It is difficult to construct some new expression that adequately describes the pain, horror and disgust that this last weekend’s mass shootings engender. There is no proportional level of outrage to bring balance to the violence that has been unleashed and which will reverberate perpetually for the victims, their families and the witnesses.
That there are weapons so easily available that can eviscerate so many so fast is inconceivable. That the ownership of these weapons is viewed as an inalienable right by gun advocates leaves those mourning the carnage incredulous as well as devastated.
The aftermath of these disasters usually leaves us wringing our hands. There are some 400 million privately owned guns in America. Despite the nonsensical fears of some gun advocates, there is no possible way to confiscate or recall them. When there is even the slightest threat of some purchasing restrictions, the sales of guns skyrocket, no matter how narrow the proposed restriction. In the foreseeable future there does not seem to be any practical way to curb their existence.
Are there any ways to curb their rampant misuse? As with all complex questions there are no simple answers. The variables of gun misuse are intertwined and involve issues of isolation, depression, addiction, fear and ignorance fueled and reinforced by social media, the ease of access to the weapons, irresponsible rhetoric of those in leadership and to a lesser extent, issues related to other mental illnesses.
The first four variables are directly connected to the issues of relationship. We are fond of asserting that the foundation of this country is based on individual freedoms. I would assert that this is categorically wrong. The foundation of the country, I believe, is based upon mutual responsibility. No freedom can exist without a concomitant responsibility as its foundation.
The psychological autopsy of nearly every mass shooter will usually reveal distorted relationships and a mind constricted by destructive fears and ignorance. Mixed with addictions both chemically and psychically constructed and you have the key elements of toxic action. As tedious and as difficult as it seems, the remedy lies in mutual responsibility.
In the process of developing a pernicious personality, the perpetrator must interact with others. That is the nexus of intervention and prevention. To bring each other to the common ground of mutual responsibility, we must take the risks involved in calling out those who are separating themselves from it.
Those in position of influence must also accept responsibility. We can encourage individuals to deal with their fears and ignorance or we can irresponsibly inflame their prejudices and distortions through ill-considered comments and rants. We’ve had recent examples at the state level.
Our president is a master of the latter. He has no inner compunction to bring others to common ground let alone to aspire to higher ground. He is apt to blame cowardice and evil as the culprits of mass shootings, ignoring any possibility that his own distortions and virulence may have a part to play. Can we expect discretion and caution in his future missives? No, he is incapable of doing so.
Can we expect the legislature next session to take up the issue of access to weapons? No, those in power firmly believe that individual freedom trumps mutual responsibility every time.
What are we to do? Pay attention to those who are around us. If they are sinking into the underground of prejudice, fear and hate, we must do all that we can to bring them back to common ground. It is our mutual responsibility; there are no exemptions.