This line from poet Walt Whitman was quoted at a memorial service that I attended yesterday, for Steven Rudd.
But a dozen families in Aurora, CO, are struggling with the deaths of their young family members, and dozens of others in that same town and in Tuscaloosa are struggling with "that could have been me" and "why was I spared?"
Whenever a shooting of this type occurs, it is inevitable that calls for stricter gun control will follow, and it is also a surety that gun ownership advocates will respond by saying that if a person in the theater was "carrying" that the shooter would have been stopped after the first shot or two.
But here is what is really going on. We are a species that thrives on violence. Every species of higher animal (at least the carnivores) thrives (literally) on violence, depending on killing their prey for nutrition.
Humans thrive on violent killing for their nutrition also. Killing, and then eating, an animal, is violent.
We also thrive on control: of lands, of oil, of water rights.
We have an inner need, an instinct, for violence. We try to control it with religion, but history shows us that doesn't work. We try to control it with laws, but there will always be people with a disregard for the law. We try to control it by defining morals, but people rebel against morality.
The first recorded school killing in the United States took place in Pennsylvania at the Pontiac Rebellion School on July 26, 1764 when four Lenape American Indians entered a schoolhouse and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown and nine or ten children (there are varying reports). Three children survived.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and carrying over into this enlightened age school (and workplace, and barroom) shootings have continued.
But this is not the case in other countries. What are the differences? Gun ownership, religion and attitudes are the first things that come to mind.
By far we are the most gun owning country of the modern world. The National Rifle Association has framed the conversation making people (and elected officials) afraid to admit they want more gun control. Polls show about 44% of Americans want stricter gun laws. We claim the Second Amendment is being violated whenever there is a proposal to restrict gun ownership. In recent years, the conversation has been around "assault rifles" like the ones used in Aurora and in Tuscaloosa. At one time there was a ban on the particular weapon used in those shootings. Currently they are legal. Had the ban still been in place, it might have been more difficult or impossible for these shooters to possess the weapons they used for their crimes.
As for religion, history shows us that most wars and much killing has been directly or indirectly related to religious beliefs. The Crusades, Hitler, all the Middle East unrest, the Civil War, the KKK, Eric Rudolph, murders of LGBT people, are all reflective of religion.
And social attitudes in this country allow us to feed on violence. Movies, television shows, and video games all celebrate violence. Prior to the modern age (like when I was a kid), we played army and cops and robbers using toy guns and would "pretend" shoot and kill our best friends during these games.
Of course, we don't all grow up to be mass killers. There is obviously something wrong with an individual who would rig his apartment with explosives, then leave and go to a theater and begin shooting randomly. And no gun control laws are going to stop someone from snapping and carrying out plans that they have (often) documented in notebooks or offered clues about on facebook.
But we do need to have a serious conversation about gun control. A serious conversation involves not being adamant that the Second Amendment means every American has the right to own an assault weapon. And on the other side, a serious conversation means not demanding laws that curtail ownership of guns used for hunting or self defense by responsible citizens.
My input into this conversation is:
- there is no reason for people to own the type of assault weapons used in Aurora and Tuscaloosa.
- there is no reason that guns should not be registered to their owners.
- there is no reason that ammunition should not be registered and identifiable (even after being fired).
- there is no reason a person should be able to walk into a gun show and buy a weapon without a waiting period and check into that buyer's background.
- there is no reason that people should walk around, into businesses and into political rallies, with a weapon on their hip or an assault weapon at their side.
The Tuscaloosa shooter walking the street with the assault weapon he used in the shooting.
I hope that the people of this country will come to their senses and realize that we have a problem, and that in order to address this problem, solutions must be found.
Right now, sensible people are being intimidated by Tea Party members and the NRA.
Gun control/rights needs to be part of the presidential debate. Those who abhor the violent nature of society need to speak up.
It's not too late for the human race to evolve. Or at least act like it has.