The latest massacre in a mind-numbing succession of mass shootings, took place at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon last Thursday. Nine dead. More injured. It was all over the news as we worked on the latest draft of a mission statement for our Gun Responsibility Advocates meeting that evening, which states:

“Gun Responsibility Advocates believe that with gun rights come responsibilities — that all of us, especially gun rights supporters, need to play a more active role in reducing the unacceptable toll that gun violence exacts in this country every year. This more active role involves promoting reasonable regulation of firearms, consistently applied nationwide, as the first and most important step toward keeping weapons out of the hands of those most likely to misuse them. Reducing easy access to guns by those who should not possess them will, we believe, help reduce the staggering number of firearm-related killings each year and move us a long way toward the goal we all share: living in a safer community and a more secure country. We welcome all who would like to join us in pursuing such preventive measures, and we are eager to establish links with similar organizations in order to become part of a growing network nationwide.”

The Oregon shootings certainly put our efforts in clearer focus that night. 

In the media coverage, I heard the usual statements from distressed local officials, who, likely in shock, always seem to fall back on clichés.

“Right now the community is focusing on the victims and their families.”

“This kind of thing doesn’t happen here. It happens elsewhere.”

“We’re just trying to make sense of all this.”

Just once I’d like to see a local official stop, look into the camera and say, “This is nuts. We can’t go on like this. Which community is next? When is our country going to finally do something about all this carnage?”

We’re very good at responding to the victims and their loved ones. Candlelight vigils, memorials, packed funerals. Communities know how to rally. We’ve become experts at it — by sheer repetition.

But we’ve done almost nothing to prevent the next set of victims — and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next, and the next …

It happens somewhere in this country almost every week now, and it’s going to keep happening, more and more often. 

“We’re just trying to make sense of all this”? Seems pretty obvious.

Mentally ill people have easy access to guns, made possible by the lobbying (i.e. bullying and buying off) efforts of the NRA and the craven cowardice of our elected officials. We live in a culture saturated with violent imagery: video games, TV shows and movies. They don’t cause the violence. They feed the appetite for it. Our nation is almost always at war. We worship at the altar of our twin state religions: football and celebrity. The former is the perfect reflection of our brutal society, and in the cult of celebrity, it doesn’t matter whether you do something good or bad as long as everybody knows your name.

Our culture produces an endless supply of individuals with questionable mental stability who want to be famous — or worse, believe they’re destined to be. In other cultures, people strap explosives to the easily brainwashed and turn them into bombs, believing they’ll be rewarded in heaven for mass murder. In this country, we make weapons readily accessible so the mentally unstable can fulfill their delusions of grandeur by shooting as many people as possible. They save the last bullet for themselves or let the police do it, going out in the proverbial “blaze of glory.”

What’s there to figure out? Isn’t it painfully obvious by now? We live in a warped culture that is a veritable petri dish breeding mental instability and emotional insensitivity. We churn out deranged individuals like a factory. Lonely and alienated, filled with self-loathing and anger, they take their grievances out on innocent people before turning their violence, finally, on themselves. They need help, but they sure don’t need easy access to guns. And right now they can get all the weapons they want. This guy reportedly had 14.

Unfortunately, we can’t regulate guns effectively (i.e. nationwide) because gun supporters can’t stomach a little extra paperwork or waiting periods, and because the more extreme among them are afraid the big, bad government will try to take their guns away, which they openly say they need to overthrow that oppressive government so they can remain truly “free.”

Some police officers, I’m told, like to divide society into “wolves, sheep and sheepdogs.” The police who buy into that mythology see themselves as sheepdogs and the law-abiding as helpless, passive sheep who need their protection from the wolves (Google it if you want to read more). It’s incredibly condescending, but there is an element of truth in the characterization. We have been acting like passive, helpless sheep when it comes to the increasing number of mass murders in this country. 

Until we demand that our legislators take action and stop kowtowing to the gun rights lobby that bullies them, we’re all just sitting sheep, waiting for our turn to be led to slaughter.

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