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FOR NEXT TIME: How do we define a “civilized society”?

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Why not continue to place “active shooter” events in the “stuff happens” bin, and accept them as the definition of “freedom”?

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By the time you read this the Oregon shooting will be a few weeks old. Prayers will have been said and few steps taken to solve this problem of our so-called “civilized society.” Based on this year’s tracking, we may have another mass shooting or two on the way. I’m tired of commenting on last week’s events, so I figured I’d write about next week’s bloodbath (perhaps one that occurs in our slice of heaven).

“We grieve for the (number of dead) killed by the (angry young man/radical Islamist/domestic abuser) at (your neighborhood here). Were it not for the heroic actions of (first responder/off-duty military), the deaths would surely have been much worse. We pray for the families of the heroic victims and will do everything possible to prevent future tragedies.”

Except find the courage to become civilized.

The day before the Oregon shooting I was completing an online work-mandated course on “active shooter” events. “This is ridiculous!” I said to my wife. “According to the FBI, we’ve had 160 active shooter events in the last 13 years. We lead the civilized world, but this training is still a waste of time. It’s not ‘all threat, all the time.’” 

Like “Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” author Steven Pinker, I used to be a cockeyed optimist and would defend our progress from primitive violence. But shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the NRA, GOP and activist SCOTUS, the decided Heller (2008)? Shouldn’t they explain why we lead the civilized world in active shooter events and gun massacres?

Maybe Monty Python’s John Cleese can dust off his British sergeant’s uniform and help them learn “how to tell the difference between civilized society and a battleground.” 

“All right! I’m Sgt. Slaughter! Eyes left, maggots! Note the bodies, blood, aroma of cordite, and of course guns. Magnificent weaponry of various calibers, makes and models. This, my fine fellows, is a glorious battleground!”

“Eyes right! Note these couples eating niçoise salad, sipping Bordeaux and smiling. Despite the French food, French wine and dreadfully conspicuous absence of life-saving weaponry, these couples remain alive. Where do these people think they are:  Le Catalan on the Cape Fear? This is what passes for civilized society! Heaven help us!” 

The presence of weapons is even how the U.S. Army distinguishes between combat zones and the relative safety of the base. Rebutting the accusation that President Clinton disarmed our soldiers on their bases and practically invited the Fort Hood shooting and recent recruiter shooting, retired Colonel Steven Bucci (a military expert for The Heritage Foundation) said, “We have never had our soldiers walking around with weapons all the time, other than in combat zones.”

According to current Army regulation (190-14), unless soldiers on base are actively training, military police or under attack, they typically aren’t weaponized. Apparently, even the Army reasonably regulates access to firearms—like the “well-regulated militia” it is.

Whenever there’s a mass shooting, people ask about mental health. “Why didn’t we see this coming?” I don’t question any specific shooter’s mental health as much I do our collective sanity. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Paul Appelbaum has studied ways to predict violence for decades. Because these events are extremely rare, they have only the broadest, least useful risk factors associated with them (being an angry young man has the highest correlation). He’s concluded that hoping to improve prevention is at best wishful thinking.

That’s not to say there’s nothing we can do to prevent mass shootings. In a prepared media statement for mass shootings (yes, he seriously has a statement for the next tragedy), Dr. Applebaum says, “If you tell me that there’s nothing we can do about guns, I’d say we’re done. We’ve conceded that we are willing to tolerate periodic slaughters of the innocent. There’s nothing more to say.”

Except, as Jeb Bush eloquently noted, “Stuff happens.” We tolerate the occasional fiery death of families on the freeway, right? Why not continue to place “active shooter” events in the “stuff happens” bin, and accept them as the collateral damage of our love of violence, firearms and definition of “freedom”? It’s exactly what our so-called “civilized” society is doing now. 

Next time (probably around Halloween), as we mourn more dead children and lament our lack of civility, let’s say a prayer of thanks that our sacred Second Amendment remains safe and we’re still “free.”

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