Natural response to gun violence may not be wise one

The New Era

Ten days ago, a lone gunman killed 22 people at a Sunday morning church service in Texas.

That tragedy came almost exactly a month after another lone gunman killed 58

people and left another 546 injured after opening fire on a crowd of 22,000 concert-goers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

These despicable acts and their tragic results spark outrage in anyone with an ounce of common decency.

And not surprisingly, in the aftermath have come calls for increased restrictions on personal firearms.

While we share the intense sadness and deep anger that arise from horrid, unjust attacks on innocent bystanders by evil men, which seem to be proliferating, a purely emotional response, as is true in any crisis, may not be a wise one.

While it seems like more and more of these massacres are happening, a report last year by Politico magazine noted that the numbers of public shootings (defined as “any incident in which four or more victims are killed with a firearm within a 24-hour period at a public location in the absence of other criminal activity – robberies, drug deals, gang ‘turf wars,’ military conflict or collective violence”)

haven’t really increased in the last 40 years.

What has changed is our awareness of them, our ability to follow these events in up-to-the-minute coverage on our cellphones, via social media, etc. We can almost watch them happen.

It’s more real – and disturbing – than in the days gone by when news wasn’t reported nearly instantaneously, when reporters actually had time to figure out what was happening before jumping in front of a live mic.

Regardless, these incidents are tragic and despicable. And they bring up uncomfortable questions.

An obvious one is what we can or should do about the problem of these mass killings. By extension, here’s another: Are we really capable of preventing them?

Stricter gun control laws? When politicians and activists tell us public security can be accomplished by tightening restrictions, they don’t account for the real reason people get killed by guns.

Guns are machines. They rarely, if ever, kill people unless someone uses them for that purpose.

The problem with mass murders is not weapons. People kill people. There’s absolutely no way to honestly avoid that reality.

Less than a week before the Texas church shootings, an Uzbekistani man named Sayfullo Saipov drove a rented truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 11.

Cars kill people, so why shouldn’t we restrict them?

We’re making significant progress on driverless car technology. Despite the unfortunate fender bender in an actual road test of an unmanned bus last week in Las Vegas, we’re told there’s great promise in this field.

So, if people use cars to kill people, why couldn’t we, once the technology is here, say 20 years from now, enact prohibitions on people from driving cars at all?

That way, once the technology that failed in Las Vegas is perfected, of course, people would not be able to kill each other – intentionally or otherwise – with vehicles.

Rather, cars would be controlled by the government and we’d all be better off, living without fear.

If that stirs discomfort in us, it should. It is probably unnecessary to point out how control of our lives by others could be greatly enhanced.

So how would a ban on human drivers be significantly different than restricting ownership or use of firearms?

We live in a society that has seen incredible technological advances, which have gained a lot of influence in our daily lives. Just in the last couple of decades we’ve seen the arrival of GPS, the Internet, hybrid automobiles, texting, a dizzying array of apps and social media, medical breakthroughs and much more than we could possibly list here.

That’s only the last 20 years. We’re a smart society, all right.

We like to think we’re pretty self-sufficient.

Humanism, the ideology that dominates our society, emphasizing self-sufficiency and superiority of man over pretty much everything in our world, is king right now. We can see its influence in fields as diverse as medical and DNA research, artificial intelligence and robotization, space science, social and holographic TV, nuclear technology – again, far more than we can list here.

It’s also led to a decline in the religious and moral fabric that once typified much of our nation.

So why can’t we solve this gun problem?

Maybe because it’s not a problem that technology, or legislation – or the belief that we can achieve anything – can solve.

The problems that lead to these murders are a lot deeper than that, and so the solutions must be too.