As happens in the wake of a tragedy such as the Orlando nightclub shooting, Facebook feeds blow up with opinions from every possible corner of the world. I try to read a lot of them, even if I don’t agree, in an effort to broaden my worldview. The more I do this, the more I realize how many others fail to do the same thing. We are all very comfortable looking at life through the lens convenient to us, but attempting to look through the lens of another? That’s hard work. But it seems like useful work that could solve so very much. So, while I’m not claiming to be an expert or have all the answers (or actually, to have any answers), I felt like sharing some of my observations with you, Dear Journal. At the very least, it will provide me an opportunity to look through a different lens, 10 years from now, and say: What the heck was I thinking?
Let me start by recapping what I know in case my memory fails me 10 years hence. The basic story is that a dude walked into a nightclub in Orlando with an assault-style rifle, opened fire, killed a bunch of people, injured a bunch of others… numbering somewhere around 100. I believe the exact total killed was 49. It is also important to note at this time that the club was frequented mainly by people who self-identify as “queer” or “LGBT.
(Aside: Notice I say “at this time.” I’m hoping that 10 years hence, it may not be so important to note sexual persuasion. Let us recall that there was also a time in our history, Dear Journal, when it was important to note that a place was frequented by “blacks.” I’m happy that in my lifetime that has become much less important, though perhaps not “not important,” yet.)
First, can we agree, Dear Journal, that killing people is bad, period. In fact, killing is pretty bad in general. As in, I’m not a big fan of euthanizing pets. Though, I do eat meat, which involves killing. So, there is some line at which killing becomes acceptable. We must acknowledge that. Like, let’s say, with self defense. And tacos. Both are likely acceptable reasons for a death to occur.
Walking into a nightclub and offing 49 human beings just trying to get their dance on is, very clearly, Crossing The Line. Or, to use the eloquent words of my father in law: “That’s not what you do.”
I want to also note that, at this juncture in American history, I, personally, feel like I want to grab America, collectively, by the shoulders and shout: What the hell? Alternatively, I’d like to grab a rolled-up newspaper, shake it at the universe and say: Stop. Just stop. No. Bad.
All of the clearly across the line killing. All of the mean-spirited name calling instead of rational discourse. All of the dividing between ideological camps. All of the violence. All of the hate. Just stop.
However, you may have noticed, Dear Journal, that my amount of influence on the world is very, very small. I do what I can, but the folks leading the hate parades of the world aren’t peeking at these pages. That, I can pretty much guarantee.
Anyway, dude walks into a nightclub. But wait, some are saying that it must have been multiple people. No way could one guy with a gun, even a big one, do so much damage. It would take a bazillion bullets, right? To this, I will simply offer that, having been to a nightclub or two, it would not be unfathomable for a single bullet, fired from a close enough range, to notch more than a single victim. Firing into a crowd, a shooter would not need to be very precise, nor very well-trained to really rack up the injuries. I believe there is a phrase about shooting fish in a barrel that applies here (not to equate human life with fish, see above about killing. Different lines.) It is an uncomfortable truth that, indeed, such carnage is possible by a solo shooter in the right conditions. (Does that mean it is impossible that there actually were additional shooters? No, but I guess I’m not sure why it matters. Again, see above about killing. Even if this entire thing is some sort of crazy conspiracy, lots of people were killed by a gun or multiple guns. This is becoming more common in our society, and you can’t say every gun-related death is a conspiracy.)
So where does that leave us as a society? What can we possibly do? There are a lot of talk about laws to try to stop such senseless killing. Another uncomfortable truth is this: killers gonna kill. That is to say, criminals do criminal things even though there are clearly laws to try to stop such things. But that doesn’t make laws completely ineffective, either. Like I tried to elucidate above about the moral line of when killing is okay, there are also legal lines for things like killing and guns. Now, it is important to note that the moral line and legal line don’t always line up. Therein lies the problem. In an ideal society, we’d all have the same lines and the laws would match those lines and… utopia.
This is real damn life, though. We all have different lines and different ideas of lines and different thoughts on which lines actually are effective. But, let’s revisit the current fact: it is entirely possible for a single person to legally purchase something that will facilitate killing 49 people in mere minutes. How does one not at least ask: is our currently drawn line sufficient?
Like I said before, I don’t have any answers. There are some good ideas, like trying to classify weapons and limit based on those classifications so that what remains isn’t “too” deadly. Good idea, very difficult in execution. It’s easy to see when things are clearly over the line, but what do you do about things “on the line?” Maybe we should just slightly shift our lines over time until we find what works. Quit swinging the pendulum radically in different directions. But what does that even look like, legally?
We could maybe look into improving safety technology in relation to guns. I mean my phone has cameras and fingerprint scanners and voice recognition and GPS and I’m able to use it pretty effectively. Does any of that translate to solving the whole gun violence problem? What if guns had magic chips that could deactivate them completely in certain areas and there was magically no way to bypass it. Like magical cease fire zones that can be cast over areas where guns are extra dangerous, or private places that don’t want guns, or even initiated by police in such a way that only nonlethal weapons become usable and they have really badass stun rays or something else that sounds like a magical sci-fi concept (Because, you know, sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.) I don’t know.
I do know this, however. Killing a bunch of people primarily because you don’t agree with their lifestyle is clearly beyond any line you should be drawing. It both angers and depresses me. I wish I had a magical newspaper and shaking menacingly could work and afterward we’d all wag our tails and be happy. It won’t, though. This is real damn life.