Deadly Carousel

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?

Guess not.

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
391 823

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.

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2 Responses to Deadly Carousel

  1. A. L. Kaplan says:

    The number of mass shootings in this country has grown exponentially since the creation of social media, a sad fact I learned last night at A.L.I.C.E training.
    I would encourage everyone to look into it so you have more of an idea of what to do in an active shooter situation. The old hide under the table idea is not always the best plan.

    And as a side note for those of you on the fence about this: Arming teachers is not a good idea. The officer doing our training said that it’s their job to stop the shooter as quickly as possible. They can’t risk lives by trying to talk to whoever is holding a weapon. If you have a gun in your hand, you will be shot.

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