The truth is I can kill you
NOTE: I originally ran my “I can kill you” column on iPinion on June 3, 2014. I ran it again after tweaking it following another mass shooting. And now I’ve reworked it again in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting. It is not meant as a paean to futility. The column is stark and somber but it’s about looking at the gun violence problem with sober eyes. The problem is immense. The sheer number of weapons is titanic. We live a dangerous reality in a nation awash in guns in a culture that both fears those weapons and celebrates and enjoys them. There’s no easy fix. And we’ll never completely stamp out gun violence. Of course, we should try.
How could he do it? How could one man meticulously plan and execute a horrific mass shooting from the 32nd floor of a hotel of innocent country music fans enjoying a concert 400 yards away? We don’t know the precise motive the shooter possessed to put such a diabolical plan in motion. But the reality is that we have more guns than people in the United States and its frighteningly easy for someone to plan to kill.
As a matter of fact, I can kill you.
It’s not difficult. I’ve got multiple firearms on the premises. I have a box of bullets sitting here on my desk. I could load one of my guns, rack a round into the chamber, slip the safety on and shove it in my pocket. Then I can drive to your house. I could lie in wait until I see you pull into your driveway, home from a busy day at work or school. I’ll get out of the car before you do, reaching into my pocket and slipping the safety off my handgun. And when you step out, perhaps I’ll distract you by asking you a mundane question. Directions. The time. Have you heard the good news? And right before you open your mouth to answer, I raise the pistol and fire three quick shots directly into your chest.
The impact feels like a sledgehammer. Takes your breath away. The pain is like lava. The exit wounds hurt worse than the entrance ones. You feel your lungs pumping yet breathing becomes difficult. You’re on the ground and you don’t even recall falling. You’re in shock. Your vision starts to fade away, with darkness creeping around the edges. The only things you can think of is the shock that you’ve been shot and the love you have for your family members and the fact that your time is up. Soon you become one with the blackness.
When I say that I can kill you, I’m not speaking metaphorically. I can get up from this desk and end your life. Who is going to stop me? If I don’t write a 137 page manifesto, if I don’t make raging videos or cryptic social media posts and I don’t tell a soul what I’m planning to do, then how can I be stopped?
I’ve never been convicted of a felony, never been involuntarily admitted to any psychiatric facility and I’ve never been charged with domestic violence. There’s nothing that prevents me from buying a gun with every paycheck. I can load my office up with boxes of ammunition. I can legally purchase guns that are virtually equivalent to what SWAT teams and soldiers carry.
Think of all the places you go. Work. School. Starbucks. Wal-Mart. The bank. Post office. The movies. Your kid’s graduation. None of these places are secure. Anyone can walk right in behind you with two handguns in a laptop bag with multiple clips and proceed to empty those pistols in seconds. And even with a limit of 10 round magazines like we have in California, reloading a semi-auto is astonishingly fast.
The 2007 Virginia Tech shooter killed 32 people and wounded 17 with two handguns.
What’s my point? I applaud groups who want to close the gun show loophole. We should ban private sales unless they go through a licensed gun dealer. That’s the way too many weapons are bought in this country. Those private sales can be to mentally disturbed individuals or felons barred from legally purchasing weapons, because no one’s checking. These are common sense changes that the overwhelming majority of Americans agree with. Even the majority of gun owners agree. But while it may prevent some violence, we’re kidding ourselves if we think it will come close to solving the problem.
At the same time I respect the rights of Americans to responsibly own guns. That’s the law of the land. The paranoia by too many gun owners is misplaced. Other than California, gun laws have grown more lax since Columbine, not more restrictive. The fear of a “gun grab” is an NRA fiction to assist their patrons, gun manufacturers, in selling more guns and ammo. A certain segment of gun owners live in fear that even one new law will start us down a path to black helicopters, ATF storm troopers, concentration camps, aliens and whatever else they’re quivering about. To think the government, which couldn’t disarm Iraq or Afghanistan, could seize the guns of the most heavily armed population in the history of the world is laughable.
My point is about the stark, chilling reality that we live every day with the threat of gun violence. There is no way to prevent it. And while the focus is on AR-15s after the Vegas shootings, the reality is very few rifles are used in gun crimes. Handguns, which are easily concealable, are at the heart of America’s gun violence problem.
There are things we can do to limit mentally disturbed people from getting weapons and we have to get better at profiling threats. We need to prohibit bump stocks, keep silencers prohibited and perhaps limit the number of guns a person can purchase in a specified time frame. And if one person is buying an enormous amount of guns and ammo, perhaps that should be flagged, in the same way the government is cracking down on opioid prescriptions. Sadly, we need active shooter drills in schools and the workplace. We need laws that will help people intervene when they fear someone is planning a shooting.
We need more active-shooter trained police and armed security. And for mass gatherings or any event that calls for a lot of policing, we need officers on the scene with rifles. That may freak people out at first but if you go on vacation to places like Mexico, it’s completely normal to see police patrolling carrying M-16s and other machine guns. It’s reassuring to know you’re surrounded by trained officers who can match the firepower of any potential foe.
We also must retire the “law-abiding citizen” trope. The shooter in Las Vegas was a law-abiding citizen until he opened fire on that crowd.
Hearing people blame gun violence on mental health is laughable because they’re only mentioning it to take the focus off of guns. Do you know how you can tell? You never hear them advocating for mental health issues until there’s a gun crime. They’re never pushing their representatives for mental health care spending. Hell, the GOP congress has been trying to take services away from millions this year.
But no, we’re not a nation awash in gun violence from the ranks of the insane. Of course there are disturbed individuals; the Aurora theater shooter and the Sandy Hook shooter come to mind. However, the majority of gun violence is committed by warring gangs, ex-cons, armed robbers, men in bar fights, jealous boyfriends, abusive husbands and ex-husbands, the suicidal and road ragers. These are the angry and the rageful and those too wound up in the moment to act rationally.
Like I said, there are things we can do to mitigate the damage. But in the end, I can still kill you. Don’t kid yourself that we’re getting rid of 300 million guns or we’re going to institute an Australia style buyback program. To think people will give up their guns is folly. We love guns. It’s our birthright. We were founded with gunfire and wild west frontier justice still burns within us. This is our reality. This is obviously what we want. Death, taxes and the possibility of being murdered while eating Junior Mints at the movies. That’s who we are. ‘Murica.
I can kill you. Click. Click. Boom.