After murdering his wife a day earlier, a gunman went on a shooting spree in Northern California, killing at least four more people and wounding as many as 10, some of them children. If not for the quick thinking of officials at a local elementary school – who locked doors to the building and its classrooms moments before Kevin Neal’s arrival – casualties would have been higher. Tuesday’s rampage ended when the shooter, a former Cary resident, was fatally shot by police.
If this feels like a recurring nightmare to you, you’re not alone. But it isn’t just a bad dream. Three of the five most deadly shootings in modern American history have occurred during the past 18 months.
There is a direct correlation between the number of people who perish during an episode of gun violence and the amount of media attention it receives. Yet, despite our obsession with body counts, grief cannot be quantified. Three weeks before our nation’s largest mass shooting in recent history – the Oct. 1 slaughter at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas – 2-year-old Kyree Myers found a loaded gun in his South Carolina home and accidentally shot himself to death. Upon finding his son, his distraught father, Keon Myers, committed suicide with the same weapon.
Each of these tragedies comes laden with a horror unto itself. As do the rest of our country’s gun-related fatalities.
These devastating acts of violence highlight the fragility and unpredictability of the human psyche. If you’re looking for a focal point in our ongoing debate over guns, you won’t do better than that.
Though we’d prefer not to think about it, the truth of the matter is that on any given day of any given year, you or I could be rendered emotionally unstable due to severe trauma, disease, illness, or myriad other life-shattering experiences. Transformations of this magnitude usually happen gradually. At other times, they seemingly happen overnight. Adding a personal firearm to the mix increases the likelihood of additional suffering.
Outlawing all versions of automatic and semi-automatic weapons; keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers; and requiring the licensing and registration of, and comprehensive background checks (flawed as they may be) for every firearm purchase or transfer would certainly help.
But even if we attain such a consensus, it still won’t be possible to predict anyone’s long-term state of mind. The “responsible gun owner” of today is a roll of the dice away from becoming tomorrow’s gruesome headline. No form of legislation – with the exception of banning guns altogether – can ever account for that.
Which leaves us with only one viable option: Take it upon ourselves to restore a greater level of safety in our society. One home at a time.
Should you live in one of the 50 million U.S. households equipped with a firearm, ask yourself the following: “Am I sickened by the carnage wrought upon our communities? Am I at peace with making it easier for my loved ones to commit suicide? How would I feel if the sound in the next room was that of my child accidentally shooting one of their siblings to death?”
If you’ve responded to these questions the way I think you have, then become part of the solution, and do away with your guns.
John Morlino is a former social worker and founder of The ETHIC. He has been researching and writing about gun violence for more than a decade.