Abraham Lincoln killed by a gun/male gunman
James Garfield killed by a gun/male gunman
William McKinley killed by a gun/male gunman
Huey Long killed by a gun/male gunman
John F. Kennedy killed by a gun/male gunman
Malcom X killed by a gun/multiple attackers presumed male
Martin Luther King Jr. killed by a gun/male gunman
Robert Kennedy killed by a gun/male gunman
John Lennon killed by a gun/male gunman
Multiple People killed by guns/male gunman at University of Texas from a Tower
Columbine/two male gunmen
Virginia Tech 32 dead/male gunman
Northern Illinois University/ 5 dead/ male gunman
Killings of Amish Children in Pennsylvania/male gunman
Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others/male gunman
Other mass shootings in post offices and private business offices too numerous to mention/male gunmen
Shooting at Discovery Channel Headquarters/male gunman
Is there a pattern here? Where are the high-profile mass stabbings? What about women assassins? There have been women with explosives tied to them and even children in the Middle East and in Vietnam. But here, among regular American citizens that has not been the case. Yes, someone could use and has used bombs. But in the United States gun violence is not only of epidemic proportions among convicted criminals but is the product of deranged people or those with political causes or both to use handguns to kill people. As the technology improves, the body counts rise. If Jared Loughner had the very same pistol that killed President Lincoln he would have gotten Gabby Giffords and that is all.
Statistics could be quoted at this point but the American public knows that the United States has more gun deaths and more guns than any nation on the planet. It is a continuing orgy of violence and guns are the weapon of choice.
Any rational human being must know now that we have a very serious problem in this country that needs to be solved. It is clear that the usual gun ban vs. more guns argument will not solve it. Already, the American public has identified several causes of the kind of violence cited here: the use of guns, deranged individuals in possession of guns, a polarized nation with a demonization of both sides in the political debate.
What must be done? Why not employ a multidimensional approach to thinking and problem solving on this issue that ignores political ideology entirely and just looks at purely pragmatic steps that can be taken to sharply reduce gun violence? Of course the Second Amendment stays. Guns stay in the hands of millions of law-abiding citizens. There will be no gun bans. But there are a multitude of solutions just begging to be tried: and with success:
Banning large magazines in handguns over ten rounds as has been suggested. Need to shoot off thirty plus at a stroke at the shooting range or gun club? Why not permit it there under strict supervision but not make the larger magazines available at home or on the street.
Permit states to enact widespread concealed carry laws but only under strict permitting requirements and with periodic safety tests and background checks just as we do for getting drivers licenses.
Funnel Federal money to each of the states specifically to mental health clinics to identify and get to treatment those with bipolar disorders and to make sure that those who are mentally ill through no fault of their own do not get guns at all or ammunition for them.
Have the public and politicians set the bar higher for political debate. Heated and vehement discussion of public issues should be applauded as part of our democracy. By contrast, calls to use violence to solve them or to use gun related terminology in political discourse or to make suggestions that political opponents must be more than defeated at the polls: silenced, destroyed be labeled what it is: hate speech. Make such talk just like telling hateful racist or sexist jokes is now: career ending ones for our leaders.
Then there is this obsession Americans have with guns: men in particular. Though women are now getting into the gun community at record rates and this may change.
Psychological studies that are peer-reviewed to examine what gun enthusiasts really feel and why. Just what bonds the gun proponent to his or her guns? Why are they so frightened by the even remote possibility that guns may be taken away from them? We don’t need to take any gun away from any law-abiding citizen who is healthy. Not one. But we do need to really understand what is so different in the United States about GUNS.
Is it the full expression of manhood?
Is it power and authority over others?
Is it even an extension of the phallus of the male?
Is it connected to cultural expectations for what makes a man and now the kind of woman who is worthy of such a man?
Is it more important than principles of human rights contained in the Declaration of Independence and given practical expression in the Constitution and laws of the United States?
Is it addictive like a drug?
Is it simply the best way to kill someone or a lot of people and that that is a central psychological as well as practical reason for all the guns and all the killing we do here? We have to know. We all have to understand this better. Even the most enthusiastic gun-toting among us.
And we have to understand the real motivations of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its lobbying activities. Is it simply a defense of the Second Amendment and the attendant freedoms so valued by all Americans that is the central concern?
Or is it just part of some larger political struggle for power and the NRA would fight any solution just to demonstrate its power over lawmakers? This is not a slight on the NRA at all. Its members are overwhelmingly among some of the best people this country has to offer. It does defend an important part of our Constitution. And it does offer gun safety instruction. But we have to know. We must understand.
With so many of our political problems today that seem so intractable, we need not abandon our cherished moral and political principles no matter where we stand as a citizen. But we all need to learn how to think multidimensionally instead of unidimensionally. Our failure to do so is literally killing us.