Two events that occurred in movie theaters made the news this week, and I’m not sure the details surrounding them say good things about our so-called “American Values.”
In the first event, a likable, elderly character actor/comedian allegedly pulled his pecker out while viewing a porn film in LA. Thankfully for those of us who know peckers are the devil’s work, the LAPD was on the case. They swooped in, armed with good, old-fashioned righteousness, and busted the vile perp. Word has it that this police force regularly spends taxpayer money and devotes people and departmental resources to stamping out semi-public masturbation in adult theaters.
I feel safer just thinking about it.
Meanwhile, over in Aurora, Colorado, a mentally deranged loner – who had been stockpiling semi-automatic firearms and ammunition for months, unchecked and unnoticed – shot up a theater full of people Friday, killing 12 and wounding dozens more.
Can we please ditch the expression, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” for a while? I’ve heard it a million times in my life and at least 20 times in the past two days. It’s a handy phrase, but it falls apart when scrutinized. Let’s change the context: Heroin doesn’t get people high. People shooting heroin into their veins gets them high. Two atomic bombs didn’t kill or maim 200,000 Japanese in early August, 1945. People dropping them from bombers did.
The fact is, heroin serves no purpose other than to get you high. Atomic bombs serve no purpose other than to vaporize cities and their inhabitants. And semi-automatic firearms serve no other purpose than to kill human beings. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to buy, sell, or own the first two things. So why do some people freak out when the rest of us think you shouldn’t be able to buy military-grade firearms like candy?
The NRA crowd likes to claim that mentally ill, violent loners are going to snap anyway, so if they can’t get guns, they’ll use some other method. Which explains the Virginia Tech stabbings and the Columbine High School chainsaw massacre, right? Oh wait, those mass killing were done with guns, too.
I’m not keen on the labels “conservative” and “liberal” for thinking people, because I believe thinkers and ideologues are mutually exclusive groups. That said, my support of marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights, and clean-air laws, combined with my secular humanist philosophy, would probably earn me the tag of liberal in a lot of places. But I’m a pretty bad liberal, given that I think Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban is idiotic, and efforts to put gory images on cigarette packs are un-American and anti-business (why not put pictures of rotten teeth on Pepsi cans and photos of clogged arteries on packs of ground beef?). I also support the right to bear arms. Just not hundreds of them.
My understanding of the Second Amendment: American citizens are permitted to own guns as a limit to government power. That is, a government official in the late 18th century would have thought twice about compelling you to act against your interests when you have a musket aimed at his face. Also implied by the amendment is that you are permitted to defend your property against intruders. On the other hand, it does not permit you to buy a missile launcher.
I’m all for shopkeepers and homeowners shooting armed robbers. And if you need a rifle for deer hunting, plenty of sporting-goods stores will sell you one. What I’m not for is people buying semi-automatic guns in bulk without anyone saying, “Hey, wait a minute…” How many law abiding, non-psychotic, non-murderous people buy thousands of rounds of ammo at a time? If you are one who does, is it that much of a burden if I want to run your driver’s license through a database? After all, you’re buying something that was engineered solely to kill people (you have to show ID to buy beer, you know). The NRA crowd acts like no commerce is regulated but guns, and what an outrage it is to be singled out.
The other mantra being repeated this weekend is, “If someone in that theater had been armed, this wouldn’t have happened.” Yes, too bad Jason Statham wasn’t there to whip out his Desert Eagle .44, leap over three rows of chairs, mutter a snarky catch phrase, and pop a round in the bad guy’s forehead. On the other hand, does Joe Citizen have the wits to fire into a smoke-filled, darkened theater full of people screaming and running, and not hit the wrong target? What if Frank American draws his piece, sees Joe citizen standing there with a gun, and thinks he’s the maniac? Do we really think nutcases like James Holmes or Eric Harris are going to call off a mad rampage because they fear someone might shoot back? Mass murderers expect to die. It’s part of the whole “deranged madman” package.
I guess the NRA’s message is that if everyone buys a gun – if every last one of us is packing heat – then mentally ill loners will not get away with such shenanigans. If the gun makers turn a tidy profit, well, that’s an incidental side effect. The problem for me is I already have enough junk to carry, what with wallets and keys and cell phones. Plus there’s the whole road-rage temptation thing. And the exponential increase in accidental firing that would occur on subways and such. And all the cross-eyed looks that would make me nervous. And all the…
The gun lobby and its supporters know nothing is going to change. No one will take their semi-automatics away, and crazy killers will still be able to buy their murder implements on the internet. So, out of respect for the dead, can’t they just shut the fuck up for a week and let people be sad?