Speak Up

Omar Mateen was not an Islamic terrorist. He was a normal, home grown American terrorist. He didn’t decide to murder those innocent people because of Allah. He did it because he lives in a country that supports hate against those that it considers “other”.

He was a brown Dylan Roof.

The biggest threat to America isn’t some group across the ocean. The biggest threat to America is America and it will stay that way as long as groups that support hate are allowed to continue to fester. It will stay that way as long as people are silent when they witness friends and family make causal remarks against Muslims, LGBTQ people, Black people, Indians, etc.

It will stay that way until people in this country stop letting the worst of us decide how the rest of us are going to live.

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A Mass Shooting By Any Other Name

firearm

Let’s get something straight. It doesn’t matter what the technical definition of a mass shooting is. If there were 355 incidents where four or more people were shot and injured and no one died, that’s still a huge problem. Arguing the semantics of what is and isn’t a mass shooting is part of the problem.

Breitbart “helpfully” pointed out that a mass shooting is defined by the FBI as a shooting event where there were four or more fatalities but “liberal media” is reporting incidents that include times when four or more people were shot but did not die.

Ok. So what would you call that then?

Never mind Breitbart is at best putrid garbage and at worst a den of hatemongering trash people who use “conservative values” as a cover for being bigots. We’re going to ignore that right now and simply ask, if not mass shooting then what should an incident in which four or more people are shot be called?

These distinction is posed as if it is somehow important. It is not important. These acts are not any less violent because no one died. They are still extremely violent and indicative of a huge problem in our culture.

This isn’t a conversation that needs to be had. The difference between a mass shooting and an incident where a bunch of people got shot isn’t important except to those that have a vested interest in making sure the problem doesn’t seem as large as it is. Because if it’s not a big problem, we don’t have to fix it.

355 incidents where four or more people were shot in less than a year is a problem. A really big one. And it needs to be fixed.

Doing Nothing At All Doesn’t Work

photo by Donyae Coles

Toy gun in Gettysburg shop Photo by Donyae Coles

The problem with the gun debate is that both sides treat it as a zero sum game. There has to be a blanket right answer that solves the problem. Anything less isn’t worth it but blanket solutions hurt the people who aren’t doing anything wrong. So instead of investing in any solutions we do nothing at all and accept that there’s nothing to be done. This is wrong.

The fact of the matter is that there are things that can be done but there’s no one solution to the problem. There’s no one right answer that is going to fix the issue and make terrible mass shootings a remnant of our violent past. That’s not a reason to just accept the murder of innocent people.

The idea that there is nothing anyone can do is the greatest lie the devil ever told. There is always something that can be done. It may be hard and not everyone is going to be happy but you know what? You can’t please everyone all of the time.

This blog suggested that we just learn to take care of each other better, to notice people more and go back to a time where people really looked after one another. The suggestion is that we should reach out to those we see being, well, creepy. Short of that, there’s nothing anyone can do. A sweet sentiment but terribly ill conceived.

For one, this is terribly dangerous advice for women in particular. That’s how you get stalkers. For two, it ignores that mass shootings have been going on a lot longer than this age of social media. The first mass shootings where the public was greatly in danger began in the 1960s and we’ve just carried on since then. Long before computers began to isolate people. It’s not technology’s fault.

There’s not any one root cause for mass shootings in the United States of America. Like most other things, the issue is multifaceted with many root causes. It’s not criminals, it’s not technology, it’s not the lack of Jesus, it’s a lot of things and stopping it calls for a lot of solutions.

Do we need stricter gun control?* Yes. Do we need better access and less stigma for mental health?** Yes. Do we need to address the culture in this country that creates such violent and disfranchised people? Yes.

Will correcting any one of these issues on their own solve the problem? No. Because it is not any single issue that caused the problem.

If your house is falling apart because of a leaky roof that you let alone too long, just fixing the roof isn’t going to save your house. It is still falling apart there just aren’t any new leaks. If you want to fix your house you have to repair the damage that was done in the time the roof leaked. You have to rip up floors and tear down walls. Lay down fresh hardwood, really do the work. You can’t just throw on some fresh paint and walk away.

Sticker gun control is the roof. It’s a start but it won’t save us. The other issues are everything else that is going to make our house safe and inhabitable again. It will take time. It will take work and sure it would be far easier to do nothing at all but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing at all.

It’s a good house. We all have to live in it. Let’s fix the roof and then get started on these other issues before the whole thing falls in. Mass shootings are a thing that is happening right now. They are part of our history. They do not have to be part of the future. This keeps happening because we are letting it happen.

We are letting it happen by continuing not to move an inch. We are letting it happen by constantly trying to deflect the focus to other issues and pushing strawmen arguments. We are letting it happen by doing nothing at all.

We can stop this by simply starting to do something. It may take ten years, it may take 20 but if we start actually working on putting measures in place, by admitting that we DO have a problem with guns and that something in our culture is inherently flawed and needs addressing then we can stop this.

*Gun control is not short hand for ban all guns. No one is actually suggesting that the government come and take all of anyone’s weapons. What gun control may call for is stricter policies regarding the type and how many of a weapon is available as well as more oversight for the guns in circulation currently.

**Mental health isn’t actually a factor in most mass shootings but it comes up so often that it needs to be addressed and quite honestly it won’t hurt.