How many stories like the one in the url above have you read or heard about over the last 20 years? Think back. The first case I remember where a “disturbed” guy set out to shoot a lot of strangers was back in the 1966 — the “Texas Tower” incident at the University of Texas in Austin, in which a man on top of a high building with a high-powered rifle killed 17 and wounded 31 innocent people before he was stopped.
I remember how surprised and horrified all us high school kids were — and the teachers even more so. After we’d all talked it to death for a few weeks we decided it was an amazingly unique awful thing that would never happen again, and we forgot about it.
The joke was on us. Today no-one (at least no-one who is awake to the world around him) is surprised, by these shoot-em-up events, which seem to happen more frequently each year.*
Today, in fact, when life gets so infuriating you just can’t stand it any more, you need not always just decently kill yourself. There was never any real satisfaction in that traditional form of relief anyway — at best it merely freed the angry brooder from the burden of continuing to be his implacably resentful self.
Now, luckily for the terminally disaffected, the means to go far beyond suicide and wreak real revenge on the unsatisfactory world are available everywhere. Your right to access those means is jealously guarded by the National Rifle Association, and by millions of “traditional males”, who would never think of restricting the availability of this toy of theirs in order to frustrate a relatively few multi-murderers.
Since it is too obvious to need stating that the ready availability of guns in the USA, due to their ability to kill a satisfyingly large number of folks quickly from a distance, is probably going to increase the number and success of rage-induced massacres here, I have to assume that the smarter gun lovers take note of this and then routinely say, in essence, “Hey, those [strangers’] lives are the price we pay for freedom!”
It’s a price that will inevitably grow over time. Over the last forty years I’ve watched the gun multi-murder become an established part of American culture. We even have a special term for it, “going postal.” I wonder how high the kills-per-year numbers will have to get before the traditionalists will let something be done about it?**
And, in the meantime, will growing fear of such rage events gradually turn our schools, offices, and now health clubs into armed fortresses? Guards are everywhere already, including where I work. And my recently-constructed office building is laid out so you have to swipe your keycard at two different doors to get from outside to in. The place is a prison turned inside out, and you can’t help but feel like a prisoner as you go about your business there. Meanwhile on the streets, policepersons walk around on hair triggers always — with predictable results.
To me it all looks a lot like the days of the Cold War, when the best defense was a good offense. Both sides piled up more and more weapons, but somehow neither America nor Russia ever felt any more secure. Will the mounting misery and irritation of our new, domestic cold war always just be dismissed as the “price paid for freedom”? Or will it instead finally be the death of one of our most basic freedoms, the freedom to move about in the world unchallenged by authority?
*Here’s a site that shows the number of “mass” (victim death count of ten or more) murders for the years 1948 through 2007:
The page has a point of view, but the data are straightforward, and I doubt that they have fudged the numbers.
I’ve been unable to find any site that tabulated all multi-murder incidents over time, including incidents with a death toll of less than 10.
**Hint: It’s taken seventy years for the ever-increasing death and suffering caused in the USA by another of our traditional American practices to just POSSIBLY be about to end in reform at last. How many lives have been destroyed by our you-get-what-you-pay-for health care over all those years?