- October 3, 2015 in Columnists
I can still kill you
When I heard about the Umpqua Community College shootings I was as frustrated as everyone else. I watched people blow off steam on social media. Read about gutless politicians offering their prayers but not lifting a finger to actually do anything. I saw gun owners with their panties in a bunch as usual, saying, “Don’t blame guns!” I can’t understand why gun owners are panicking. This is America. We don’t change gun laws here. Give it a rest. I wanted to write something but I soon realized that I already had. I wrote a column a year ago called, “I can kill you” that I think still resonates. It ran on iPinionsyndicate.com on June 3, 2014. I’ll tweak it. But it says what I want to say and I’m sure it will satisfy neither those who want strict gun control nor those who proudly flaunt their 2nd Amendment rights.
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 squeezing and 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 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. Yes, even with the supposed “assault weapon” ban in California, you can still find a variety of perfectly legal semi-auto AR rifles.
Last year, I went to see the legendary Johnny Mathis in concert at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael. It was a great show and Johnny can still evoke gooseflesh with his rich tenor even at 78 years old. But there was absolutely no security. In fact, the only concert I recall having tight security was a Run-DMC/Beastie Boys concert I went to in 1987 at Cal Expo in Sacramento. I had to walk through a metal detector, be patted down and then be wanded by another person!
Any nutcase could’ve walked into that auditorium and shot Mathis dead.
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.
If you’re a gun owner and carry a weapon you may have a false sense of security. Too many gun owners fantasize about being the good guy with a gun to halt some shooting. But rest assured I can still kill you. Police officers are well trained in guns and tactics yet someone little trained can walk up to their squad car and blow their brains out. We saw it happen last December in New York City when a hoodlum killed two cops in their car. Their weapons and their training meant nothing. Six weeks earlier in Sacramento, California, a suspect killed two deputies. While there have been several cases of off duty police ending mass shootings, the thing a shooter has on his side is surprise. And a truly jaw dropping number of people can be shot in seconds.
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 40% of weapons are bought in this country. Those private sales can be to mentally disturbed individuals, because no one’s checking. These are common sense changes that the overwhelmingly 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. The fear of a “gun grab” is an NRA fiction. 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. 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 laws that will help people intervene when they fear someone is planning a shooting. Still, while school and workplace shootings are almost always planned, they succeed because they carry the element of surprise. No one knows which disgruntled student or worker is going to come in blasting and on what day. Like the Umpqua Community College shooter, a recent study shows that 80% of mass shooters purchase their guns legally. And plenty of them involve shooters who were “law abiding citizens” up until they weren’t.
Last year, the ignoramus known as Joe the Plumber said dead children don’t trump his right to own a firearm. And for some, no number of innocent victims could make them want to enact even one law that might help, because 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.
We are at the mercy of the mentally disturbed, the angry, the jealous, the suicidal who think they might as well kill you since they’re killing themselves. While many mass shooters are mentally ill we’ve got to get beyond the thought that all shooters are crazy. It’s easier to believe they’re all crazy because it gives us some control. Adjust their thorazine level, have their shrinks declare them 5150 and held or something and voila, we’re safe. My hat is off to psychiatrists but they’re notoriously bad at predicting who is going to become violent. And we have to remember that most people shooting at other people are simply pissed.
I know you don’t want to hear that these shootings will continue but they will. There are a few things we can do, but in the end, we’re not stopping all gun violence. We’re not going to stop a majority of shootings. This is our nightmarish reality. It’s what we consider an acceptable risk in order to have the gun culture we so love. Guns are encoded in America’s DNA. Death, taxes and the possibility of being murdered while eating Raisinettes at the movies. That’s who we are.
I can kill you and chances are you’ll never see it coming. Click. Click. Boom.