Letter to the Editor: Valuing Every Individual Key to Ending Mass Revenge Killings

By RICHARD HANNEMANN
Los Alamos

A lot is being said about gun control in the wake of stunning mass violence with the use of guns.

Yes, firearms give an individual capacity to create carnage. And, no, I’m not going to the “when guns are illegal only criminals will have guns” argument. True criminals use guns to commit a particular crime, usually the illicit acquisition of money. Most would actually prefer not to actually fire the weapon, waving it around and frightening people is the point.

Gun registration makes it easier for law enforcement to track these people down. Tough laws increasing penalties for the use of a gun in a crime do, in fact, tend to act as a deterrent to such use. The goal is to gain financially and to be able to spend the loot. 

The bad guys are not the problem. And there is too much at stake here to simplify it to that degree. The problem is the use of firearms to create carnagefor the sake of creating carnage. It seems that often the motive for creating carnage is revenge. These are revenge killings on a mass scale. This has nothing to do with, nor can be addressed by, tougher gun laws.

Think about it. The worker who goes “postal,” the loner who feels the world has turned against them, who only wanted a fair shake but got societally kicked in the teeth; or, saddest of all, the kid who is over-stressed, overburdened, ignored, snubbed, shunned, and/or bullied relentlessly. Sometimes that kid, usually referred to as a “loser” and “not one of us” and “different.” cracks in childhood. Sometimes the hurt and the torment waits to be unleashed by the adult who was “a little strange,” “had no friends,”  “was not one of us,” or “was a loser.” Read as “socially unacceptable” and “outcast.”

What all these have in common is a strong motive to create carnage and no particular reason not to create carnage. They are the unwanted, the outcasts, who see no future for themselves and whose present has become beyond unbearable.

They all tried to “play by the rules” and “do the right thing” to no positive result. It is hard to believe that honesty pays in a society where it doesn’t. It is hard to play by the rules when you constantly lose to those who cheat. It is hard to do the right thing when the only thing it will get you is your reward in some mystical afterlife which means nothing if you have to live in this life.

Gun control deals with none of this. Gun control is a small Band-Aid on a femoral wound. It is a useless feel-good-oh-we’ve-done-something exercise in futility. It is a way of absolving society from its sins, like Pilate washing his hands.

Gun control is about power politics. It is about one side “winning” and the other side “losing,” about a form of civil war which is much more civil and just as destructive. Consider Pawlak’s verbiage. Have you not seen the same forms of slander and vitriolic bile in other debates of other issues? The demonization of those who disagree is red meat for the soldiers of both sides as they take up their respective battle cries. 

And just wait for the next chapter to unfold. We emphasize science and math and tech in our public schools. When some young person, bright, studious, and alone, decides to set off a bomb or toxic gas made in the chem lab at school from a formula in the text book or on the internet, will there be a hue and cry to stop teaching chemistry?

Gun control is not about gun control. It is about people control. As such gun control is symptomatic of a society which has become dysfunctional to the edge of psychotic. Polarization, absolutism, puritanism, diversity without diversity, political correctness ─ it’s a long symptom list. But it all comes down to the same thing ─ that difference is not to be tolerated; that people are simply cogs in the great social machine.

Martin Luther King talked about a society where a person would be judged solely by the quality of their character. The civil rights movement was successful by making the case that we are all the same under the skin. Only, we are not.

We are all different. Gene Roddenbury came closer to the mark with IDIC, “In Difference Is Continuity.” We are different under the skin. We are different between the ears. We are born to be that way. When we embrace those differences, when we make everyone feel wanted and valued for who they are as an individual, then the desire to create carnage will dissipate. 

Until then a society which insists on creating outcasts will reap the whirlwind of its own creation.

LOS ALAMOS

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