I wish the FBI had followed up on the warnings that were sent about the young Florida shooter. Those innocent people would be alive today. But that preemptive action doesn’t solve the problem at the root of epidemic gun violence.
Of course we should be talking about mental illness and doing more to understand and to administer healing to the dysfunctions of the human mind. But that won’t solve the problem of epidemic gun violence, either.
Murder may be an act of insanity, but the signs of insanity are not always there. They aren’t even usually there to indicate that extreme. There was no history of mental illness in the Las Vegas shooter. The shooters in Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, even Columbine, were anti-social, angst-ridden teenagers, but until they pulled those triggers they could have been of thousands upon thousands of high school or college kids who say and even do things that only in retrospect tell us what the present does not; that they are about to go insane.
Yes, the shooter in Florida did more than enough to warrant attention from law enforcement, but the FBI alone fields over 20,000 calls a day of such concerns. How wide does the net have to be in order to contain those who are on the brink?
It isn’t possible. And it also doesn’t solve the problem.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is a firearm in the private sector for every single American. Approximately 350 million personal mechanisms by which to inflict fatal injury. Is America that unsafe? Some will say “yes” but many of those same people will call this the greatest nation on Earth. Is it if we need 350 million firearms to be safe?
Many are for hunting, but the majority of those gun owners are among the safest, most proficient users of their instrument. They respect its power and follow safety procedures. They may also consider their gun a part of personal protection, but, again, they are usually the ones exercising the highest level of responsibility and safety.
What puts society at risk is our national obsession with firepower and the easy access we have to weapons that, when in our hands, give us a perceived authority to be jury, judge and executioner; the powerful discretion to decide who lives and who dies.
Assault rifles are as easy to purchase in America as a car battery and when they are sold to feed that obsession, then those who have invisibly slipped beyond rational self-control will emerge with them in their hands- powerful and unforgiving. Years of neglect, abuse, bullying, or whatever their anger stems from, transform into what has become a new mythology; the lone, mass murderer who will be studied and notorious, erasing whatever obscurity had previously afflicted them.
I don’t pretend to know the psychology behind every killer, but I believe that a society that has misplaced its compassion will create criminals. And that is where the solution lies.
It isn’t as simple as necessary gun laws to regulate what hands they fall into, and it isn’t as simple as necessary systems to better identify potential murderers. And it isn’t as simple as saying we need to pay more attention to mental illness. The answer is much deeper and much harder to accomplish. But it too is necessary.
America has become a bastion for anger. Anger has always existed at the same intensity, but today we reflect and replicate that anger at an exponential rate and the differences we possess and the results of those differences travel at light speed.
We have to redirect the course of our society by winning the battles to reduce the inequities. We have to work toward expanding education, feeding the hungry, promoting civil rights and equality, improving immigration policies, creating foreign policy with moral authority, achieving affordable health care, better veteran’s benefits, addressing mental health and giving our senior citizens peace of mind and health by preserving their securities.
The self-evident truths of freedom and equality that lie at the foundation of our Republic are the eloquent and wise afterthoughts that followed our creation. If the origin of America can be defined as any one thing it is the pursuit of a better life. And the religious ideals in our formation compelled our forefathers to construct a government based on a common good.
When our policies define a compassionate nation that puts “others before ourselves” and when they genuinely reflect that we “Love Thy Neighbor” then anger subsides. That is when the epidemic can end.
And, perhaps, our national obsession would become benevolence….and not violence.