Mass Shootings and the New Normal

Yet another mass shooting in America.  Oh, but wait, we’re repeatedly told these things don’t happen more often today than they did years ago.  I heard this again several times today, in fact.  But I have my doubts.  I need to see some supporting numbers.

Then I listened to an expert of some sort or another explain that kids are still safer at school today than they are in cars or other common activities.  As a public health statistic, mass shootings — especially school shootings — are extremely rare events and represent only a the smallest of chances of danger for people.  This, I suppose, is supposed to reassure us.

And then it occurred to me…We are really messed up.

It is inherently wrong to look at these shootings as a public health statistic and make reassuring remarks that kids, regardless of the distorting bad news, are safer in schools than they are in cars.  Push the statistics aside and there is nothing that is not wrong about these senseless mass shootings.

Doesn’t a moral question exist here?  Dying in a mass shooting is different from dying in a car wreck.  Driving in a car is a socially acceptable activity that unfortunately comes with some risk.  Are we now saying that going to school or the mall or a movie theater is a socially acceptable activity that also entails — albeit the teeniest of tiniest — bits of risk…of being shot?!

No, it is quite different.  Most car wrecks, for example, are unforeseen accidents.  If we start thinking that being at the wrong end of a gun is an unforeseen accident, I think we’re treading into dismal territory.  It is pathetic, really.

These commentators sound like apologists, not for the gunman, but for a society that tolerates gun rights as our country does.  That isn’t right.

So when I hear people make the point that the risk of dying as a result of a mass shooting is low in comparison with things like riding in a car or taking a shower, I get uncomfortable.  And I hope you will start to feel uncomfortable, too.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Right, got that, I know.  “If we restrict gun rights only criminals will have guns.”  Yes, right, I know…and I don’t entirely disagree with these arguments.  But when we start normalizing and tolerating violence and bad behavior, we reset the standards of civil society.  We are a crass and awkward culture.  No doubt.  And when educated people present apologetics in order to reason away individual risk and danger, I think we’re missing the big picture.

Maybe it isn’t guns that kill people or even people who kill people, but a coarsening of our standards and behavior that has evolved into a more barbaric normal.  Shouldn’t we worry about that?

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