Force of Nature

I broke down and turned on CNN to check out coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting. I see there and elsewhere, without really knowing the details from this morning’s mayhem, that the media are turning to the question of what it all means. With the help of sociologists, CNN bloviator in chief Lou Dobbs is going to scrutinize school shootings.

It’s an unspeakable tragedy, of course, and what will come to distinguish it will be the awful, heartbreaking details to be revealed over the hours and days to come. But really: does this tell us anything about any aspect of our society that we didn’t know before this morning? Or before Columbine? Or the Killeen, Texas, massacre? Or Oliver James Huberty’s slaughter of the innocents at the San Ysidro McDonald’s. Go ahead and jump in — you can all think of an incident that fits.

I’m not sure what any of these killings says, by the way, beyond the obvious: how violent the society is, how efficient firearms are at doing what they’re designed to do. But regardless of the meaning, to me, these have come part of the landscape we live in, a little like earthquakes in California. You know they’re coming; you know they could be devastating; but you never know when it’s going to happen.

Of course, unlike earthquakes, in theory, at least, there’s the hope we might be able to do something to stop random massacres. After every one, there’s lots and lots of talk; Lou Dobbs and his sociologists. Then — then we move on, till the next time.

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5 Replies to “Force of Nature”

  1. From CNN.com (All outlets said something similar): “The death toll at Norris Hall makes the incident the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.”
    I wonder whose job it was to look that up. Why was that important? Who was it important to except maybe the next guy who wants to break the record? Why are people so alarmed it happened at a school? Shouldn’t we be equally alarmed if it happens at a McDonald’s, a grocery store, a parking lot, a neighborhood, a post office or any workplace? Doesn’t everyone deserve safety? I really think this type of reporting is tantamount to feeding the animals.

  2. Well just FYI…the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania took 35 lives and left 37 wounded. This was on April 28, 1996. The whole crime was carried out by one man with an AK-47.
    I’m not trying to talk records here. Actually, gun control. The Australians were shocked by the incident and quickly banned ownership–by the public–of military-type assault rifles. The measure had wide public support. Try doing that in the States. Also, I have read that the largest number of illegal firearms (on the streets of NYC) come from three states. That would be Texas, Florida and, that’s right, Virginia. Mayor Bloomberg has been going nuts trying to get these weapons off the streets, but it is next to impossible to slow the trade when people have easy access to cheap weapons, bought from dealers who couldn’t care less where these weapons end up or what damage they cause. Just another day in paradise.

  3. John, I remember the Port Arthur incident. Australia’s a small enough (population-wise) and innocent enough (in terms of rampant gunplay and murder rates) that this was a profound shock to the entire country. And, being shocked, and being unfettered by their forefathers’ need for 18th century militias to self-arm, they did something strong in response.
    I love the fact McCain came out so quickly to answer the first suggestions that the free availability of guns was a factor in the Virginia shootings to reaffirm his support of gun “rights””; rights? I say let everyone who makes that argument sign up for their local militia so we can bolster the effort in Iraq.
    Anyway, McCain came out with the usual ridiculous formulation that he supports the Second Amendment except to “make sure that these kinds of weapons don’t fall into the hands of bad people.” Oh, yeah — that’s the ticket. Let’s have a test to detect “bad people” who want guns. Point being: Who, five minutes before the shooting started, would have picked out this kid at Virginia Tech as a bad apple?

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