My wife Sandy woke me up shortly after 5:00am yesterday morning with a text about a mass murder in Las Vegas:
20 dead in Vegas shooting
Used auto weapon
For 30 minutes I scanned Twitter for breaking news, then went into my a self-imposed 24 hour social media blackout. Emerging now from my self-imposed exile I see we don’t know a whole hell of a lot more than 24 hours ago. How can sane, peace-loving people understand a barbaric madman after all? So this is a more personal reflection than a deep analysis of the causes and prevention of mass murder.
My wife’s original text that the shooter “used auto weapon” hit close to home because a week earlier too had used a fully automatic rifle, and one from Nevada at that (Reno, not Las Vegas).
Was I somehow complicit in what happened in Las Vegas? Was it wrong for me to enjoy shooting a “weapon of war,” a tool not like any other tool but one designed to hurl as many deadly projectiles as quickly as possible at a chose target? While others were blaming Obama or Trump, the NFL or NRA, I wondered in what sense might I be to blame?
Upon reflection, I do not believe I am complicit. I do not see how my safe and responsible shooting of a legally owned and operated fully automatic rifle makes me at all responsible for the actions of a criminal.
I don’t feel responsible for the actions of the Las Vegas shooter any more than as a vehicle owner I feel responsible for the deaths of 2 innocent people as the result of a high speed chase in Greensboro the other day.
How many fewer innocent victims would there be in America if people just did not have cars? Although the motor vehicle fatality rate has declined since 1972, the United States still has the highest rate in the developed world. We are better than that! Can’t we see that there are immediate solutions we can impose that will dramatically reduce this rate? Raise the age at which people can legally drive to 21 and reduce the maximum speed of cars. After all, who needs a car that can go faster than 60 miles per hour? If it saves just one life…
Nor, as I have written previously, as someone who drinks alcohol regularly do I feel responsible for any of the terrible things people do to themselves and others because of their alcohol consumption. Especially alcohol consumption in conjunction with driving too young in their cars that go too fast.
Just yesterday I received notice of the publication of an article that shows the amount of beer and spirits (but not wine!) consumed by a population is statistically correlated with national homicide rates.
OK, well maybe we NEED our cars, but certainly no one NEEDS to drink alcohol. As a nation don’t we need to take a serious look at ourselves and realize that our lax alcohol laws are taking a human toll every day? If it saves just one life . . .
None of this is to say that I am not pained and outraged by homicidal violence, especially when it takes place on a grand scale or stage. Or to say I don’t want to understand why mass murders occur and to know how to reduce them.
But I won’t hear those who think I should alter my behavior out of feelings of guilt for what happened in Las Vegas until they first give up their cars and booze out of guilt for what happens as a result of driving and drinking (separate and together) every day in America. If it saves just one life. . .