Alan Zendell, November 9, 2018
The Sandy Hook massacre occurred almost six years ago. In case you’ve erased it from your memory, twenty-seven people, mostly young children, were gunned down by a heavily armed, mentally unstable young man because he was angry at his mother, who was one of the victims. Since then, the number of innocent people killed in shooting sprees in the United States is 391, with another 823 injured. Please take a moment to scan the table of deaths and injuries to refresh your recollection.
Sandy Hook wasn’t the first mass shooting of innocent people in this country, but I started there because that one was so horrific, most Americans thought it was the final straw. Surely Congress and the President would have to take some action to prevent this from happening in the future, wouldn’t they?
|Thousand Oaks nightclub||Thousand Oaks, CA||11/7/2018||12||22|
|Tree of Life synagogue||Pittsburgh, PA||10/27/2018||11||6|
|Rite Aid warehouse||Perryman, MD||9/20/2018||3||3|
|T&T Trucking||Bakersfield, CA||9/12/2018||5||0|
|Fifth Third Center||Cincinnati, OH||9/6/2018||3||2|
|Capital Gazette||Annapolis, MD||6/28/2018||5||2|
|Santa Fe HS||Santa Fe, TX||5/18/2018||10||13|
|Waffle House||Nashville, TN||4/22/2018||4||4|
|Yountville veterans home||Yountville, CA||3/9/2018||3||0|
|Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS||Parkland, FL||2/14/2018||17||14|
|Pennsylvania carwash||Melcroft, PA||1/28/2018||4||1|
|Rancho Tehama||Rancho Tehama, CA||11/14/2017||5||10|
|Texas First Baptist Church||Sutherland Spgs, TX||11/5/2017||26||20|
|Walmart in suburban Denver||Thornton, CO||11/1/2017||3||0|
|Edgewood business park||Edgewood, MD||10/18/2017||3||3|
|Las Vegas Strip||Las Vegas, NV||10/1/2017||58||546|
|San Francisco UPS||San Francisco, CA||6/14/2017||3||2|
|Pennsylvania supermarket||Tunkhannock, PA||6/7/2017||3||0|
|Florida awning manufacturer||Orlando, FL||6/5/2017||5||0|
|Rural Ohio nursing home||Kirkersville, OH||5/12/2017||3||0|
|Fresno downtown||Fresno, CA||4/18/2017||3||0|
|Fort Lauderdale airport||Fort Lauderdale, FL||1/6/2017||5||6|
|Cascade Mall||Burlington, WA||9/23/2016||5||0|
|Baton Rouge police||Baton Rouge, LA||7/17/2016||3||3|
|Dallas police||Dallas, TX||7/7/2016||5||11|
|Orlando nightclub||Orlando, FL||6/12/2016||49||53|
|Excel Industries||Hesston, Kansas||2/25/2016||3||14|
|Kalamazoo||Kalamazoo Cty, MI||2/20/2016||6||2|
|San Bernardino||San Bernardino, CA||12/2/2015||14||21|
|Planned Parenthood clinic||Colorado Sprgs, CO||11/27/2015||3||9|
|Colorado Springs||Colorado Sprgs, CO||10/31/2015||3||0|
|Umpqua Community College||Roseburg, OR||10/1/2015||9||9|
|Chattanooga military recruitment ctr||Chattanooga, TN||7/16/2015||5||2|
|Charleston Church||Charleston, SC||6/17/2015||9||1|
|Trestle Trail bridge||Menasha, WI||6/11/2015||3||1|
|Marysville-Pilchuck HS||Marysville, WA||10/24/2014||5||1|
|Isla Vista||Santa Barbara, CA||5/23/2014||6||13|
|Fort Hood||Fort Hood, TX||4/3/2014||3||12|
|Alturas tribal||Alturas, CA||2/20/2014||4||2|
|Washington Navy Yard||Washington, D.C.||9/16/2013||12||8|
|Hialeah apartment||Hialeah, FL||7/26/2013||7||0|
|Santa Monica||Santa Monica, CA||6/7/2013||6||3|
|Pinewood Village Apartments||Federal Way, WA||4/21/2013||5||0|
|Mohawk Valley||Herkimer Cty, NY||3/13/2013||5||2|
|Sandy Hook Elementary||Newtown, CT||12/14/2012||27||2|
Instead we’ve repeatedly ridden the carousel of death until boredom, frustration, or despair over a broken system we felt powerless to affect made us forget and move on. Each time we stepped on the carousel we optimistically believed something would change. Each time we got off, we hoped it was the last time. But wishing and hoping don’t accomplish anything, any more than blind faith in our leaders does.
The carousel just keeps going round and round. We start by climbing aboard the horse called Gun Control. We cry and rage and plead over things that are basically no-brainers to any reasonable person. We debate obvious things like military assault weapons, background checks, bump stocks, and expanded magazines. A few members of Congress even talk about change, and every president, even Trump, pays lip service to the need to fix the problem.
Then we climb on the NRA horse. Wayne LaPierre and his surrogates tell us that guns don’t kill people, people do. They divert us with hyperbolic threats that the government is coming to take our guns away and it’s every American’s responsibility to defend the Second Amendment, and anyway, the real problem is untreated mental illness.
My guess is that fewer than one percent of Americans have actually read the Second Amendment. If you’re in the other 99%, take another few seconds to look at it – it’s really quite brief: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Yep, that’s it.
Keep a couple of things in mind as you read it. It was adopted in 1791, in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War. In those days, “arms” mostly meant muskets and pistols, which were single shot weapons that had to be reloaded each time they were fired, and were horribly inaccurate except at point blank range. They often misfired and they were useless in rainy weather.
Second, note the term “well regulated militia.” Prior to the Revolution, the Colonies were under British rule. The military consisted of British soldiers, German mercenaries working for the British Crown, and the Royal Navy. George Washington’s army, such as it was, was assembled from local militias which had no formal military status and answered only to themselves until independence was declared. In the context of the times the militias were comparable to today’s National Guards.
The NRA would have us believe that the Second Amendment requires every American home to include a private arsenal in case the British come back to retrieve their lost colonies, as they did in 1812. But enough of this nonsense. The meaning of the Amendment aside, the truth is that gun ownership and mental health are entirely separate issues, but it suits the NRA’s purpose to conflate them so they don’t have to accept responsibility for gun violence.
It’s obvious that Americans own too many weapons, and in many cases the wrong kinds of weapons. We can’t resolve those issues here, but maybe we can do something about mental health. Lost in the failed attempts to dismantle Obamacare was the unfortunate fact that most mental health problems go untreated in the United States. Most health insurance plans attachment burdensome restrictions and crippling copayments to mental health coverage, and government programs like Medicare and Medicaid treat mental health as a side issue at best.
The same is true of Veterans’ programs, despite all the noise made by politicians lauding the military. Every president campaigns on helping veterans, but another sad truth is that they often come home shattered by war. It’s no accident that the many of America’s mass shootings are the work of military veterans whose mental health was severely damaged by their service.
So before we ride the carousel again, let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Mental illness and the proliferation of killing machines are both very serious problems. But they’re different problems that require different, carefully thought out solutions. If the Democrats are serious about improving our health care, they can start by laying out mental health goals and initiatives and putting them into legislation with their own lines in next year’s budget.
It’s time to stop campaigning and grandstanding, and get serious before our kids are the next ones to be murdered.