The enemy lies within

Six days ago, the Mass Shooting of the Week took place at massage spas in the Atlanta area. Then three days later, before the Atlanta memorial flowers had even started to wilt, it was Boulder’s turn. In a grocery store.

Eight dead at Atlanta. Ten at Boulder.

And every weekend, plenty more individual gun killings in whatever major American city you care to name. Gang rivalries, school massacres, domestic disputes, robberies, home invasions, mental crises — no shortage of opportunities.

The scenario repeats ad infinitum. Victims’ families devastated. Twenty-four-seven cable news coverage of the tragedies. More columns like this one. Demands for various types of gun control. Responses that nothing could have prevented this shooting, or that shooting, or the other shooting, or the shootings yet to come. 

And the nation waits to see whose turn is next. 

We’re a gun-addicted country. Number of civilian guns in the United States: 400 million. Number of people in the United States: 330 million. 

That’s about 120 guns for every 100 persons.

Know who’s in second place? The Falkland Islands, with 2,000 guns for its 3,000 population. About 62 per 100, half the rate of the U.S.

Here are some others (guns per 100 persons): Canada 35, Finland 32, Sweden 23, France and Germany 20, Australia 15, Brazil 8, Ireland 7, Scotland 6, England and Wales 5, Netherlands 3, Japan 0.3.

How about some of the so-called really dangerous and violent nations? How many guns do civilians have there? Check these out: Pakistan 22, Iraq 20, Saudi Arabia 17, Honduras 14, and Libya, Mexico and Afghanistan 13. 

Afghanistan! 13! About one-tenth the number of guns per capita in private hands compared to the United States.

Nigeria? Three guns per 100 persons.

Nearly half the households in America possess at least one gun. 

Last spring we bought 3,000,000 more. That doesn’t count the thousands that were stolen or loaned.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Not even close.

The National Rifle Association is right: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

And I don’t see any way to prevent that.

There are common-sense steps we could take to reduce the slaughter. People on the no-fly list are there for a reason — they’re a violence risk. That’s why airline passengers are checked for weapons before they board a plane. If you’re on the no-fly list, you shouldn’t be allowed to possess a gun.

Boyfriends who abuse their girlfriends — and vice versa — should be banned from gun possession. Not just married spouses, but anyone in a serious relationship. That goes for child abusers, too.

Individuals with diagnosed mental problems should be ineligible to possess a gun, at least during the times they’re a threat to themselves or others.

There’s too much risk from mass shootings to permit high-capacity gun magazines. I don’t know what a reasonable limit is, but I think anything over 10 shells or so poses more risk than is worth the convenience of the shooter.

It would be impossible, and unreasonable, and unconstitutional, to try to forbid gun ownership across the board. Some people shoot animals; they’re called hunters. Some people shoot targets; they’re called marksmen. 

Some people shoot people. They’re called murderers, and they shouldn’t be allowed to have guns. 

But it’s often impossible to identify them before they kill. I don’t think anyone knows how to do that.

And I don’t know why we’re such a violent country. There’s been a lot of ink put to paper to answer that question. I suppose the idea is that if we could actually figure out why so many of us shoot each other, we might be able to reduce gun deaths in America. 

But there’s no guarantee of that. For some reason, thousands of Americans shoot other Americans, and have done so for many, many decades. I think it’s something we’ll have to live with.

Or die from.

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