Thoughts on Las Vegas 10/2/2017

It cannot be argued that a man who uses a fully-automatic rifle and hundreds of rounds of tactical ammunition to shoot into a faceless crowd is anything but insane. But what makes him insane is not the weapon. It is festering rage.

What happened in Las Vegas is unique only in its scale. It is one of many tragedies that play out so often we debate changing the definition of ‘mass shooting’ because it requires only four deaths. How numb we’ve become.

Still, it is true that this latest tragedy could not have been prevented. We value our freedom to purchase things that are not good for us far more than we value the mental health of others or even ourselves. More such incidents will follow of course. Of that there is no doubt.

I am not insane. But if I WERE….
If I were unable to accept that life is unfair and people will take advantage of me if and when they can, I would be unable to control my rage and I would lash out. What if I suddenly lost it? What if I totally lost control and no longer felt constrained by the bonds of social norms? The result would just be a tantrum. The damage resulting from such an outburst would be minor and likely comical. Wholly unsatisfactory to me. That is why I don’t lash out. I would look foolish, perhaps receive mandatory counseling or spend a night in jail and then I’d be back to where I started.

Mankind generally behaves much like any other species in the animal kingdom. When we get pushed, we push back. When we are wronged, we want justice. When we are threatened, we resist. When we are cornered, we attack.

What sets mankind apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is the science and technology of efficient death.

I am at least as flawed as any man. I have known rage. I have lost control and acted irrationally. I have surrendered to blind panic and attacked when I believed there was no other option.

I am likely to lose my temper again.

But, I am a small man disinclined to pick fights I will not win. If I am carrying a gun, I don’t feel so small. I am less likely to back down. But, being armed is not enough to feel in control when everyone is armed. The only advantage is the element of surprise. Act first. Shoot first. Kill first. Vanquish. These are the stakes of a life or death scenario and every scenario involving a gun is a life or death scenario and may last only an instant. No time for reflection. No time for discussion. No time for debate.

Would I ever so thoroughly lose my way as to kill indiscriminately? No.
Could I get drunk enough to be the angry guy who shoots his friend in the face? Possibly.

We arm ourselves for defense, but we forget that the opportunity to shoot in defense requires not getting shot. As more and more people arm themselves, the advantage of having a gun goes away. For what it’s worth, I am past the tipping point and I now assume that everyone is armed rather than assuming a given individual is not. That assumption shapes my words. Shapes my actions. Shapes my fears.

As the saying goes, ‘God created men of all shapes and sizes. It was Colt who made them equal.’ But guns don’t make us equal, they just make us equally deadly.