The other day, our 5-year-old Alex was “racing” another boy on his bike around the pond by our house. Alex is still in training-wheels mode. The other boy, who could ride a two-wheeler, was kicking our boy’s ass all over the place.
Alex wanted to win and didn’t quite understand or like the fact that he was losing. So when the boy passed him, Alex stuck out his finger, pointed it like a gun and “shot” the boy. “Pow pow.” It’s not the first time I’ve seen him do it, and it is kind of funny. And yet, not so much.
He’s a 5-year-old boy and that’s what kids do, but I told him that that’s not something I’m cool with: “We don’t pretend to shoot people…ever.” I consider myself a pretty lenient parent about most things. It’s not uncommon to see Alex eating Cheetos (“cheesy dibbles” as he likes to call them) at 10 in the morning. But I thought I was doing a good job of shielding him from all things guns. He doesn’t watch cartoons with guns or violence, has never seen a superhero in action though he knows who some of them are, and we don’t play cops and robbers like I did as a kid.
So where did he learn that?
This past weekend, Amy and I snuck away for a few hours and saw the movie Trainwreck. Before the movie started, I oh-so-inappropriately whispered, “I hope we don’t get shot.” A few days earlier, John Russell Houser had decided it was his right to stand up in the middle of the movie in Lafayette, Louisiana and shoot a bunch of people, killing two (and himself) and wounding nine more. Houser doesn’t stand alone. A week prior, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five and wounded three in Chattanooga and before that on June 17, Dylan Roof killed nine people in a church in Charleston.
What you may not know because no one talks about it is that Roof’s massacre was the 152nd and Houser’s was the 206th mass shooting this year (now up to 215). HOLY CRAP! (Side note: for the purposes of this post, I’m using the definition of “mass shooting” as four people shot at by an assailant. You should know that the FBI and others often use “mass killings” which is four people killed, so those numbers are lower and acts like Houser’s wouldn’t even be counted.)
So who are these people injured or killed in between the Roof and Houser shootings? And what about the 151 shootings before Roof this year? The victims are most likely to be family members (more than 50% of shootings/killings are family) or to have known their shooter. And about 75% are committed with guns (mostly handguns).
Mass shootings are happening so often that unless they have a hook (e.g. Roof/racism, Abdulazeez/military; possible domestic terrorism, Houser/women inside movie theater), they get nothing more than a passing glance. Think about what we’re saying – we’ve become so accustomed to mass shootings that we don’t even pay attention unless there’s a more interesting ”back story”.
I’m not going to spend your precious minutes on talking about gun control — you can find intelligent articles anywhere on that, no matter which side you’re on. I so so so want to be completely anti-gun, but I always fail my own basic test: if my own family was in peril, literally being attacked, and if I had access to a gun, would I shoot the person attacking them? I know my answer, though that doesn’t mean I’ll ever own a gun.
I am, however, anti-extremes.
It seems to me that we now live in a world where everyone has to pick sides, and increasingly the sides are so far to one extreme. Either you breastfeed or you’ve sentenced your child to a lifetime of sickness and failure; either you believe in the second amendment and the right to bear arms or you’re a traitor. And forget about politics and religion, gay marriage and every other media lightning rod. These days, either you’re rich or you’re poor. The days of having a great life in the middle class do not seem to exist anymore. We’ve become a world of Donald Trumps, Sarah Palins and Kim Kardashians. What happened to the middle?
And that’s what I don’t understand. We’re so focused on the “best” being the best and the “worst” being the worst that we ignore the middle. The middle is where all the good stuff happens. And the middle isn’t the dreaded “average”, it’s just the middle. Ever eat an Oreo? The most important baseball players play up the middle, the quarterback stands in the middle, the Beatles best albums are in the middle, a great marriage lives in the middle. All too often today it’s Stanford or bust, or kids playing one sport until they hate it vs. just having fun…in the middle. Even drinking is great in the middle – too few and your slobbering friends are annoying, too many and you’re puking into a toilet. But in the middle, you’re the life of the party (at least in your head).
So when it comes to these mass shootings, I’m baffled by the fact that they keep happening. How could nothing happen after Newtown, arguably the most gruesome and tragic of them all? Because the fight happens at the extreme and no one moves. How about we start by just trying a few things on both ends. If we agree that innocent people getting killed for no reason is bad (please tell me we agree on that) then why not just try a few things – maybe even just beta test them and be open to getting rid of the changes if they truly don’t work. I can live with that.
Let’s make it harder to walk into a movie theater and kill people. The argument that we can never stop it completely so why try at all doesn’t work for me. But let’s at least make the bad guys (94% of the time they’re men) work a little harder. Maybe too many hoops will discourage them; maybe they will slip up and get caught prior to a massacre. Close the loopholes and create a real national database that works all the time. Try something. Listen to Amy Schumer. Almost anything will be better than seeing one of these occur every day.
Here’s where I would start – right in the middle – no guns allowed for anyone who has ever had a protective order issued against them, convicted of any level of domestic abuse or felony alcohol-related crime like DUI. They already don’t value human life so why give them a better tool to do their damage.
And where did Alex learn to shoot his finger like a gun? From his friends at school.
Photo courtesy of www.92ytribeca.org/comedy