For those of you who bother to read this column every week — whatever your motivations, I thank you; those checks at least pay an electric bill each month — it’s almost too easy to predict what I would write about this time. And frankly, I’m okay with that; the shooting that occurred this past week at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, the circumstances surrounding it, the nuances of its impacts and implications, are too obvious, too brazen to not write about — its repercussions, too hideous to brush away.
In a way, this mirrors the sad, almost shoulder-shrug predictability with which the event carried itself, and with which we as a nation seem to be viewing it in the still-immediate aftermath (I will point out, as other publications have, just eight miles from the site of the Columbine High School massacre, and 15 miles from the Aurora theater where a gunman killed a dozen people and wounded 70 more).
The numbers don’t lie: while I was reading articles to research this thing, I noticed the top trending topics on the LA Times website and, spoiler alert, the shooting death of yet another child — the 195th, fun fact, since the Sandy Hook shootings — wasn’t anywhere close to breaking in. Peter O’ Toole, the Heisman Trophy and “The Hobbit,” it seems, are much more worthy of national attention.
And while the shrieking-head punditry that passes for journalists on cable news these days — only bearable because their yakking is muffled by their perpetual self-fellating — hasn’t quite had time to roll out in full force, it will surely serve little more function than to assume its rightful place in the familiar, formulaic series of knee-jerks that comprises our national response to a tragedy like this one.
Depending on how you look at it, this couldn’t have happened in a better or worse place. Colorado, due to recent history, is already a hotbed of gun control debate. After Sandy Hook — during a period in which President Obama signed 23 executive orders tightening gun restrictions, most of which were predictably stalled in Congress — Colorado was joined by Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Delaware in requiring background checks for all gun purchases, including online and in person at gun shows. In response to this and other limitations, hunters organized a boycott of the state; groups such as the NRA lobbied for and successfully pursued the recall elections of two senators (John Morse and Angela Giron) who signed onto the stricter laws. With every politically-motivated haymaker exchanged, we maintain, it appears, an infuriating equilibrium.
The same old angles are again up for scrutiny: the gun used in this latest tragedy was found to have been purchased legally, a fact that should be causing us to scream to the heavens and to Congress for even tighter restrictions and more exhaustive background checks. And some will; the loud and brash will be ignored due to their unpalatable passion, the quiet and reserved for their lack of it. The NRA, meanwhile, will push for organized militias in public schools, because the best way to put out a fire on your genitals is to douse it with syphilis-laced kerosene.
I’ve gotten to the point that, every time something like this happens — the Newtown shooting, the Aurora theater, the Wisconsin mosque — my response in these pages is all too predictable. Most of the time, I try, with wildly varying degrees of success, to keep it fresh; I once wrote 800 words on a Busta Rhymes video and, this time last year, was coming up with plots for fake holiday movies. You can see why they increased my rate by $20.
Really though, there’s no other way to react because, in the end, what makes these events so infuriating is both the frequency with which they occur, as well as their eminent preventability. Attacking, with gusto, even one aspect of this multi-pronged problem could work wonders.
After a shooting in Tasmania in the mid-’90s that resulted in the deaths of 35 people, Australian Prime Minister John Howard — a noted conservative and Bush BFF — signed into law an outright ban on automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, instituting a mandatory buyback program to boot. As a result, gun-related suicides dropped by about 74 percent. Regarding homicides, Australia already had so few gun-related deaths that the impact of the law didn’t have an apparent immediate impact, but that fact only serves to underscore the absurdity of the inexplicably iron grip our country insists on maintaining where guns are concerned.
In Australia, a country with so few annual gun-related homicides as to barely register in international statistics, high-capacity weapons were banned outright after one mass shooting. Here in the States, we can’t even debate the merits of tightened gun control after a mass shooting without someone claiming Obama is trying to enslave the white race.
You know what? I’m done. If we can’t move forward on this, we deserve all we get and more. Merry Christmas.