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Guns, Tragedy and What We Are Missing

Another tragedy, more senseless deaths. As the details of the massacre in Las Vegas begin to leak out and we rush to express our sorrow and send prayers for those lost, I can’t help but ask what are we doing wrong? It’s a given that the social media experts are going to know the details immediately even though the onsite professionals will spend weeks and potentially months investigating every minute factor to determine the hows and whys.

The right will predictably blame those goddam Islamic terrorists! While the Left will blame the goddam NRA for opposing every piece of gun legislation over the past 50 years. The right is ready to believe there are ISIS sleeper cells interconnected throughout the country being activated at this very moment to initiate the takeover of America. The left is so ready to blame Trump and all Republicans for fostering a culture of gun-worship that one VP at CBS has already been fired for tweeting she was not sympathetic to the victims because they were most likely Republicans. WOW!

This most recent killings will make headlines for a few days; the world will look to America as a failed leader and wonder why such violence exists in such a highly developed country. The left will renew its efforts to ban all weapons while the right will fight any and every attempt to create even common sense control. Then we will move on from this tragedy to the next situation or event. There will be another natural disaster, Trump will tweet something polarizing and this tragedy, along with every other tragedy will be forgotten, until it becomes politically convenient for one side or the other.

In roughly 15 minutes of firing, 58 people were killed and over 500 wounded. I am not an expert; I am not familiar with guns, however, those numbers mean an incredible amount of firing. That means automatic weapons were used. Either fully automatic or semi-automatic weapons that were modified.

Automatic weapons have been banned since May 19th (happy birthday Mom) 1986. So if the shooter purchased new weapons, they were purchased illegally. Automatic weapons manufactured before 1986 are still legal to be sold but only through a dealer with a class 3 federal firearms license registered with the ATF. A ban would not have stopped this tragedy. It is also illegal to modify semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. If the shooter did that it is another in a list of crimes against him.

America leads the world in gun violence and homicides. It is not because guns are readily available. So why is it? There is something broken within us, within our society where people feel that committing mass murder followed by some form of suicide is a reasonable option in their lives. The gun part is secondary. If guns were not available, people would find some other way to commit these atrocious actions. Granted it is impossible to stab 58 people while wounding 500 more with a knife, but there are car bombs, IEDs and other ways to kill large numbers of people. The gun is the tool, a terrible tool but it is just the delivery method. If we really want to address the cause of violence and mass homicide, we need to get to the person.

It is far easier to blame guns; the blame game requires no self-exploration or acceptance of responsibility. And who wants to accept responsibility for anything? We live in a time where only suckers accept responsibility.

Over the past 20-25 years, American society has become fractured. We live lives that are more isolated. We have become separated from others because of work, commutes, where we live and the everyday burdens of life. That isolation we experience pushes us inward and we connect more with our unhappiness and loneliness, which potentially turns to anger and rage. We lose our identity and feel we become an extension of said isolation.

We are becoming more desensitized to violence. From videogames to movies and even TV shows. There is no escape from scenes of violence. Directly, videogames and violent movies might have no effect on the increased violence although it is possible. However, combined with the increased level of isolation throughout the country and the anger and rage that stems from that is creating a fuse easily lit. The desensitization to violence has raised our level of tolerance to what violent acts are acceptable.

A few months ago, Kathy Griffin held up a bloodied mask of Trump for a photoshoot. Over the past eight years, it became somewhat common to see effigies of Obama being burnt. Going onto social media means having access to incredible hate along racial, sexual, gender and political lines. We are experiencing a diminished threshold of what could be considered a societal taboo in the expression of violence, hate and death to those who are different or who hold different views than us. Partly it is the ability to hide behind a social media handle. That cover provides us the chance to express horrible views and make disgusting statements without much in the way of consequence. This diminished standard is the new normal and creates an echo chamber of thought that provides us justification for violent thoughts and a rationale for murderous actions. We no longer have tolerance for differences; we have the desire for those who see the world differently to be buried, to be dead. At one point a few years ago, comments about death and killing those with different opinions would have been condemned harshly. Now it is the norm.

As great as social media is, and it is an incredible tool to connect and reconnect with family and friends, market businesses and even create new stars, it also has a dark side. That dark side is the destruction of our humanity. Social media gives us all an outlet to express ourselves yet we rarely pause to think about those on the receiving end of our opinions. We say things on social media that we would never say to someone’s face. However, there is someone on the receiving end of every single one of our vile, disgusting opinions and threats. That someone is flesh and blood, with a family or friends who can also be hurt. We forget that and we hide behind handles, our identities protected. We would all lack the same willingness to attack those we disagree with if our actual identities were revealed. This empathetic bleaching is leading to greater hurt and dehumanization, which breeds the sociopathic behavior exhibited in these attacks.

Blood sells! The media drowns us in headlines that almost sexualize violence. Images of the dead, of the attack, of the shooter are pornographic. The media plasters the names of the attackers all over the news. There’s no question that isolated loners who have fully embraced the darker side of echo chambers would think that violence and mass murder are acceptable. It is even a way to become famous. It is entirely logical, in a sociopathic way, to not see the victims as humans. The victims, they are the enemy. They deserve to die because…pick an alienation.

Guns are a tool. A horrible tool, easily accessible and providing the ability to increase damage. However, they are just a tool. Banning guns will not solve the problem. The problem goes far deeper than guns. The problems connect to society today, how incredibly polarizing, angry and isolated life is becoming. We need to address the root of this problem or these attacks will grow in frequency and scope and the cycle will repeat: attack, prayers, virtue signaling, blame, move on, wash and repeat. America is among the most developed, richest and innovative countries in the world. There is no reason we cannot address the cause of these terrible attacks while also moving beyond our views and beliefs to hear and listen to the other side. Peace, life, happiness, family, love, hope, and strength are all worthy goals to come together for.