You Don’t Need To Pull The Trigger To Be A Mass Murderer.

There are many examples of such people – the friends and family of mass shooters who ignore warning signs of impending violence, the people on social media who encourage potential shooters, the National Rifle Association for pushing laws that benefit gun manufacturers at the expense of shooting victims, courts that have twisted the Second Amendment (which was intended to provide for a well-regulated militia in the absence of a standing army) to mean that anyone can own and carry guns, gun dealers who fail to perform background checks and sell guns to felons and the mentally ill, politicians who bow to the wishes of the NRA instead of their constituents, and citizens who prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than call for action after another mass shooting.

These people are all responsible. They all deserve to be known as mass murderers.

How else would you describe people who enable more than 3,000 shooting deaths each year, including the deaths of more than 500 children? How else would you describe people who stand idly by while more than 7,500 children are wounded by guns each year? How else would you describe people who ignore hundreds of mass shootings each year, including the 42 that have taken place on school campuses already this year?

How else would you describe politicians who refuse to permit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to track gun violence along with the other major causes of deaths? How else would you describe politicians who make laws that prevent pediatricians from discussing gun safety with parents; who have made it easy for anyone to own the weapons of war – assault rifles, 50-caliber sniper rifles, semi-automatic handguns, armor-piercing bullets…even silencers; who have refused to pass even the most benign gun safety laws?

How else would you describe politicians and manufacturers who have made our nation the world’s largest weapons dealer – weapons that are often turned on our own soldiers?

It doesn’t have to be this way. Not that many years ago, Australia’s conservative government reacted to a mass shooting by passing laws that banned most gun ownership and bought back guns from its once heavily-armed populace. Indeed, most other advanced nations restrict gun ownership. Even places like Dodge City and Tombstone in the Old West once had restrictive gun carry laws – that’s why historic events like the gunfight at the OK Corral still stand out. They once were far from commonplace.

But, now that nearly everyone is allowed to own and carry guns, gunfights are an everyday occurrence. Though the percentage of gun owners is declining, those who do own them own more guns than ever. These people have an irrational obsession with guns. They justify that obsession by claiming their guns are needed for self-protection from criminals, the government and “those people.” They carry them everywhere. In fact, many are so paranoid, they will not enter an establishment that prevents the carry of guns. But the reality is that guns are seldom successfully used for self-protection. More often, such guns are stolen or used for suicides. They are used in road rage incidents, in domestic disputes, in neighborhood disputes, in drive-by shootings, in theaters, in workplaces and in schools. They are used by the mentally ill, by frustrated loners, by jilted lovers, by angry husbands, by racists, and by rogue cops. They are used to threaten and intimidate. They are even used to threaten government officials who are carrying out their lawful duties.

What can be done to prevent more shootings?

We can start by improving mental health care to help the nearly one in four Americans who suffer from mental illness. We can improve our database of the criminally-ill and potentially criminally-ill. We can pass a law requiring universal background checks. We can require a 30-day waiting period for gun sales. We can make it illegal to open carry in public places. We can roll back our conceal-and-carry laws by requiring gun owners to show a need for a carry permit. We can ban large caliber weapons, such as .50 caliber sniper rifles and all other weapons of war. We can, once again, make the sale of silencers illegal. We can ban armor-piercing ammunition. We can ban large capacity magazines. And we can pass gun laws that are uniform nationwide so that rogue gun dealers in one state can no longer sell guns to residents from other states and other countries.

Finally…and this will be the most controversial suggestion…we can ban the sale and ownership of all semi-automatic guns. After all, these are not needed for hunting or even for self-defense. They are designed to make it easier to kill people. Period.

Horrified By Yet Another Mass Shooting? Get Used To It.

In the history of our nation, our individual citizens have never possessed such lethality. Guns are available to anyone, even children. At the same time, our federal, state and local governments have cut back on social programs, including mental health programs. The combination of the two is certain to ensure that more mentally ill people will be able to act on their inner demons with extreme violence and force.

The young man in Santa Barbara is a prime example. His parents knew he was mentally disturbed. They desperately sought help from law enforcement. But, under the  circumstances, there was little anyone could do to stop him. He was able to convince police that he was not a danger. And anyone who is mentally ill can buy a gun as long as they have not been previously confined. So he was able to legally purchase three semi-automatic handguns and more than 400 rounds of ammunition.

As a result, a number of promising young lives were snuffed out. Even those who survived or witnessed the event will be forever changed.

Responsibility for these deaths falls directly on the gun industry, the National Rifle Association, other gun groups and their members. (To be clear, I have owned guns most of my life, but I’ve never carried one and I’ve never embraced the anti-government paranoia of some gun owners.) Because of the NRA, we have been unable to reduce the lethality of available guns; unable to conduct universal background checks; unable to track the transfer of guns between individuals; unable to keep records of the number of shootings and deaths from guns. Thanks to the NRA, in some states pediatricians are even banned from discussing the potential problems of guns in the home with parents.

Had it not been for the greed and paranoia of NRA leaders, the parents of Elliot Rodgers might have been able to deny the shooter’s ability to obtain guns by notifying authorities of the potential danger and entering that information into a database to prevent him from purchasing a weapon. Had it not been for government cutbacks on mental health programs, his parents might have been able to force the young man to get help.

Where has the money for mental health programs gone? Most states have put the money into prisons. Indeed, prisons have become the American substitute for many social programs. By allowing people to commit crimes, we can house them in cells where they receive no treatment and no counseling. They are a danger to no one but the detention officers and themselves. And they contribute to the economy by generating profits for private prison corporations.

Sure, this system is inhumane. Sure, it results in more crimes and more deaths of innocent people. Sure, the system causes unimaginable pain to the families and friends of the mentally ill. Sure, the rest of the world is puzzled by such callousness. But this is the USA. We’re the world’s only super power. We can be as stupid and as mean as we want!

So get used to mass shootings. Get used to the sensationalized news stories. Get used to the deaths and the severe wounds. Get used to the anguish of families and communities. Get used to the mourning. Cover your eyes and ears to the horror. Close your minds to the obvious solutions. This isn’t about right and wrong. This is about maximizing the profits of the gun industry. It’s about business, power and politics.