I debated whether to write this now or wait until the emotional turmoil subsided. The latest horror at a U.S. high school has raised the inevitable questions around gun control, mental health, security, rights, etc. All these questions are fueled by the emotion of the moment, and while it is probably true that a more rational response is best, in the long run, it is the profound honesty of the moment that makes it worthwhile. So here goes.
Like most, I recoiled in dismay at the news of yet another school shooting. It is hard to imagine the level of fear and horror that must accompany such an experience. From the students, to the school staff, to the parents, it has to be a nightmare beyond compare. The overwhelming sense is that this should not ever happen so something must be done to prevent it that elicits the emotional reactions we experience in its wake. We are exhausted from the repetition of these events, angry that they happen, and angry that nothing seems to get done about it.
The deja vu felt in the events carries over to the aftermath with depressing predictability. The same characters come out with the same messages, the politicians wring their hands while making promises without details, and of course, the loudest voices are those on both sides of what always becomes the immediate and main topic, gun control.
Being someone who places the individual above the all else, you would think I have a knee-jerk reaction against laws that deny one’s property rights. And you would be correct. That is my automatic default position. But it gets complicated where guns are concerned. Because I hate them!
I hate guns and everything they represent. In my more fantasy filled moments, they don’t exist nor does anyone know how to make them. That is now much I despise them. But I am also aware that guns are inanimate objects so are incapable of action. It is the human hearts and minds wielding them that are the real source of the anguish we experience when innocents are killed en masse. One has to wonder about the overall cultural effects of movies, television, and video games that make violence such an acceptable feature of our lives.
I completely understand and sympathize with those who feel strict gun laws are the answer. It’s obvious that if these killers didn’t have a gun, their destructive acts would be limited to alternative weapons. Fewer people can be killed with a blade. My question is, can guns be controlled to the point of preventing these tragedies? To do this would require that current guns be confiscated and future ones become illegal. How would this play out? Are we talking about door-to-door seizures? Informing on our friends and families? These notions may sound extreme but they need to be discussed. All laws come down to specific enforcement activities. How do we police the existence of guns without heading towards becoming a police state? Please recall my previous paragraph – I hate guns. So I am open to exploring these questions.
The other question that hangs in the air is why do these terrible events happen with such frequency in the USA as compared to other western nations?
I live in Canada. We share the continent, trade, and much of the history of this part of the world. Our gun laws are more restrictive in some ways, but not others (see link below). What is it about Canadian culture that differs enough from our next door neighbour that generates far less gun violence? The same question can be asked of Europe.
This brings me to the hearts and minds. Is it too much to ask that we look within and start understanding our own dispositions and tendencies? If I am constantly consuming violence and hatred for entertainment, what am I reinforcing in my psyche? I like to think of myself as a peaceful man, only willing to harm another in self-defence. But when I watch violent movies and television shows, especially those that offer a thrill when killing, maiming etc. are the main action scenes, am I actually feeling a thrill? If so, is this the person I want to be?
Finally, if you are in the movie business, what projects are you involved with? If they are those mentioned above, are you ok with that? Why?
These questions are difficult. I encourage everyone to look within and ask them. One of my concerns with the gun control debate is that it circumvents these challenging questions by placing the solution outside ourselves. Sadly, I am not optimistic that anything will change until the questions about what it is in our hearts and minds comes to prominence.
I hope this piece gives you a reason to reflect.