November 1st’s shooting at Los Angeles’ LAX airport was the latest in a series of mass shootings. They’re becoming so frequent that we’ve had to redefine the term “mass shooting” (four or more people need to be shot) and happening so often they’ve become a sort of macabre routine in the news cycle. According to one source, we’ve had 250 in 2013 alone.
As a nation, we are becoming more selfish. I know you thought I was going to say violent. I’m not. I don’t need to say that. Violence in a story about guns is old news by now, the X factor, the thing we don’t need to say because it’s no longer news in a country with nearly weekly stories of a gun rampage. Each time a place is removed from the list of places left in which we feel safe: a mall, a school, an airport, a movie theater, an office building.
I say “selfish,” because in this country, our desire for freedom, for self-sufficiency, for our rights, something we have always paid for in blood, is now being paid for with the blood of our unwilling fellow citizens.
As citizens, we have fear that the government does not care about our rights, that they will put their goals above ours. We fear attacks by criminals. We want to protect our children. I share many of these fears. As a woman, if I get off work late or leave a bar in a dangerous part of town and look across a parking lot to see someone who gives me that “feeling” that makes the hair on the back of my neck rise, in that moment, I’m glad the Second Amendment allows me the freedom, if I so choose, to go through the proper channels and carry a gun for my protection.
We have chosen to put this freedom for ourselves, at all costs, above the freedom of others. If freedom for me denies someone else their right, literally, to live, is it really freedom? Do I deserve that? Is it really all about me?
Many people believe it is. They want theirs, and they don’t care who they have to step on to get it.
Exhibit A: the power of the gun lobby and those who prefer the status quo (weekly deaths) to any inconveniences for them (waiting for a background check to clear before they can purchase a gun).
Congress’ paralysis in the matter of any kind of gun legislation in the wake of the appalling number of mass shootings in the past few years speaks to the power of selfishness. Even simple reforms, such as increased background checks and gun show registrations have failed to achieve any sort of federal traction, due to pressure from interest groups and constituents who will not accept any change to the status quo, which is clearly not working. People are really the problem, they say, guns are not the problem. Fine, do something about the people. Last time I checked, background checks, including mental health checks, were focused on people. There are some exceptions, such as New York State, which has implemented tough reforms at gun shows, as well as other legislation, but they are few.
While we argue, lives continue to be lost. Politicians would rather appease their funders than stand for something tough that saves lives. People would rather have the ease and convenience of now than make any changes to their current lifestyles. Gun legislation does not have to mean the disappearance of guns and the right to carry. What it does have to mean is increased control and responsibility on the part of the American people, who must admit that the world does not revolve around them and their desires.
Elizabeth Backstrom majored in journalism at Western Washington University and currently works as remotely as a grant writer. Her background is in news writing and features, but if an overabundance of caffeine is consumed, she has been known to write a humor piece or two. Backstrom attended various Christian churches growing up in Washington State and in her free time enjoys reading about history, religion and politics.
“Gun legislation does not have to mean the disappearance of guns and the right to carry. What it does have to mean is increased control and responsibility on the part of the American people, who must admit that the world does not revolve around them and their desires.”
How specifically would the issue of gun violence be solved by Americans collectively agreeing the world doesn’t revolve around them? It seems unclear what you mean by that exactly. If it meant everyone said, “Yes, let us give up some of our gun rights to save lives, but keep them legal to carry,” would this somehow reduce the number of people who want to walk into a public space and kill as many people as they encounter?
I do agree that selfishness is an issue, but you don’t seem to take issue with the selfishness of the people carrying out the crimes (or maybe you do but I didn’t pick up on it). You focus on Americans as a whole, and “those who prefer the status quo (weekly deaths)” as if there were people who actually prefer that people are murdered every week, which seems very unclear as well because I am sure you don’t literally believe that. Why would gun rights advocates want innocent people to die by guns every week?
I wonder what is more selfish than feeling justified to gun down innocent strangers before committing suicide. Maybe that should be the focus of our questions. How is it possible for someone to think that?
Perhaps another issue is the advent of the 24 hour news cycle, in which we are fed a constant stream of crises and dilemmas at a feverish rate, creating a sense of near-apocalyptic urgency to all “come together” and solve an issue with a new golden law or piece of legislation. What is the perceived issue? What is the real issue? These are questions no one will probably ever agree on.
I’m offering too many points for one comment and am not looking for a response. The article just raised many more questions in my mind.
Interesting timing Liz. I’m posting an article this week on Dr. Steven Pinker’s upcoming visit to Spokane. He claims we’re living in the most peaceful time in history, even though people seem to think otherwise. Like Brian said, Pinker thinks this is largely due to the media.
I think it’s also pertinent that the places that have the toughest gun control laws already have some of the highest rates of gun violence ( Chicago & Wa D C for example).
I believe a more fundamental factor is FEAR. When I see people – who might otherwise act in a somewhat selfless, communal manner – unwilling to even consider that option because they are too afraid, then I think we have something at work here that is even more basic than selfishness. The media feeds this fear because it drives more viewership which drives better ad rates. And our rising level of isolation from neighbors, friends, and even family members removes traditional assurances of relative safety from our individual lives. Conversely, faith, family, and community reduce levels of fear, which is a prerequisite for people to be willing to set aside their guns.
That’s good, Brian. It was supposed to raise questions. A good opinion piece does.
It is not supposed to provide the answers, it is supposed to start a conversation. However, I’ll address one of your questions – How the issue of gun violence would be solved by Americans agreeing the world does not revolve around them.
First of all, this would not solve gun violence. It would create a more apolitical environment in which conversation could begin, legislation could be passed and progress could be made toward measures that would increase gun safety, and possibly even funding for mental healthcare (which I know is currently unaffordable even for me and I have insurance and a job.) How much less so for someone who does not have either. Please do not tell me that the need for this is not connected to those who choose to commit mass murder. At some point in their journey, they may have wanted to access help, and likely could not. Of course, this is a generalization, but why not make all tools available to folks in need?
There would still be people who would choose to get a gun somehow and attempt to go to public places and shoot others. But I believe with increased protective measures, this would be harder to do. If people were required to keep guns locked securely in their homes, and even wanted to do so, if background checks were required before buying, if guns were harder to trade at gun shows without tracking, they would be harder to get. People would still get them. But it would be a step.
Gun owners who understand their responsibilities with these powerful weapons (and I believe there are many who do) would still be able to own them, and those who don’t would not.
Great point Mark, I believe fear is behind many of our emotions and the driver of many of our actions, including anger and selfishness.
Spoken like a true statist. The author is a fool who would give up her rights in the name of safety for her self and supposedly for others. In the real world statistics and facts are not on her side. She doesn’t even understand how background checks work and how they wouldn’t have solved any of the shootings she refers to. Additionally more people are killed from hands, fists and feet but does she call control over those? Any fool who follows these ideals and what is historically proven as failed ideology deserves everything they get.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin
And yes, having posted that, I realize that John 8:7 applies to me. But seriously, I thought this website was about RESPECTFUL dialogue.
Diane is absolutely right. This website is designed to generate thought-provoking, respectful dialogue. Eric I know you’re new to the site and I’m grateful you joined the conversation but please disagree in a polite way, which means not calling our writer a fool repeatedly.
I welcome that verse. Any movement towards failed ideology is foolish. Many men in history (David, Paul, Jesus) have pointed out foolishness. Standing on the graves of the dead to make a political point and expand the removal of rights based on a false premise is disgraceful. Once you realize who the bully is you will understand.
Eric, while I respectfully disagree with you, I have to thank you for writing. Your post illustrates the point of my story quite well. Cheers!