Guns N’ Assholes

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So another one of these assholes armed himself like the Terminator and indiscriminately shot a bunch of strangers, this time at a community college in Oregon, killing nine people and wounding 10 more. It seems that This Asshole, like so many Assholes before him, purchased his weapons legally. It also appears that he blogged on a bit-torrent site about previous assholes, specifically the Last Asshole, the one who shot the newscasters:

I have noticed that so many people like [the Last Asshole] are alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.

It’s unclear whether This Asshole was in it strictly for the limelight, or if there were other factors. It seems he had some religious hangups, and he closed his eyes knowing he’d be famous forever.

But the joke’s on him, because we hardly even notice these things anymore. It’s a big thing on social media for a day or two and then pffft. And this was pretty garden variety stuff. Just marching around shooting everyone in sight? That’s been done. The next asshole is going to really have to do something special if he wants to be remembered for more than a couple of news cycles. Like put on a RoboCop outfit, or commit the massacre from the seat of a unicycle. He could broadcast the whole thing on Periscope and get all super theatrical about it, like a 21st-century Zodiac! In today’s super-competitive asshole marketplace, you’ve really got to go the extra mile.

Does anyone remember the Last Asshole’s name? What about the Charleston Asshole? Anyone? Anyone even remember which Asshole came before Charleston? Was it the “Trainwreck” Asshole, or the Santa Barbara Asshole? I feel like the Fort Hood Asshole was in there somewhere. No, not the first Fort Hood Asshole that killed 17 people, that was 2009. There’s been like a dozen more assholes since then. I’m talking about the second Fort Hood Asshole, he only got like three. You don’t remember the second Fort Hood Asshole?

Since the 1999 Columbine Assholes, when (half) the nation first sat up straight and resolved to Do Something About This, when Michael Moore made BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and became the Right wing’s favorite piñata, there have been 31 Flavors of these Assholes, so many that I had forgotten most of them.

I certainly seem to have grown some thick emotional calluses. These things used to bring me to tears, and now they rate little more than a solemn head shake, a deep sigh, and then back to business. My Facebook is full of all the same arguments as the last time, and the time before that, with both sides saying all the same things as last time, and nobody’s minds changing, myself included.

I was going to write down all my Big Important Thoughts about gun control, until I remembered that I already did that three years ago. In January 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook Asshole, when Obama was making his first doomed effort to corral the spread of firearms into asshole hands, I wrote:

These measures, in my opinion, get it about half right. I won’t lose any sleep if the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines goes through, but I also don’t think banning hardware is the right approach to the problem. I don’t see any reason that licensed, law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be able to purchase or possess whatever kind of firearm they want, be it semi-automatic, fully automatic, rocket launcher, or flying drone. If they jump through all the hoops they have to jump through to prove their trustworthiness, I think that trust, once earned, should be absolute.

Having said that, I think they ought to jump through a lot more hoops to earn that trust. Closing the gun-show loophole on background checks is long overdue, and a good start, but I think there are a few more things we can and should do in order to preserve law-abiding gun owners’ right to shoot while also preserving law-abiding citizens’ right to not get shot. I don’t know exactly what a ‘background check’ consists of, but I’m guessing it’s a glance at your criminal record and, with these new measures, a look at your mental health record, if one exists. These are fine as far as they go, but let’s face it, they don’t go very far. Background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Sandy Hook shooter, because he didn’t buy his guns; he borrowed them from his mother, who passed all her background checks and is by all accounts a law-abiding citizen. Nor would they have stopped the Aurora shooter, who had no criminal record.

When you want to adopt a dog, you don’t just get to go to the shelter and take the dog home. You have to go through a thorough background check, which includes the shelter sending someone to your home to determine whether it’s a suitable place for the animal. Where’s it going to sleep? Does your yard have a fence? Do you have rat poison on the bottom shelf of the pantry? Who’s going to feed it if you leave town?

I humbly suggest that similar safeguards should be built into the background check process for firearms, sort of like if you were adopting a tiger. Where are you going to keep it? Who else lives there? Is that person over 18? Has he also passed the background check? If he hasn’t, how will you keep the guns secure when you’re not home? Had the Sandy Hook shooter’s mother had to jump through all these hoops, 20 more kids in Connecticut would be getting bored of their Christmas presents right about now.

Furthermore, I think that if a gun is registered to you and it’s used in a crime, even if it was stolen from you completely without your knowledge, you should be subject to prosecution. If you kept a tiger in your house but didn’t chain it up or anything, would you be liable if it busted through the front door and ate the mailman? You absolutely would. Had a similar liability for weapons been in place last month in Connecticut, the Sandy Hook shooter’s mother might have kept her arsenal behind lock and key, safely out of reach of her Satan-spawn. Nothing motivates quite like the possibility of liability and jail time.

We’ve had at least five more assholes, 47 more bodies, and many more injured since then, and that’s just mass shootings, not one-on-one homicides, suicides, or accidents. I still think these are good ideas and I don’t understand why anyone (other than an asshole) would oppose them.

The drum the NRA crowd always beats after one of these assholes shows up on the news is that guns aren’t the problem, access to mental health services is. Maybe so, but if the big reason background checks can’t work is that not all criminals have criminal records — and apparently, if an approach to this problem can’t be guaranteed 100% effective, it is not worth the trouble — expanding mental health services is hardly going to solve the problem by itself. Not all mentally disturbed people want or believe they need assistance, a phenomenon I have observed up close more than once. So what are we going to do, go door-to-door raiding homes and forcing mental healthcare on people? I’m no political scientist but that is not what I’d call a conservative, small-government approach, not to mention wildly impractical and hideously expensive.

On the other hand, if we do mental health screenings on everyone who’s trying to buy a gun, we don’t have to knock on any doors. The assholes will march right in and when they start foaming at the mouth and ranting about the Kristallnacht, THAT’S when we politely decline their application and offer them some expanded access to mental health services. Because yes, we absolutely need to expand mental health services, AND to restrict access to guns. Thinking there is a single silver-bullet approach to this problem is incredibly childish and nearly as bad as thinking there’s no problem in the first place.

Some would suggest that each of these assholes was so driven by Evil that he would have killed people no matter what, that the tools he (always, always he) used are incidental. These assholes could theoretically have gone on their killing sprees with different weapons. They could have used a knife, or a bomb, or their car. But they didn’t, and there is a very good reason for that: Killing a lot of people with a knife requires courage, strength, and skill. Building a bomb requires know-how. Killing a lot of people with your car requires that the people you want to kill are standing in front of your car. To kill a lot of people with a gun, all you need is the gun.

I grew up with guns. I am no stranger to the thrill of breaking a clay pigeon or blowing up a watermelon from a hundred paces. My dad and my uncle are both licensed gun dealers, my uncle professionally, my dad recreationally. They are the very definition of a responsible gun owner and I know that people like them are the vast majority. This isn’t about them; it’s about the assholes. I want to take the assholes’ guns away. I want to stop the assholes from getting them in the first place. The Virginia Tech Asshole could not have killed anywhere near 34 people without a gun. The Santa Barbara Asshole, a spineless little twerp if I’ve ever seen one, absolutely could not have killed seven people and wounded seven more if all he had was a knife. He probably would have stayed in his car and done the head-crushing thing from Kids in the Hall. The only way that dude could be dangerous to anybody was with a gun. These are the assholes we are trying to disarm. Not the hunters, not the hobbyists, not the collectors. The assholes. Who would want to prevent that, except an asshole?

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