It is discouraging that the flash reaction to this tragedy in some outlets has been oppositional: gun control vs. improved mental health policies. The answer to the question of better gun control or a better mental health system is: "Yes"; we need both. It seems unlikely that one without the other, especially with the number of outstanding guns in this country already, will be effective.
But oppositional dichotomous dualities seem to be the extent of what our mass media is able to provide. Journalism is supposed to be informative, the fourth branch of our republic. Instead, the rush to be first is so intense our media regularly misreport basic facts.
Instead, rather than providing a useful filter for facts that can be confirmed, we're provided speculation and rumor mongers. Instead of multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of events, media outlets report on what each other are saying. Instead, cable news outlets seem purpose-built for spreading misinformation quickly, and perversely designed to prevent reflection and accuracy. The 24-hour news cycle, instead, seems to be good for television ratings and bad for journalism.
It's discouraging that the partisans are already gearing up for the next linguistic war of words: when the question of the day is "gun control", the answer seems to be "don't ban guns." Very, very few people want to *ban* guns, and throwing around such hyper-inflammatory rhetoric is disingenuous and poisonous to a rational policy discussion.
I wonder how many "gun banning" rhetorical grenade throwers know that Sweden has 2.8 million guns in private hands or that France has 19 million, despite having strong gun control laws. I wonder how many know that neither has experienced a rampage killing in the last 10 years, while the United States has endured at least 19. Across all of Europe, with a population more than double that of the US, there were about 10 in that time. And to those who might argue that Europe is culturally different from the US, it's worth considering that culture is not an immutable universal force. Culture is us. If we want to change it, we can. "Tradition" and "heritage" are terrible reasons to keep allowing these events.
I can't really say it better than Henry Blodget at Business Insider, so I'll just let him say it:
The alternative to supporting tighter gun control, it seems to me, is accepting that random mass shootings and tens of thousands of gun-related deaths each year are just a "cost of freedom" ... and accepting that cost.
I'm not ready to do that.
Other civilized countries have "freedom," and they don't have anywhere near as many gun-related deaths as America does.
Banning all guns in this country isn't practical: We love them too much.
But can we please finally talk seriously about banning some guns?
Adam Gopnik's thoughts in The New Yorker are not couched diplomatically, or even helpfully for the purpose of encouraging debate, but he's not *wrong* when he says that allowing these events to occur again and again is a reflection of moral decision making:
They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns, placed in the balance even against the routine murder of innocent children, is of supreme value. Whatever satisfaction gun owners take from their guns—we know for certain that there is no prudential value in them—is more important than children’s lives. Give them credit: life is making moral choices, and that’s a moral choice, clearly made.
I don't know if this time is different because it's still early days. Whether or not *this* is the time that we finally do something to address these recurring tragedies, whether this is the time we make a moral stand to stop this cycle of violence, is something only the future knows. I do know that this time feels different, more painful, more anguishing, more, just more to me. People who know me would never describe me as an emotional person. And yet.
And yet: this time I follow the news, and read the coverage, and watch the talking heads, look at the pictures of grief and terror and panic and running kids, and try to process the event. And this time I feel tears well up, repeatedly over this day. I don't know why this time is so much more. And yet.