Since the murders at Pulse in Orlando, we’ve been having the same debate we always have after a big mass shooting. We’ve had 176 mass shootings just this year, more than there have been days in the year. A mass shooting is defined as a shooting with four or more victims injured or killed. The vast majority go unnoticed. We don’t have the bandwidth to absorb them all. If you want to get our attention you need at least four dead, not just injured. And it really helps if you happen to be a Muslim. Of course, the vast majority of these shootings don’t involve Muslims, but if they do involve Muslims, they’re really scary for some reason.
So to the debate. The left wants to ban guns. If we can’t ban all guns, then at least assault weapons. If we can’t ban any guns, then at least keep them out of the hands of certain people. The right says the problem isn’t guns. The problem is Muslims. We need to ban Muslims. If we can’t kick them out, then at least don’t let any more in. If we can’t stop them from coming in, at least watch all of them. And, while we’re at it, let’s kill all those ISIS and Al Qaeda people over there so they can’t come here or inspire anyone here.
What both sides are trying to achieve is certainty. Both want to make sure this “never happens again”. After having seen this debate 15 times now just during the Obama administration (7-½ years), I know how this story ends. The right points out that we will never stop all murders by controlling guns. Just yesterday a Muslim killed two people in France, including a cop. If we ban AR-15s, the black market will keep them on the street for years. In fact their sales have already skyrocketed, just as they do after every mass murder involving a Muslim. And if the shooter didn’t have an AR-15, he could have used a pistol. Yes, less people would have died, but there would still be people dead. The left points out that we can’t fight over a billion people at one time and not all, or even most, Muslims are our enemy. They point out that the shooter in this case is as American as any of us since he was born here. They point out that not only can we not kill every single ISIS leader or fighter, in the process of trying we would kill thousands of innocents helping them recruit and guaranteeing more homegrown nuts here.
What we have in common is we want to make sure nothing bad happens. If we just stop people from having guns, we’ll be OK says the left. If we just arm everybody, we’ll be OK says the right. What both sides fail to see is we are chasing the impossible. No matter what we do, bad things will happen. I have a friend whose son right now is suffering from generalized anxiety. He just has a feeling “something bad” is going to happen. He doesn’t know what or where or when, he just has this feeling. He’s looking for certainty. I can so identify with this. This was me. And I don’t feel I’m betraying a confidence here, because it’s not just one friend, I have more than one with kids feeling this. The more intelligent you are, the more sensitive you are, the more you not only feel this, you know it.
The media stokes our fears, then tries to sell us the solution. Religion does the same thing. Just watch the teases for the 11 o’clock news. Every night they report on some common item in your kitchen that is going to kill you. Or it’s some scam that is going to take all of your money. The insurance companies put a new fear into your head every day. There is always some new threat you’re not covered for and they have just the right policy to “protect” you. The message is always “This world is a dangerous place, but there is a solution and here it is.”
I hate to say it, but the world is a dangerous place. They are right about that. No matter what you do, something sometime is going to go wrong. And if you live long enough it’s going to be major. I was arrogant enough to think that really bad things only happened to other people. They got cancer. They had fatal auto accidents. I had two healthy girls and I did everything possible to keep them safe. What a lesson I learned.
This is my first time being engaged in this debate since Shayna passed. I have a whole new perspective. I’m not reckless. I know we can and should mitigate risk. But more importantly I’ve learned that we cannot eliminate risk and any attempt to do so is an exercise in futility. Ban all the guns. People will murder each other with sticks if necessary. There’d be a lot less deaths, but we would still have them. Shut the borders. Haters are still going to find a way and homegrown haters will be even more motivated. I’m engaged in the debate, I can’t help but be, but I’m much more detached from the outcome. First I know no one really wants to do what is necessary to really make a serious sent in that problem. If that wasn’t obvious before, it became obvious when we did nothing after dozens of children were murderered at Sandy Hook. Of course that was just a regular white guy, not a Muslim. Second, I know that the best solutions won’t keep us completely safe. I have friends on the right trying to convince me that people in the club should have been carrying pistols at least. One even proposed if there had been someone (else) with an AR-15, things would have been different. There are people,in America, who live as if they are in a war zone. They will not leave their houses without their guns. “If I had been there with my concealed carry weapon, I would have stopped that guy.”. No you wouldn’t have. No you couldn’t have. That will never be me. Never. If the day comes I need a gun to go dancing or to the grocery store, I’m out of here.
To retain our sanity, to have any peace, we must face the world the way it is. And one of the guarantees about this place is uncertainty. It’s one of the very few. Chasing certainty is an exercise in frustration and is guaranteed to end in disappointment. Enjoy the day, enjoy what you have because it could literally be taken from you at any moment whether you’re packing or not and whether you’ve stopped that other guy from packing or not.