A few weeks ago, the head of the NYPD criticized Latinos and blacks for tolerating gun violence. Commissioner Ray Kelly’s timing could not have been more exquisite, for as we all know, some nut in Colorado has decided to take part in that most American of activities: the mass shooting of strangers.
Although it’s true that “America’s Hispanic population suffers from firearm violence at rates far greater than the U.S. population overall,” the idea that Latinos are more accepting of violence is darkly hilarious. After all, most of the mass shootings that grab headlines have taken place in predominately white small towns and suburbs.
So while we hold candlelight vigils and say we’ll never forget, in truth, all Americans — not just Latinos — accept gun violence as inevitable. It’s apparently the price we pay for freedom… well, at least the freedom to shoot a hundred rounds at once.
But of course, that’s the problem. Proponents of a broad definition of the Second Amendment say a well-armed citizenry is necessary to protect our liberty. But having a gun in American is no longer about defending yourself from an intruder or preventing mythical government tyranny. At some point, packing heat became a goal in and of itself, an end in search of a means.
Simply put, we love guns. Actually, we fetishize them. They are part of us.
In other industrialized nations, guns are for the most part feared, or utilized as tools. Here, they are celebrated, held up as iconic, and are entirely appropriate for children to display in Christmas cards.
Speaking of other advanced nations, most have stricter gun laws than the United States, and most have lower rates of gun violence. In fact, “there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders. This holds true whether you’re looking at different countries or different [U.S.] states.” So the idea that more guns make us safer doesn’t seem to be working out so well in real life.
America has comparable rates of violence when it comes to things like beatings, stabbings, and the like. But when it comes to gun violence, we are in our own orbit, anywhere from ten to twenty times as high. And that very large exception gives us an overall higher homicide rate than most other industrialized nations, despite the fact that U.S. crime is way down.
Some have pointed out that other countries “have about the same percentage of crazy people that we do. It’s just that they can’t get their hands on firearms so easily.”
And this leads us back to that maniac in Colorado. If this germ lived in, say, England, it wouldn’t cross his mind that he could buy 6,000 rounds of ammunition. He might as well wish for a tank or a nuclear bomb. But in America, he knew he could get it.
His crazy idea about stockpiling guns and ammo wouldn’t go away. Because deep down, he knew that it was his birthright as an American.