Jeez, a year since the Columbine shootings, not to mention the various workplace shootings, which have forever tarnished our collective subconscious. It wasn’t supposed to happen here, the locals say — hunched over their coffees, microphones in their faces.
Unfortunately, the reactionary anguish and paranoia that accompany such tragedies are fleeting. Since all the top news stories involve death — day after day, coast to coast — we’ve become so immune to the horror that we simply give a sad shake of the head and look forward to the sports section.
When fatal-shooting scenarios become routine, it’s time to re-evaluate the problem. The patriot in all of us knows we can do better, and longs for a solution. Since the deadly formula usually consists of Your Average Joe with loose mental wiring, a gun, a vendetta, and some unlucky victims, let’s concentrate on the variable that we can control: the gun. Without the gun, yes, Y.A. Joe is still disturbed, and the vendetta still festers … but the potential victims enjoy their relative safety.
Is there a reasonable way to remove the gun from the picture?
Overall, gun-control laws prove ineffective when the would-be shooter is a prepubescent punk too young to have racked up a lengthy rap sheet, or the previously quiet neighbor who’s suddenly gone cuckoo. And that’s the scariest notion — the one that makes us cling to one another as we watch the live feed from CNN, showing people emptying out of schools and offices, and bringing home the basic notion that anyone, anywhere, anytime could be a mere synapse away from a murder spree.
No one wants to live in fear. No one wants to peer over the office cubicle and wonder which co-worker is packing heat. No one wants to frisk their children before the school bus whisks them away. So could disarmament work? Are people tired enough of the headlines and the body counts to voluntarily put down their guns? Most of all, is there a realistic way to get an entire country to disarm?
Of course, you’re saying “no” — but let’s pretend.
First, we win over all the gun owners who have such a death-grip on the Second Amendment. If bygone lawmakers could ever have foreseen the advances in firearm technology, or imagined such a loose interpretation of their intentions, they probably would have been more focused in their vision and more precise with their wording. The renegade sensibilities of a young nation should have mellowed by now. Thankfully, we have the armed forces to protect us from invasion, and police officers all around this great land keep the peace. If a trained militia becomes necessary, I’m sure the president will send a memo.
Granted, keeping the peace is a daunting task when every sociopath and common crook is armed to the gills. Here, obviously, the disarmament theory falls on its face.
What to do?
We stop the import of guns and discontinue their domestic manufacture. We recycle all the materials that would have been used in gun production to make adequate homeless shelters, a fuel substitute, and a patch for the ozone hole. We legalize and tax drugs, funneling some of the money into rehabilitation for true addicts, and putting the rest into education and prevention. This will force dealers to seek other vocations, allow abusers to burn themselves out, and make the illicit excitement of illegal activity obsolete. (If it’s 75 percent more expensive and available at Eckerd’s, it’s not half as much fun.)
Metal detection will reach a milestone, as roving vehicles scan every house, barn and office in search of guns and ammunition. Gun parts will be recycled, collectors will be compensated for the estimated worth of their collections, and the NEA will provide grant money to artists to create monuments, made from all the leftover bullets, commemorating the unarmed millennium. By turning in their ammo, sport hunters will enjoy tax credits (and might rediscover the thrill of primitive hunting-and-gathering techniques by strict usage of bows, arrows and spears). Of course, endangered species will be exempt from any form of hunting, and game-animal populations will still be controlled by the avid sportsmen who are getting back to basics. The NRA will become No Rifles Anymore, and Charlton Heston and Ted Nugent will console recovering gun owners with a cross-country seminar series. Without guns, disgruntled employees will file complaints to their respective union or company head, or simply find other work. Disturbed children will write evil notes or draw unflattering caricatures of hated classmates (or brood quietly, the way they used to). Gangsters from rival factions will start using their fists again. In traffic, people will shoot the bird instead of their sidearm.
Sure, this liberal, utopian blathering is a pipe dream. Sure, it’s never gonna happen this way. And even if disarmament were viable, inevitable drawbacks would present themselves. We would undoubtedly see a frightening increase in stabbings, bludgeonings, stranglings and ice-pickings. Sick individuals with homicidal leanings would find a way, I suppose — but at least victims would have a fighting chance, and hapless bystanders need not be such open targets.
So, do we shoot our way through this new century? Will The Gap find a way to make bulletproof vests fashionable, and bring back the holster as a must-have accessory? Will the metal detector replace the office water cooler?
There are no answers. But before long, we’ll probably be reeling from yet another shooting tragedy. We’ll stare at the gloomy covers of our major periodicals and wonder: How could it have come to this? Again.