himself.  Maybe the description of Lepine’s legally acquired semi-automatic weapon reminds you of the shootings at Sandy Hook, where in December 2012 Adam Lanza took his mother’s legally acquired semi-automatic Bushmaster to a local elementary school and killed 20 children and 6 adults (all women, and not including his mother, whom he shot before he left home) before shooting himself in the head with a legally owned semi-automatic pistol.

Maybe, however, you’re like me and you get stuck on that first sentence in the third paragraph that someone on Wikipedia wrote about the Montreal Massacre: “The incident led to more stringent gun control laws in Canada.”

So far, nothing like this statement has been added to any of the Wikipedia entries describing any recent mass shooting in the U.S.  Yes, there have been changes in the law, the most notable being those enacted after Seung-Hui Cho shot a total of 49 people on Virginia Tech’s campus. (Note, however, this Washington post article, which states that since the shootings “it is gun rights, not gun restrictions, that have grown stronger” in Virginia.)  Other tweaks took place in Connecticut and a few other states after Sandy Hook (again, see the WP article).  In Pennsylvania, the Amish were apparently so forgiving of the shooter and his family that their amazing act of kindness rendered any new gun regulations unnecessary (or, at least, that’s how the Wikipedia entry makes it seem).  But nothing on the scale of the 1995 Firearms Act in Canada has occurred in response to any of the recent gun massacres in the U.S.

Notice that I’ve only mentioned four U.S. gun massacres, three of which aren’t even called “massacres” on Wikipedia (they’re “shootings” or “killings” instead).  Notice that I haven’t yet brought up Aurora, Colorado.  Or Columbine. Or the two separate shootings at Fort Hood.  Wikipedia even observes that the “Amish school shooting” in Nickel Mines “was the third school shooting in the United States in less than a week, the others being the Platte Canyon High School shooting on September 27, 2006 and Weston High School shooting on September 29.” Who even remembers Platte Canyon or Weston High, apart from the victims and their families?  (Actually, I remember Platte Canyon, although not by name.  It was a case of another woman-hating madman going into a classroom and separating out the female students from the male.  Only one of the female students was shot and killed; the rest were raped by the gunman.)  Do I have to count up the number of dead and injured in these mass shootings and ask why 28 Canadian women and men are worth more reasonable limits on the sale and use of guns than all the U.S. victims put together?  Do I have to start counting up all the “small” gun massacres, where one or two or three are killed, and wonder why no action has been taken to prevent other deaths like theirs, which were just as painful and just as senseless?

You may be thinking that I’m one of these “wacko gun control nuts” who has no respect for responsible, law-abiding gun owners.  Bullshit.  Growing up, I spent every Sunday in my mother’s hometown in the mountains, a town full of hunters and other responsible gun owners.  My cousin is a state policeman.  My grandfather was a hunter and a World War II veteran.  If you think I don’t know and respect responsible gun owners, you’re effectively spitting on the memory of my grandfather, one of the kindest, bravest, and most generous men who was ever, even briefly, a part of my life.  So no, I don’t disrespect responsible gun owners or, for that matter, responsible gun ownership.  But I also believe that the vast majority of responsible gun owners in this country favor responsible gun legislation.  The only people who oppose it, really, are the NRA and their cohort of gun manufacturers (some of which are foreign, or so I’ve heard) who prey on the paranoia of a small group of people so that they can continue to collect money from unfettered gun buying.

The NRA wants you to think the story of their “gun rights” crusade is all about patriotism.  Nope.  It’s about money–your money being funneled into their pockets.

So my prayer to the God of Stories is that California and the tragedy in Isla Vista will finally begin the country’s move toward responsible gun laws.  Since the U.S. Congress is basically useless, I figure changes in gun legislation will have to happen the way the fight for gay marriage has unfolded, state by state.  I’m thinking that an ugly, misogyny-fueled mass murder will carry some weight, especially in a state like California, which almost certainly has the appropriate density of the wealthy and the progressive.  The words of Chris Martinez’s father, Richard, who said of the NRA, “They talk about their rights.  What about Chris’s right to live?” will surely resonate and will prove difficult for the NRA to spin.

Surely.  Certainly.  Finally.  To put it bluntly, God of Stories, I’ve got the ending for this tragedy worked out for you.  The details are all there.  Please, please, please, this time just run with it.