This morning I stopped in the gym to work out for a few minutes on my way to work: a day of teaching trauma therapy. On one of those stepping machines, looked up at the TV to see that the worst mass shooting in recent US history had just happened, at a concert in Las Vegas.
And I didn’t want to know anything.
Was he (yes I assumed he) Jihadist, or White Supremacist, or out to punish “his” woman and her allies? Had he been abused or bullied as a child? Did he recently lose a job or a loved one? What weapons did he use, how did he get them, and were they legal?
By now the details don’t matter.
“Thoughts and prayers” has become a cynical tag line; we know it’s going to happen again and again and again. Nobody needs thoughts and prayers. They need safety.
The “freedom” argument falls flat, because life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness don’t mean much to people being gunned down. Why is someone’s freedom to own an assault weapon more important than some other innocent person's freedom to not be shot? In grade school I was taught that the essence of the American concept of freedom is: “Your right to swing your fist ends where the other guy’s nose begins.” The right to own firearms is clearly not the only right at stake here.
Two years ago, Nicolas Kristof wrote “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.” (rated as True by Politifact). And we’re adding 93 gun deaths per day. Why? I don’t have some brilliant analysis of why we have so many gun murders. What I can say is that this must stop.
There are at least a couple of relatively non-controversial measures that could, if not actually stop it, at least considerably reduce the death toll:
1. Ban the most lethal firearms such as high capacity automatic and semi-automatic weapons. This would reduce the lethality of violent actions.
2. Enforce domestic violence (DV) laws. The majority of mass murderers have a known history of domestic violence offending, and/or target their own intimate partners (or former partners) and associates. DV offenders are not allowed to purchase firearms. But since DV laws are often not enforced, most DV offenders are never convicted, and their access to firearms remains unrestricted.
I’m sure there are plenty of additional good ideas available. After all, other first-world countries manage to have far fewer murders. It is important that we get past thoughts and prayers, to constructive actions.
And why is this posted in a trauma therapy blog? Because us trauma therapists prefer prevention. We have plenty of work already, thank you. What happened in Vegas should not happen again.
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