Former(?) critic of gun control legislation James McMurtry discusses, in his article More Than Just A Tall Order, some ways in which the Sandy Hook shooting has made him rethink some of his former positions. I like a lot of what he says, and want to post some of what I think are the more important bits, here.
Another aspect of the Clinton Crime Bill that I used to think was silly was its restriction of a firearm's magazine capacity to ten rounds. I didn't see what good such a restriction would do. If we assume, however dubiously, that the shooter abides by the law and only carries legal magazines of the proper capacity, what's to stop him from carrying a satchel full of extra mags with which he can shoot all day? Nothing's to stop him, of course, but he will have to re-load more often, and here is where that silly old gun bill might finally have a practical application due to the evolution of police tactics. [...] If a school shooter is not extremely well trained and has to change magazines under duress, he's out of the fight for a second or two, and the highway patrolman, or the deputy sheriff, or the city constable who just happened to be there will have a second or two to fire at the shooter without risking return fire. If I were any kind of a cop in that situation, I would sure appreciate those seconds. The tragedy would still have happened, but the body count might be lower.
It's nice to see a gun owner admit that small steps that might help a little bit are important, that when it comes to killing, less killing is a change worth making -- it doesn't have to be all the killing or none of it.
If we are to call ourselves a society, we will have to behave as a society. We will have to pass laws and make deals, and none of us are likely to be satisfied at the end of the day. This is a symptom of a condition known as Democracy.
I wish that this were a bigger part of the national dialogue. Nobody getting their whole way is a lot better than the inability to deal with anything at all that the US currently has to settle for.
The thread that runs through Tim McVeigh, Adam Lanza and Charles Whitman is not just mental instability, but rage, pure unfathomable rage. And we are an angry people these days. I don't know why. I suspect that our world is changing faster than we are capable of changing. Some of us feel left out; some of us feel outnumbered; so we're fearful and angry. Our societal anger needs to be acknowledged and addressed, perhaps diagnosed and treated, as do our individual angers.
I don't like the "It's a mental health issue" argument. I mean, I'm not unhappy about the added attention, funding, and efforts at de-stigmatization that come out of these debates. But I don't think it's going to help much with the US's gun violence problem -- because our gun violence problem isn't about individual mental illness, it's about an attitude at the societal level, that when your back is against the wall, killing a whole bunch of people is a good response.
I disagree with McMurtry that America's anger comes from rapid change. I think it's the same cultural anger that fueled the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, McCarthyism, religious radicals, Wall Street, the Tea Party, and the NRA. It's anger fueled by entitlement -- the idea that, in America, a small group of people with strong feelings about something are allowed to do whatever they want to try and get their way.
I'm not sure anything good has ever come of that anger. But it's part of our national character, and I'm not sure that America can change that while staying America. We'd need a new set of myths, a more civil origin story, a less hyperbolically defensive constitution. And maybe we'll get the chance -- maybe the gridlock in Congress will push America off the cliff, and out of necessity we'll have to accept the aid of the rest of the industrialized world to get us back on our feet. Maybe then we could have a cultural narrative of humility and gratitude.