Americans and the cult of guns

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Alison Parker, Adam Ward

Alison Parker,
Adam Ward

We watched, so the Virginia shooter got just what he wanted.
We were horrified, sickened, stricken, but still we watched as a deranged gunman fired several shots and murdered two young journalists on live television, wounding their interview subject, as well.
Alison Parker, 24, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, 27, were conducting a news report for their Roanoke, Va., TV station, interviewing Vicki Gardner, a local chamber of commerce official. It seemed a routine story, a staple of small-city local news broadcasts.
But its ending was anything but routine: A disgruntled former employee of the station came up behind them, paused a few seconds, and then opened fire. (I refuse to use the shooter’s name; he’s had more than enough publicity.)
We watched, so the gunman was appeased.
Psychologists tell us that our violent video age will breed more like him, more angry narcissists hungry for notoriety, for attention, for, well, viewers. In a carefully planned attack, he apparently wore a body camera to capture his savagery; he then uploaded the video to his social media accounts.
Responsible news editors refused to show the most explicit footage, and Facebook and Twitter responded quickly to shut the shooter down.
But the video undoubtedly lives on in the Internet’s murky underworld. This is the modern version of the Roman coliseum, a 21st century update of public executions.
And, yet, it was uniquely American, the sort of horror show for which we have developed a worldwide reputation. While social media are in use everywhere — jihadists have used them to publicize their own gruesome executions — only in the United States do we allow madmen easy access to firearms. We have created the perfect conditions for turning places of work, of learning, of worship into shooting galleries, targets for the mentally unstable, the angry and unhinged.
According to a recent study, there are more public mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world. (The study, conducted by University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford, counts only incidents in which four or more people are killed and excludes gang killings and domestic, or family, episodes. The Virginia shooting, horrific though it was, would not have been counted.) Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States. That’s nearly a third of the 292 mass shooting around the world, in a country with only 5 percent of the global population. America’s high rate of gun ownership “appears connected to its high percentage of mass shootings,” Lankford wrote.
Parker’s father, Andy Parker, told CNN that he would fight for stronger firearms regulations, denouncing as “cowards” those politicians who kowtow to the gun lobby. “Look, I’m for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians who are cowards and in the pocket of the NRA to come to grips and have sensible laws so that crazy people can’t get guns,” he said.
He’s right, of course. I admire not only his willingness to speak out but also his ability to string rational sentences together, given what he and his family are going through.
Still, his crusade is unlikely to bear fruit. He can join the countless other grieving families before him — there are enough to populate a small city — who tried to give meaning to their loss by fighting for sensible firearms regulations. Even the families of the Sandy Hook children — 20 kids and seven adults were killed in an elementary school in —were unable to budge a Congress in thrall to the National Rifle Association.
The cowardice of Congress was not assuaged by public opinion polls, which show overwhelming support for measures such as broader background checks on gun buyers. But the gun lobby threatens to defeat any person who suggests that individuals shouldn’t have their own shoulder-fired rocket launchers, and, apparently, politicians value livelihood over principle.
So there will be more bloodshed. There will be more angry and alienated young men who find it easy to grab a gun and commit a monstrous crime. And given the Virginia shooter’s creative savagery, there will be more video footage of helpless victims.
We’ll be watching.


  1. Jimbo says:

    You’re in denial. The shooting was a hate crime, racially motivated. He wasn’t deranged. He was avenging the church shootings on two innocent white people.

    Something like 130,000,00 adult males go through life, loving their families and neighbors, and never shoot or kill anyone. And you would deny those men (as well as women) the right to protect themselves. What is even more amazing is that you STILL can’t see that gun control doesn’t stop anyone who is determined to kill, from finding a way to kill..

  2. Bill Atkin says:

    Good article outlining the issues including social media. One element omitted. Violence in movies, on television and games. We have created violence in our society and we reward it with academy awards (Departed for example). Kidding ourselves if we don’t think this influences behavior, attitudes, etc. all the elements need to be addressed rather than focusing on one aspect. Gun control may get good press and needs to be addressed, but it alone will not solve the issue of violence in our society.

  3. Tucker says:

    Are you a feminist?

    Also, my first name is Tucker.

    Have a good day.

  4. Rich says:

    I love reading your humorous anti-white and anti-Republican fairytale newspaper articles. Your writings are proof positive that if you tell lies and falsehoods long enough, a certain portion of our population will willingly accept them as absolute truths. Thank you for allowing the rest of us to recognize, through your articles, the latest stream of misinformation, half-truths and subtle racism disguised as progressivism.

  5. Lou Toth says:

    Dear Cynthia,
    It is a little difficult to legally obtain or purchase a “shoulder fired rocket launcher”. Maybe it is our dysfunctional criminal justice system which fails to deter murderous individuals from their actions? No could not be so! Let’s ban all weapons ownership by US citizens and murder in the US will disappear! Mexico has restrictive gun laws incorporated in Article 10 of their Constitution and in Federal Law. We should do the same and enjoy their excellent murder rate?
    I look forward to it, more useless “laws & regulations” which will have no positive effect except for a bigger and more dysfunctional society led by an incompetent political class.


    Destructive device. (a) Any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas (1) bomb, (2) grenade, (3) rocket having a propellent charge of more than 4 ounces, (4) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce, (5) mine, or (6) similar device; (b) any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter, except a shotgun or shotgun shell which the Director finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes; and (c) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into a destructive device as described in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this definition and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.

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