America’s Exceptional Gun Violence

December 21, 2012

Multiple Pages
America’s Exceptional Gun Violence

Is America exceptional? Once upon a time, hardly anyone dissented from the idea that the USA was different from all other nations. The “exceptional” sobriquet made the rounds when it became obvious that hereditary status and class distinctions did not count in America, leaving individuals free to be judged on their merits alone.

I write this partly in shock, as I had driven by the bucolic village of Newtown, Connecticut only 12 hours before the massacre of 20 schoolchildren, six staff members, and the mass murderer’s own mother.

Is the mass murder of little children a uniquely American tragedy? Well, a Chinese crazy only last week attacked and stabbed 22 children in Henan province before police subdued him. The attack mirrored a similar one against Chinese children in 2010, where more than 20 children were slashed, with three of them dying. Another attack took place last August, when two children were stabbed in a middle school in Nanchang. Most of the Chinese attackers have been mentally disturbed men unable to adjust to the rapid pace of social change in China, a country whose medical system’s ability to diagnose psychiatric illness is close to null.

“They died because their parents chose not to bear guns, as did their teachers.”

But—and this is a very big “but”—the Chinese attackers used knives, not automatic weapons. No Glocks, no SIG Sauers, no .223-caliber Bushmaster rifles, all three of which were in possession of Adam Lanza, the Newtown mass murderer. These weapons are capable of extinguishing 26 lives in a matter of minutes. This is a uniquely American phenomenon. Even Washington’s gun lobby is going to have trouble with this one. Yes, I know the slogan: “Guns don’t kill, people do.” But how does one justify military-style, high-volume-of-fire weaponry in a modern society? All recent mass shootings of innocents in America, from Columbine to Virginia Tech, from Aurora to the Oregon mall, have involved high-tech weaponry. How far can the Constitution’s Second Amendment go—until we all murder each other?

It’s a horrible thing, but it’s only when it hits close to home that such horrors get to us. The fact that Gaza’s children are habitually shot dead because of Israeli-Hamas differences is reported on a par with football scores. African massacres of tots are not even reported—much ado about nothing. Northern Sudan’s enforced famine on the Christian south has killed countless innocent children, but the chief architect of the horror, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, was awarded a seat on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The basic trait of mass killers is a sense of anger and resentment. They are social pariahs, nerdy loners who most likely are addicts of violent Hollywood movies. Hollywood has a lot to answer for where mass murder is concerned. Just as watching hard porn can lead to rape, I believe that anesthetizing people to shooting off high-caliber weapons can lead to mass murder. Most action films today show heroes and villains blasting guns nonstop without bodies piling up and blocking off the action. The screen fills with tracers but the action continues. And life goes on undisturbed. Rap lyrics don’t help. Kill this, kill that, kill everyone who disagrees. Nowhere else on Earth—except for Britain, which follows slavishly in Uncle Sam’s footsteps—do songwriters and moviemakers advertise such violence.

So when will it end? After the next killing, or the one after, or the one after that? When will the politicians who take the gun lobby’s money confront their benefactors? The answer is not in the immediate future. What will it take to stop the killing of innocents? Screening prospective gun buyers for criminal records is not enough. Most mass murderers don’t even have parking tickets on their resume. Adam Lanza used his mother’s guns. Why did a mother-housewife need three guns? And how typical of a mass murderer to murder his mother first, shooting her in the face.

America has endured over 60 mass shootings in the last 30 years alone. I know no country in Europe that even begins to compete with this sick record. Black children as young as ten play with guns they obtain in high-crime neighborhoods. Some bring them to school. It’s a macho thing to do. Just listen to some rap and you’ll find out. Watch some movie. Or better yet, listen to those who live and die by the Second Amendment. But the dead children of Newtown never had a chance to read about their right to bear guns. They died because their parents chose not to bear guns, as did their teachers. Uncle Sam should bury his head in shame.


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