Preventive Medicine Column
Dr. David L. Katz
That a society should send its soldiers half way around the world seeking weapons of mass destruction that prove not to be there- while handing them out at home as a matter of routine, even at times, if inadvertently, to the mentally unhinged- raises questions of mass dysfunction.
We should not need to be addressing this now, in the aftermath of the Colorado theatre massacre. We’ve had this chance before. Even Colorado has been here before- if in Littleton, rather than Aurura. But we are here again because the mass dysfunction is not just acute- it is chronic.
I doubt that any of us can even imagine the horrors inside that theatre. The only members of our society likely even to come close are our troops who have seen combat, and perhaps civilian officials who have experienced the more violent extremes of their trade.
But even they- soldiers and police- may not fully know the devastating mayhem of a theatre massacre. Because soldiers and police expect bullets to fly; it’s an occupational hazard. Not so for people out to enjoy a movie.
And so, I suspect, there are many more casualties of this event. People who will relive the traumatic aftermath of what they saw for years, and maybe forever. I was stabbed on a train while spending a semester of college in Europe, and even that trauma- nothing but trivial in comparison to what happened in that theatre- gave me months of flashbacks, and changed my worldview forever.
Of course, if my assailant had a gun rather than knife, I would almost certainly have died on that long ago day. If I had a gun, he might be dead, or we both might be, or maybe others on the train would be. And if either of us had the kind of firepower unleashed in that theatre- well, the results of that speak for themselves.
The propaganda we seem willing to put up with goes like this: guns don’t kill, people kill. But guns make people a whole lot better at killing. They make good people better at killing. They make bad people better at killing. And they make crazy people better at killing.
That the US Constitution is invoked in any way to justify the sale of assault weapons to ordinary citizens must have the Founding Fathers turning over in their graves, and is an insult to every patriot among us since their time. Pinning this on Jefferson or Madison is an egregious abdication. They gave us a work of magnificent passion and patriotism; it is our job to keep the applications of it sensible and current.
If Jefferson or James Madison envisioned a “right to bear arms” extending to the sale of high-tech combat gear to grad students, to what end? How do even semi-automatic weapons enable a civilian population to resist, by force of arms, any tyrannies to which a government with nuclear submarines, B2 stealth bombers, and aircraft carriers at its disposal might be inclined? In this modern age, if all that stands between us and acts of tyranny by our government is force of arms, we are doomed already. The pen has ever proved mightier than the sword; thankfully, that goes for guns, too.
For far too long, the well-funded and effectively vocalized distortions of the NRA have held politicians, the will of the majority, and common sense hostage in this country. Every day they have done so, people have paid with their lives. And on some especially tragic days, they have paid en masse- as in Aurora.
Some have devoted their mouths and their money to the cause of keeping military-grade weaponry accessible to the guy next door, the grad student down the hall- who might, of course, just turn out to be crazy. But it’s crazy not to think that something is awry when someone other than the Pentagon or a SWAT team goes on that kind of shopping spree. Military personnel have themselves weighed in on this, noting that the use of such weapons for self-defense outside a war zone is far-fetched, if not preposterous. Other than catastrophic mayhem, what, exactly, could ever be the intended purpose of such weapons in non-military hands?
And speaking of hands- we have blood on them. There is blood on the hands of those who fight to put guns like this in hands like that- and blood on the hands of those of us who haven’t risen up in defense of our country, our culture, and our convictions. When we fail to do so this time, too, the fault will redound to the shame of us all.
Because this is about mass dysfunction- no question.
Dr. David L. Katz; www.davidkatzmd.com