Before you read into this too far, I’d like to offer you an out. This isn’t a post about video games, or the gaming industry. It isn’t about nerd culture or anything related to it. I just don’t have any other way to get this out, and it’s weighing on my soul. I’ll understand if you don’t want to read on, so please don’t feel bad if you aren’t interested.
If you feel you can’t read this without violating Falcon Game Reviews’ Rules & Regs, I encourage you to refrain from commenting or exiting this page entirely.
A while back, I had intended to write another blog post to make Video Game Tactical into a series, regarding wounds in video games and how they would compare to real life battlefield situations. I never posted it, and I likely never will, because before I had a chance to finish writing it, someone decided to murder over 50 people, and injure almost 600 more. It felt tone-deaf and insensitive, as even though I know it would’ve been interesting to some, it didn’t feel right to talk about it.
At this point, I’m just tired of seeing reports of shootings in the news. Seeing my Twitter feed blown up with words from impassioned individuals calling for action, or in some cases, inaction. I’m not tired because I don’t care, or because I don’t think there’s a problem. I’m tired because my heart hurts from seeing it constantly. People dying senselessly at the hands of those that possess the means to take lives en masse, indiscriminately. The fact of the matter is that The United States needs to do something about this problem; not just politicians, but everyone.
A Complicated Issue
Just like with every major issue we’ve ever faced, this isn’t a simple problem to fix. Mass shootings, as they’re often referred to, aren’t just the product of a guy with a gun. It sure would be nice, but that just isn’t the case. I’d surmise that they’re a result of something deeper that’s wrong with our society, and I’ve never seen it reflected more than in the response to these horrific incidents.
Now, I’m not an expert on the subject, but I know what I’ve observed. I know that each new attack tends to have a pattern: a man with an arsenal of weapons, who shouldn’t have access to them, kills without reason.
The perpetrators – these monsters – seem almost normal when you just see their name; until you look at what they’ve done. Devin Patrick Kelley, Micah Johnson, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Stephen Paddock, and more. They sound like folks you might have known yourself, because that’s what they were to others. What they have in common is that they all were troubled, yet somehow still found a way to not only gain access to weapons capable of dismantling the lives of the unsuspecting, but also driving fear into the hearts of those across the nation. We learn of these shooters’ troubles long after they’ve carried out their terrifying plans.
Stephen Paddock likely had undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and a prescription for anxiety medication, which he often refused to take. He had a habit of gambling that made him a regular at casinos in Las Vegas, which afforded him complimentary accommodations, but he apparently had been having financial trouble leading up to his plan to murder as many people as possible. He fired several hundred rounds from a casino high-rise into a crowded, open-air concert nearby. His attack only ended when he shot himself in the room he had barricaded himself in.
James Holmes seemed like an odd, yet somewhat normal guy. He was a graduate student majoring in neuroscience. Like Stephen Paddock, he too seemed to be struggling with mental health issues. His behavior frightened his own psychiatrist to the point which she sought to have him involuntarily committed, yet couldn’t because there wasn’t ample enough reason to do so. James Holmes eventually purchased enough ammunition and equipment to embolden him to enter a movie theater to open fire into the crowd.
Adam Lanza was a quiet, yet intelligent young man, though his online activities should’ve raised concerns long before he showed up at Sandy Hook Elementary. He had been the focus of an FBI investigation for illegally accessing government computers online, and had a history of “researching” other mass shooters, often claiming he admired them. He suffered from depression, which compelled him to stay in his room sleeping for extended periods of time. Eventually, his obsessions and mental health issues got the better of him, leading him to kill his mother with her own firearms and head to Sandy Hook Elementary, where he killed dozens of innocent women and children.
Micah Johnson was a seemingly normal youth, with an interest in the military and church activities. He didn’t stand out, but he found himself involved in JROTC, and eventually joined the Army. He’d later receive an honorable discharge following a sexual harassment incident that was bad enough to result in the victim seeking a protective order against him. He returned from Afghanistan to Texas, where he resumed a rather nondescript life, aside from barely hiding his support for radical anti-police groups. That is, until he decided to take action against the Dallas Police Department during a protest, killing five officers and wounding several other civilians and officers with a rifle.
Like Micah Johnson, Devin Patrick Kelley too was a US military member, who found himself serving a prison sentence for domestic violence charges for attacking his wife and child. He would later be charged with animal cruelty for chasing down a dog and repeatedly punching it, before slamming it on the ground and dragging it off. His record should have prevented him from being able to purchase a firearm, as domestic violence convictions and dishonorable discharges normally are criteria for background check rejections. However, clerical errors on the US Air Force and local Sheriff’s behalf allowed him to slip through the cracks so he could purchase a Ruger semi-automatic rifle. That Ruger was the weapon he used to murder over two dozen innocents in a small town church, one of which was a pregnant woman.
These are just a few examples of the types of people that carry out these heinous crimes. Some mentally ill, some outright criminals, some are both; none of whom should be able to obtain a firearm of any kind, whether by purchasing themselves or using one they’ve stolen. Sadly, our current system d
oesn’t give authorities the tools to bar these types of people from possessing firearms.
No Simple Fix
I know it’s pleasant to think that stopping these crimes from happening is a simple task, but it isn’t as easy as changing laws, enacting bans, or pouring money into programs for those with mental health issues. Laws require enforcement and we have a stigma in The United States against the mentally ill.
Sure, banning all firearms from civilian ownership would stop most from owning firearms at all, and would make it impossible for many attacks to have been carried out, but the opposite would be true in other cases. In the Sutherland Springs church shooting, Devin Patrick Kelley wouldn’t have been stopped until police had arrived in the small, Texas town. What stopped his attack from being carried out in full was another firearm owner nearby who began shooting at Kelley with his own weapon in response. A ban on “assault weapons” (I really despise that term; all weapons can be used for assault) would’ve also meant folks like the Oklahoma family would’ve been unarmed when a group of three, armed home invaders broke into their home to rob it, in the middle of the day, while they were home.
That doesn’t mean that gun ownership is entirely validated – they’re just anecdotes after all – but it does mean that the issue isn’t nearly as black-and-white as people want to make it out to be. I won’t make the claim that more guns means more security, or that everyone should own a gun, just that banning law-abiding citizens from owning weapons legally would not be a panacea for gun violence. I’d find it vastly more terrifying to see more armed people roaming the streets, considering that most people lack even a basic understanding of firearm safety, but I enjoy the modicum of solace I have from knowing that I have access to a firearm if I do need it.
Of course, the option exists to expand the list of exceptions for legal firearm ownership to exclude those with mental health issues, but where would the line be drawn? Do you ban anyone with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders? A large portion of mass shooters exhibit symptoms of these ailments after all. That would mean that even those with no inclination to carry out an attack, or harm anyone at all for that matter, would be unable to ever own a firearm though, setting a precedent to curtailing the basic civil rights of otherwise normal people.
You could decide to ban all guns, altogether instead, but prohibition has always proven to be an issue. Heroin and marijuana use is illegal in Federal law, yet it’s still enough of a problem on a national level that heroin is killing more and more people every year, and many states are just making marijuana legal in order to decriminalize something that a large section of the US population uses anyway. Alcohol prohibition never worked. Instead, it created a black market for alcohol and lined the pockets of criminals with the money of folks that were never really criminals in the first place.
Regardless, if you were able to repeal the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution and ban all firearms from civilian use, how would any agency go about confiscating over an estimated 300 million firearms? Buy-backs? By force? The truth is that all a ban would do would be to turn roughly 40% of Americans into criminals by default. Furthermore, based on the sheer number of firearms legally owned in The United States (the US allegedly owns about 45% of the entire world’s civilian-owned firearms), it would seem like the rates of firearm-related homicides would be far higher than they actually are.
The truth is that there isn’t a quick or easy fix to the issue of gun violence or mass shootings in The United States. Tackling this problem will require more than just impassioned pleas to ban guns. Additionally, The United States also isn’t Australia, or The United Kingdom, or any other country which has banned or severely restricted civilian ownership of firearms. What works there, may not work here at all. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t do something about the problem, just that the world doesn’t work like a cookie cutter. We need a tailored solution.
I won’t get into the debate of whether or not Americans should be able to own firearms, as that’s a completely different issue altogether, which has view that vary based on personal opinion.
A Message To Gun-Control Advocates
I own firearms, and I’m glad I do. I’m glad that I have an effective means to protect myself and my wife if the need arises. I plan on owning more in the future.
That said, I don’t think that everyone should be able to own one. I agree that there needs to be more stringent requirements in place to prevent those that shouldn’t own guns, from owning them. In fact, most gun owners seem to agree that firearm ownership laws need to be stricter. I don’t believe that Americans should be able to buy automatic weapons. I don’t believe that anyone should be able to own a gun. I don’t believe the “good guy with a gun” fallacy.
However, I want to say that the vast majority of gun owners are reasonable folks that legitimately believe they should have the right to own a firearm, and want to ensure that firearms are handled responsibly. Real “gun nuts” are rare, and the NRA’s lobbyist stances aren’t indicative of how most owners feel.
With that in mind, I want to offer some advice. Please be careful with the statistics you cite. The term “mass shooting” is not a well-defined one. Its use conjures the thought of horrific attacks like the ones in Las Vegas, Nevada and Aurora, Colorado, but the statistics aren’t clear on how many mass shootings have occurred. Most statistics about mass shootings cite any attack with a firearm that injures or kills four or more individuals. The problem here is that when you throw around the term “mass shooting”, then claim a number that includes targeted violence, it muddies the waters.
For instance, the majority of the 30 or so “mass shootings” that have occurred in 2018 so far have included any and all shootings involving four or more victims. Similarly, of the 18 school shootings that have occurred this year, only one has been confirmed to be an indiscriminate, mass shooting (using the colloquial understanding of the term).
One shooting is too many. One death by murder is too much. However, when you use misleading information, it dilutes the point you’re attempting to make. Please, do not use misleading information; it only emboldens those that disagree with you.
A Message To Gun Owners
As someone that owns multiple firearms and supports the rights of Americans to do the same, I understand the frustration of being labelled negatively, and being the target of criticism for exercising your rights. It’s difficult in this day and age to be open about expressing your support for the 2nd Amendment without being written off as a callous monster.
However, before you descend into arguing with people online about this issue, I want to impress upon you two things.
First, it’s never too early to talk about change to existing laws. The best time to talk about things like gun legislation, in my opinion, is when it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. We all know how America and modern society works. If you put it off, it fades from the public’s consciousness. Just look at the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, or our space programs. Once the American public stops caring, it becomes impossible to drum up motivation to do anything. Let’s talk about it now, because if I’m going to be completely honest, the only reason people keep saying we shouldn’t talk about firearm legislation this early, is because they don’t want to talk about it at all.
Second, I want you to remember something extremely important:
Before you dismiss a mass shooting as an isolated incident, or argue with a victim or someone who has lost a loved one, remember that the victims are real people. The concert attendees in Las Vegas who were caught in the crosshairs of the subhuman garbage, and the teachers and kids at Sandy Hook Elementary all lived very real lives, just like you and your family are right now. Except, instead of going about their lives like you are, going to work and seeing your loved ones every day, they’re gone. Some children, barely out of diapers, with entire lives ahead of them. Children that played Legos with their parents, parents that were out for a good time, folks just putting in their time at work…
I can’t tell you how heartbroken I would be if I lost Jennifer, especially in that manner. It’s thoughts like those which keep me up at night sometimes, because I genuinely wouldn’t want to go on living without her. To think that someone could be so heartless and cruel that they’d want to take one of the only things that ever mattered to me, away; my life with Jennifer over… I can’t bear the thought. Remember that those that lost someone to that senseless violence are a person, just like you are, and treat them with compassion.
So, What Now?
Just like with every other event like this, America needs to grieve and collect itself, because if we keep going like this, we’re going to keep seeing things like this happen. Change needs to occur, but we can’t get the result we want by jumping down each other’s throats. There needs to be a collective understanding that any solution is realistically not going to be perfect. Likewise, it will require sacrifice.
What we need to do is to make folks that shouldn’t have firearms have a much harder time getting a hold of them. We need stricter, mandatory background checks. Hell, institute some waiting periods. Require licensing to own some or all firearms. We need to talk about this, because the deaths are getting to be too much to handle. I don’t have the answers, but I don’t think any one person has all the answers here. We can work together for a solution though, and that’s what matters.
If you want to discuss this, I’d love to encourage it. However, I highly recommend you abide by the Rules & Regs, because I will not tolerate violations of the rules on this post. This is a serious topic, and will be treated as such.
Stephen Paddock (Las Vegas Concert):
James Holmes (Aurora Movie Theater):
Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook Elementary):
Micah Johnson (Dallas Police Targeted):
Devin Patrick Kelley (Sutherland Springs Church):