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Perspective of a Tragedy: Part One

With so many components to consider while absorbing the heartbreaking tragedy last Friday, I had to structure my thoughts into sections; media, gun control, mental illness to name a few. There is a lot to think about and even more to do.

People Kill People, So Why Should It Be

Yes. People do kill people. God doesn’t kill people. Evil doesn’t kill people. Objects don’t kill people. People kill people.

Sometimes it is purposeful. Sometimes it is an unforeseen accident. Sometimes it is neglect. Sometimes the killer is a stable person who snapped under overwhelming distress. Sometimes it is a person who has been ill for a long time and fell through the cracks. Sometimes it is a person who has always had sociopathic tendencies. Sometimes the motivation is rage. Sometimes it is revenge or jealousy or fear or survival.

People do kill people. But it is never that simple.

Knives, fertilizer, cars – we have been reminded over the past few days that there are many ways to end a life. I mean, hell, I could probably kill you with a Care Bear if I really tried. But note that there are other purposes for these items. They are usually not in a person’s possession for the mere function of killing. A .223-caliber Bushmaster with a 30 round magazine has no purpose other than to slaughter. Oh, and perhaps compensate for personal inadequacies.

And it should be known that even though there are several knives in pretty much every American home, there are still more gun fatalities than knife fatalities. Clearly there is more to fear with a gun…and rightly so.

It’s not the gun’s fault!

Don’t blame a machine for a person’s intent!

Save the abused, misunderstood guns (and make sure to watch the telethon)!

Please, people, you really must give it a rest with these absurd tantrums. No one is coming to your home to confiscate your belongings and send them off to inanimate object jail. They will not be put in bright orange holsters and raped in the shower by bigger, meaner guns. Stop the cryin’.

Just because we cannot stop all of the crime, cure all of the illnesses, eliminate all of the “evil”, doesn’t mean we cannot make every damn attempt possible to dilute the frequency and carnage of these crushing tragedies.

Some say there is no point in legal or governmental solutions because there will always be bad guys out there. Well, with that logic then, we should just do away with all laws. Why outlaw rape if people are just going to continue to do it? There will always be drunk drivers; should we make that legal too?

Cars…oops, I mean DRIVERS…still kill people every day. But because of laws, standards and regulations, fatalities have decreased to the lowest number in history since the Department of Transportation started recording in 1950. Many of you are alive today because the government told us we need to be more careful. Those intrusive bastards! Saving lives and all that nonsense – how dare they!

While people do kill people, guns make it far easier, faster and more disastrous. Assault weapons make it an instantaneous bloodbath. So save me your repetitive phrases and your specious comparisons – they are meaningless and insulting.

Media Say Wha…?

We are becoming far too desensitized. And much of that is from our entertainment choices. It used to be that dramatized murder scenes were pushing the envelope. Today, people barely blink when they see a video of a man being beaten to death. Combine this with the internet age with instant communication and we have generations being raised in a cold, un-sympathetic world of disassociation.

When you can break up with your girlfriend via text; when you can hide behind an avatar while you verbally assault a person; when you can learn everything there is to know about someone without ever having to speak to them – you are learning to withdraw from other humans. When you disassociate and when there is no real connection – it is very easy to act without the fear of fallout. Without real life interaction and consequence, you are living in an entirely alternate reality. And maybe it’s easier to shoot a person in that reality.

Does the media sensationalize? Goes without saying. Are they an industry which depends on perpetuating fear? You bet. But they produce based on ratings, traffic and shares.

What have YOU been watching?

Which links have YOU been clicking?

Where has YOUR attention been drawn?

The media and entertainment industries are putting out what the audience is demanding. People are addicted to these stories. Look at Facebook. Check out Twitter. I defy you to find a newsfeed, page or blog with no mention of the shooting. As awful as these stories are – people become obsessed with them. The media is simply feeding us what we are telling them we want to eat.

Granted, we clearly do not act in our own best interests much of the time. We know that saturating our minds with violent words, movie scenes, music lyrics and video games is detrimental. But we still watch, listen and play. And we allow our children to do the same.

Why blame the supplier? I thought we were supposed to leave everything up to personal responsibility. I thought we weren’t supposed to rely on any entity other than ourselves to tell us what to do or how to behave; what to watch or listen or play. So while the media is indeed pretty damn gross and soulless a good portion of the time – can we really point the finger and shame them for not controlling us in a more considerate fashion?

There certainly needs to be a discussion about how the media, entertainment and the internet affect us individually, as families and as a community. We may just need to take action in our own lives to minimize the damage done by these images and technology. We should all find that balance between the benefits and hazards. And maybe if we stop expecting, or even demanding, the most gruesome; if we start getting to know people face to face; if we shut everything off once in a while and defrag our minds, we could possibly start acting like people again.

But do I think media and the internet are to blame for these mass shootings and perpetual violence? No. They may amplify or escalate an already existing problem, but they are not the cause. 

Brian Dey December 20, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Since 1973, there hve been 50 million abortions. Yet somehow if a mother is killing her child, that is because of a right she was given by the government. Of these, only 1% were rape victims, and 3.3% were because of concerns for he mother's health. That means that 95,7% were reasons of convenience to the mother. We must save these innocent lives! I know, we should ban abortion! Those rants are the same rants we here from the left when we talk about firearms. In 2010, 32,885 people died in fatal car vehicle accidents. There are more multiple deaths in SUV's or accidents involving semi's. I know, let's ban SUV's and semi's. Sounds reidiculous? Well that is the argument that you are using to ban firearms. Drivers kill people, not cars. But the logic above says that we should ban cars. I think it isa fair comparison since death is death. As a matter of fact, I think that vehicle deaths are more egregious because there are 4 times as many deaths by vehicles than by guns. While people do kill people, vehicles make it easier, faster and more disastrous. If all this sounds a little sarcastic, but sure makes the above article sound rather silly.
Charles Geyer December 20, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I think the NRA should come up with a reasonable solution. Great writing Heather.
Edward Willing December 20, 2012 at 03:16 PM
The purpose of a gun is not to merely kill someone, so your entire premise is false, and intentionally so. It misguides the entire argument as you lead someone down the road of rejecting something the should feel compelled to own, understand and use when necessary. Guns are designed to protect people. They inflict wounds far more than they kill. Even police are taught to shoot to subdue and injure, not to kill. So no, their "sole purpose" does not necessitate their heavy regulation. They serve a higher purpose than any other tool, and making on general should be treated with the expectation of responsibility that it takes. You will never eliminate evil, and you will never eliminate accidents, so stop trying. Leave us to our salt, safety belts, big gulps and firearms. So long as we aren't harming others, stop being the contradicting you claim social conservatives are.
Jerry DeBoer December 20, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Part of a solution... when doing the pre-gun purchase background check, they should take into consideration the persons entire life, not just since they were 18. Include in their "file" the notes from their teachers that included the type of behaviors that suggest "this child does not play nice with others". Let the teachers help protect themselves by helping to identify the kids who demonstrate the type of personality traits and behaviors that may lead to this type of "falling off the humanity cliff". 1) Establish the profile. 2) train the teachers to recognize the symptoms 3) put notes in their student file recording the behavior or incident that is worrisome 4) include it in their background checks. Ok, it wouldn't be as simple as that, but it would help. But as Pastor Mark Driscoll put it and to Brian Dey's point, "The President rightly condemns the killing of born children, yet he condones the killing of the unborn. Our culture is profoundly confused when it comes to life and children". We are a nation confused about the gift, the miracle and the sanctity of life.
Jay Warner December 21, 2012 at 04:33 AM
We can't eliminate _all_ killings, and it is specious to argue against any action because it won't stop all of them. What we need is actions that will cut the number of massacres in half. While we're at it, Let's cut killing generally in half. What rule changes, what expressions of social attitudes, do we need to cut the number in half? When we get to half, we can work on half again. It will go on until we decide the number of violent killings is "bearable."

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