Friday, February 15, 2008

Not again

There’s been another school shooting, this time at Northern Illinois University. As of the moment I write this, six are dead.

Why have there been so many school shootings in recent years? The easy answer that many jump to is the ready availability of guns- but that doesn’t bear close examination.

100 years ago, everything- up to and including cannons and machineguns- were legal. The Tommy gun , the machinegun made famous by the “Untouchables”, was sold mail order, no questions asked. (which is why so many criminals owned it) Only big cities required a license to carry a gun, and there were no restrictions on buying them. There were no school massacres.

When I was a very small child, machineguns were restricted, and you had to be 18 to buy a pistol in most places, but anyone any age could buy a long gun at any hardware store. You could still buy guns mail order. Lee Harvey Oswald obtained the surplus Italian infantry rifle he assassinated JFK with from an ordinary sporting goods store. No school massacres.

When I was a just a little older, Marlin advertised their .22s in comic books, and Col. Larsen, “The Marlin Man”, a famous sharpshooter, would wow kids by shooting through the hole of a Lifesaver candy at shows and fairs. I learned to shoot in the cub scouts. No school massacres.

In high school, I was on the school rifle team, and more than half the high schools had their own firing range. This was after the King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, so there were now more gun laws in place, but I still could, and did, buy a shotgun as a teenager. No waiting periods, no number of guns bought restrictions, no background checks- and no school massacres.

A couple of years ago, Indianapolis set a new homicide record, both in total number and per capita. I researched the records then, and noticed something: there were more non-firearm homicides- fists, knives, and clubs- in that year than there were TOTAL homicides, INCLUDING guns, the year I was born.

All this makes it really difficult to blame the availability of guns for the modern shootings. Guns are harder to obtain than they’ve ever been in my lifetime, but the violence still keeps getting worse. Some people are blaming poor background checks, not keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. But that still doesn’t explain why these school shootings have been happening only these last few years- there were people with mental illnesses fifty years ago.

One needn’t be a Jerry Fallwell to conclude that there’s something wrong with society itself that is behind this- there are other symptoms as well: rampant drug use, illegitimacy and divorce rates so high that less than one child in five is raised to majority in a two-parent household. But that doesn’t mean the past was better- widespread racism, sexism, homophobia, and injustice so bad that children reading of it in school can scarcely conceive how bad it was.

Is Humankind doomed to live at the poles? Are the choices always repression and oppression, or anarchy? Does it always have to be either public prudery or public licentiousness, either censorship or open sewers aimed at our minds? Either Prohibition or crack dealers on every corner? Won’t anyone tell people “No, we don’t act like that. Not because it’s illegal... not because you’ll burn in Hell... but because you’re better than that.”?


Robin Edgar said...

Lee Harvey Oswald obtained the surplus Italian infantry rifle he *allegedly* assassinated JFK with from an ordinary sporting goods store.

Robin Edgar said...

As far as the school shootings go I think that there is something of a copycat element involved. We had our own school shooting on September 13th, 2006. The gunman seemed to emulate the "dress code" of the Columbine school shooters. I was actually supposed to meet a friend at the Atwater METRO station which directly accesses Dawson College at the time of the shooting but cancelled that meeting at the last minute because I was caught up with other matters. By "coincidence" Montreal police officers responding to a complaint about drug dealing at Dawson College were able to contain the gunman very soon after he began his shooting rampage so deaths and injuries were kept to a minimum. Come to think of it. . . I suppose that this dramatic school shooting in Montreal, which took place very early in the ministry of Rev. Diane Rollert, and had some impact on the Unitarian Church of Montreal, may well have contributed to her apparent paranoia about yours truly. I will try to keep that in mind when thoroughly cross examine her on February 25th.

Joel Monka said...

I couldn't view the video, but I presume from the way you wrote it that it's a conspiracy theory. The only theory that fits all facts of evidence is that Kennedy was killed by a single shooter, firing from the book depository, and that the shooter was Oswald.

Joel Monka said...

There have been a few European school shootings, too, but like the North American ones, very recent.

Robin Edgar said...

"The only theory that fits all facts of evidence is that Kennedy was killed by a single shooter, firing from the book depository, and that the shooter was Oswald."

Oh really Joel? Are you so sure about that? I would say that there is plenty of reasonable doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only shooter in Dallas that day. There is evidence that there were more than three shots and the head shot that was the one that definitely ended Kennedy's days has every appearance of coming from the front not from behind him. If you, or anyone else, can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that that head shot was fired by Lee Harvey Oswald using a surplus Italian infantry rifle I will accept that he assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. I am willing to bet that neither you, nor anyone else, can conclusively do that.

Joel Monka said...

Read the book, or watch the documentary about it of Posner's "Case Closed", and cross referrence it with the Warren Commission Report. Between them, all physical evidence and medical evidence of that day are explained completely. The only things left for conspiracy are motivations, not actions.

karen said...

Hear hear! Joel, I'm a long-time lurker moved to comment by the coincidence of my thoughts upon hearing this story and the immediate outcry by public officials for stricter gun control, and your well-stated words. You've articulated my thoughts better than I could. Thanks!