Guns and Deaths: We Really Don’t Care, Do We?

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Guns and Deaths: We Really Don’t Care, Do We?

The source of gun violence is many things, argues Van Buren, but it just seems that "more and more the underlying problem is we simply don’t care anymore." (Image: Dave Edward/flick/cc - with overlay)

More than one a day.

That is how often mass shootings (four or more people wounded or dead) occurred in the United States this year. Including the worst shooting of the year (so far), which unfolded only yesterday in San Bernardino, a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks these past eleven months.

And now, the pundits, from Fox to Maddow to the guy next to you at the bar will rumble through the same old arguments: we have to do something but the Second Amendment and it’s the damn NRA but background checks wouldn’t have stopped them and I’ll need to arm myself for protection and it is all just that these get so much attention and the Internet but right-wing hate and wait until it happens in your community and so forth and so on and, wait, did you see CNN, there’s another active shooter…

Active shooter. The endless stream of mass shootings has birthed its own vocabulary. Active shooter. Long guns. Lock down. Ongoing situation. Device. Tactical. Person of interest. Americans with little previous knowledge of weapons now know the caliber of various typical active shooter long guns.

If there was one terror attack a day in America, you can be assured no one would throw up their hands and say "but what can we do."

There have been only a handful of Americans killed by terrorists, but no one throws up their hands and says there is nothing that can be done. A multi-trillion dollar “homeland” (no one but the Nazi’s even used that term prior to 2001) security complex was created, and we take off our shoes at the airport and tolerate — no, welcome — the NSA spying on everyone of us on the off chance it might help.

And despite the fact that there is no evidence that any of that has ever stopped a terrorist, we blithly accept that it “might have” or that “we’ll never know if the security measures dissuaded a terror attack; the easiest ones to stop are the ones that never occur.”

Yet at the same time we are still accepting something as illogical as if you buy a gun at a shop you are subject to a background check while if you buy a weapon at a gun show there is no background check. Yet statistically there is less likelihood of mass killings in states that require more comprehensive background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not. We register drones with the federal government but not weapons.

If there was one terror attack a day in America, you can be assured no one would throw up their hands and say "but what can we do." Instead, the president simply goes on TV (again) to state the non-statement of “The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world.” Kinda material that writes itself.

And don’t say it — if more armed people were the answer to shoot back, then America would be the safest place on earth. There are some 300 million firearms already out there.

It is the NRA. It is a lack of background checks. It is a mental health problem. It is all of those things. But it seems more and more the underlying problem is we simply don’t care anymore. A new normal too readily accepted under the falsehood that there is nothing that can be done.

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).

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