SYNDICATED COLUMN: Mass Shootings Are The New Normal. Get Over It.

What is wrong with Americans?

Okay, that’s a very open-ended question with many potential answers.

What I’d like to talk about this time is: why is it that Americans only begin to get serious about a problem after it’s too late to solve it?

Currently, I’m thinking about the latest, depressingly predictable response to the Orlando massacre.

As usual, right-wingers like Donald Trump want to restrict immigration. But even setting aside the obvious moral and practical economic objections to nativism, how would that prevent future mass shootings (in part) in the name of the Islamic State? Orlando shooter Omar Nateen wasn’t an immigrant. He was born in Queens, New York; his parents were from Afghanistan. If the Republicans’ goal is to get rid of potentially self radicalized Muslims, it’s too late. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States. Many are full-fledged citizens.

Any group of people that numbers in the millions includes some who are mentally ill, some who are politically radical, some who are religious fundamentalists, and some who are some combination of all three. Since it’s illegal to deport U.S. citizens, millions of whom are Muslim, a few of whom are crazy – and the United States insists on pursuing an endless “war on terror” against Muslim countries – there’s no way that a policy of reduced immigration can prevent future attacks by homegrown Islamists.

On what passes for a Left, Democrats like Hillary Clinton are pushing for tighter restrictions on guns. As usual.

Indeed, it’s hard to argue that civilians require military grade weapons like the semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle used to kill 49 people at the Pulse nightclub. Hunters don’t use them. If the AR-15 is legal, why not hand grenades? Had Nateen been forced to use a pistol or long gun instead, his bullets would have been smaller, the death toll lower. Some of his victims might have been able to overpower him as he tried to reload.

Here again, however, it’s too late to fix the problem. The cat is out of the bag. Two years ago, the national sport shooting foundation estimated that there were between 5 million and 8.2 million assault-style rifles in American homes. Sales of these weapons always spike after mass shootings, so it’s a safe bet that that number has risen by at least 1 million or two since then.

Even if Hillary Clinton were to succeed beyond her wildest dreams, assault weapons were banned permanently, what about those millions of AR-15’s already in circulation? Would she be willing to send jackbooted federal thugs door to door to search every home until every last one of them, or at least the lion’s share, were rounded up and melted down? Of course not.

The truth is, this ship sailed back in 2004 when Congress allowed the federal ban on assault weapons to expire without being renewed. Congress’s failure to act over the last 12 years has transformed the United States into a nation awash in military hardware.

Mass shootings are the new normal. Get over it.

“It’s too late to do anything about it, now let’s act” mania appears to have become as much of a part of our national character as the myth that everyone is a member of the middle class.

Progressives and liberals who form the base of the Democratic Party, most of whom supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries, are engaged in a robust debate over whether to switch over to Hillary Clinton this fall, support a third-party candidate like Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, or stay home on election day. It’s the same old question: Do you vote for the lesser of two evils? Isn’t that voting for evil?

Democrats for Clinton are trying to convince Bernie Sanders voters that November represents an existential threat, that if Donald Trump is elected everything we know and love about America will be destroyed. They don’t get it.

What the Clintonites don’t understand is that it’s already too late. Yes, if Donald Trump gets in, there’s a strong danger that what’s left of American democracy will yield to something radically new and terrifying, full-fledged authoritarianism. But Hillary Clinton also represents something horrible: a continuation of the neoconservatism that led to the invasion of Iraq, has made the United States a target of Islamist terrorism, complete capitulation to the banking class whose power structure relies upon the vast majority of American workers toiling for longer hours and shrinking wages – in effect, the last nail in the coffin of the idea that ordinary people have the right to imagine themselves and their children living better than they have in the past.

The existential battle isn’t in November. It was a couple of weeks ago, when Hillary Clinton appeared to nail down the Democratic presidential nomination. Whatever happens now, whether authoritarian Trumpism or steady-as-she-goes downwardly mobile Clintonism, we are screwed.

Perhaps no issue better illustrates my point than climate change.

I remember watching Jacques Cousteau on television in the 1970s, when he repeatedly warned that the oceans (along with the rest of the planet) were warming, and that it would soon – might already be – too late to stop it. The politicians and corporate executives, of course, ignored him and the other scientists who said the same thing. Now, finally, the political class is giving lip service to the crisis, though action remains in short supply.

The fact is, Cousteau was probably right. It was probably too late to save the planet back then. It’s certainly too late now. The climate science is clear. The polar ice cap is never coming back; Antarctica is melting away. The process can’t be reversed. Even if every internal combustion engine in the world stopped running tomorrow morning, human beings have pumped too much energy into the closed system that is our atmosphere to reverse global warming.

My intention isn’t to bum you out. All I’m saying is, let’s stop focusing on problems we can’t do anything about and work on those we still can.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

38 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Mass Shootings Are The New Normal. Get Over It.

  1. Ted, I hate to see you making factual errors; they diminish your credibility.

    You wrote: “Indeed, it’s hard to argue that civilians require military grade weapons like the semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle used to kill 49 people at the Pulse nightclub. Hunters don’t use them. If the AR-15 is legal, why not hand grenades? Had Nateen been forced to use a pistol or long gun instead, his bullets would have been smaller, the death toll lower. Some of his victims might have been able to overpower him as he tried to reload.”

    Actually, many hunters do use AR-15s. And many civilian guns are derived from weapons originally designed for the military (e.g. the M1911A1 pistol). Besides, no AR-15 was used at the Pulse nightclub; it was a Sig Sauer MCX. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/06/14/the-gun-the-orlando-shooter-used-was-not-an-ar-15-that-doesnt-change-much/ Although the MCX can be configured for different calibers, I believe it, and certainly the AR-15, most commonly shoot .223 caliber bullets. Most long guns for hunting shoot larger and more powerful .30 and .308. Most pistols also shoot larger calibers such as 9mm, .38, and .45, though with less powerful cartridges. And the magazine of the MCX holds 30 rounds, which means the shooter had to reload several times. (Though perhaps no one dared to overpower him during reloads because he was also carrying a handgun.)

    • One extra point: the whole “they’ll disarm him while he’s reloading” thing.

      When someone has just been firing into a crowd, the higher brain functions of the victims (and the non-aggressors) stop. The closest analogy I can provide is to imagine someone who is afraid of heights being put onto an 8th-floor ledge — or the top of a ladder. The rational part of the brain cannot be activated because pure instinctive terror takes over. You can’t “will” yourself to stop being terrified of being on that ledge or ladder, just like you can’t “will” yourself to take your eyes off the gut-shot man dying in front of you and tackle an adrenaline-filled homicidal maniac.

      Some people can. It’s something you either have or don’t. And unless you go through a lot of training, you can’t overcome it.

      • That no one took him down is the best indication he did not act alone and we aren’t getting the full story.

        Gunmen get tackled all the time.

  2. The Stanley Milgram experiments have demonstrated that roughly TWO out of every THREE people will do absolutely horrible things to other people if that is what some vaguely defined authority demands and takes, or is given, responsibility for.

    The experiment has been replicated all over the world. It’s more of a general species thing than a particular culture thing.

    Kind of like the people in the movie “The Matrix” who transform into “Mr. Smiths” at inopportune times.

    “Mass man is mass murder.”—William Gass

  3. Ted,

    You’re right, assuming the climate models are correct, nothing we do as far as CO2 mitigation can stop drastic change. It’s not true however that we can’t do anything, there are plenty of ideas out there about how to cool things down without changing CO2 concentrations. It’s just that almost no one on the left wants to talk about them. They run around saying “we can’t go messing around with the environment” even though of course we’ve been messing with the environment for centuries. It’s crazy, and typical of what passes for the left nowadays. No interest in solutions, they would rather roast slightly slower, rather than risk some possible side effects which could possibly negatively affect some people or animals. I have news for them, currently EVERYONE is screwed.

    • “assuming the climate models are correct”

      Somehow I get the feeling you don’t appreciate the essential importance of this operative assumption.

      • Climate change is more hooey from NOAA.

        NOAA also says the earth is a sphere and anyone with the slightest bit of common sense can see it’s flat.

        Next thing you know they’ll be saying the earth goes around the sun.

        If any of this science stuff were true wouldn’t it have been in the Bible?

  4. So the logic goes, there’s already dangerous Muslim radicals in America, so let’s allow more in…hmm.

    And an AR15 is a small caliber weapon that small girls can and do shoot. It just looks ‘scary’ to the uninformed.

    • > there’s already dangerous Muslim radicals in America

      … and there’s already dangerous homophobic radicals in America.

      One of them just killed 49 people. Should we disallow them entry? Profile those that are already here? Put you all in a concentration camp before you murder more innocents?

      • On the contrary, maybe we should imprison traitors like you who use Orwellian language such as “homophobic” and invite in savages who murder their fellow citizens.

        Still no Leftist has managed to explain to me why we need Muslims in this country or how it is worth having their countrymen die, their women be raped, and their children be molested. You have blood on your hands and you disgust me.

        How many thousands have bled throughout the centuries to halt the Muslim hordes and now we welcome them in. You deserve their violence, but those who didn’t want this invasion do not. And still despite their countless violent crimes during this migrant wave to my zero, you have the gall to intimate that I’m the real problem.

      • @CH
        Why are you doing all those terrible things to Jack?

        He’s going to burst a blood vessel. [wink wink]

      • > invite in savages who murder their fellow citizens.

        Uhhh, no, actually – I suggested that we put savages who murder their fellow citizens into concentration camps.

        > Still no Leftist has managed to explain to me …

        Still no Wrongest has managed to explain to me why we need homophobes in this country. While not all Muslims are haters, 100% of homphobes are haters.

        > you have the gall to intimate that I’m the real problem.

        You vastly overestimate your importance. Nowhere have I intimated that you are the real problem. You are only one of many real problems.

        Nateen didn’t target Christians – he targeted gays. He was a homophobe. You are a homophobe. Homophobes commit crimes like this one – therefore, by your own reasoning we must incarcerate you to protect our decent. law-abiding citizens.

      • Nowhere here have I defended Islam. I have attacked homphobia. The only way that could be construed as a defense of Islam is if it was the only religion which didn’t preach homophobia. Are you now saying that Islam is not homophobic, in direct contradiction of your previous post on the subject?

      • So we should keep Muslims out of the West. Glad we can agree. It’s so rare.

      • JH:dangerous Muslim radicals in America
        CH: dangerous homophobic radicals in America
        JH: You’re defending Islam
        CH: I’m attacking homophobes
        JH: So we should keep Muslims out of the West.
        CH: WTF?!

  5. Ted,

    “Had Nateen been forced to use a pistol or long gun instead, his bullets would have been smaller, the death toll lower.”

    Actually, the possibility is that the death toll would have been higher. The headshrinkers classify sociopaths into two groups: high-function and low-function. The high-function sociopath is someone like Hannibal Lecter or Dexter Morgan. A murderer who is able to control himself. The low-function sociopath is the homeless guy wandering the street talking to imaginary people and attacking strangers with a broken bottle. He can’t control himself.

    Very, very few low-function sociopaths chalk up high death counts. They can’t plan, they can’t adjust to at-the-moment events, and so forth. Imagine a deer racing into a shopping mall and just completely freaking out.

    A high-function sociopath without access to high-power massive-capacity rifles? That’s Tim McVeigh. Built a fertilizer bomb and leveled the Murrah building. AND GOT AWAY ALIVE.

    Restricting guns cannot have the desired end result of fewer dead victims. And due to the nature of politics, gun bans can’t be put through anyway. But, even if they could be, it’s a misapplication of effort, time and energy. The guns aren’t the problem. The mental illness epidemic in this country is the problem.

    • To Alex:

      In the spectrum from low- to high- function sociopaths, there is a great deal of necessary functionality between assault weapons users and bomb designers and users.
      There are lot more lower-functionality, potential AR-15 users than there are McVeigh level bombers.

      (Then, of course, there’s an even larger gap from bombers to members of congress and then to executive branch regimes, institutions whose major prerequisite seems to be, precisely, sociopathology.)

      The only “legitimate” need for assault weapons in general circulation is to be a “good guy” with assault weapon to counter the “bad guy” with assault weapon.
      (I refer you to your own comment on the futility of that situation.)

      There are many regulations in place to hamper the ability of would be bombers to obtain needed materials.

      There is no legal basis for assault weapons to be allowed among the general population.

      Even the execrable Scalia, writing the opinion in the Heller case, that declared (quite illogically) a self-defense for individuals component of the 2nd amendment: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is NOT unlimited … (N)OTHING in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or LAWS IMPOSING CONDITIONS AND QUALIFICATION ON THE COMMERCIAL SALE OF ARM” (my emphasis)

      http://tinyurl.com/nqm9en

      • Oh, I’m absolutely in favor of eliminating guns whenever possible, as, at the very least, that would lead to fewer accidental shootings. BUt when all the guns are gone, we are still going to have Orlando-type events. I’m speaking in my OP about the specific issue that the guns themselves are not the problem. The guns have been inserted as the main problem by the media because it’s a sellable argument. Run through in your head the standard “gun” story on the news. Invariably, there’s the police chief or some other Normal Rational Adult who talks about how big a problem these guns are. Then there’s a clip (no pun intended) of a table loaded with guns, rifles, bang-bang sticks of all shapes and sizes. It’s a bread-and-butter story that takes no creative effort to produce on the part of the news teams. It assembles itself.

        Compare that to my interpretation that mental health is the problem. Psychologists are almost universally rubbish at explaining those sorts of issues briefly and sexily. And you can’t run a clip of a table filled with psychological issues. The presentation is much harder. So the news people stick to the guns.

        We would have far more success in this country with the massacres if we simply looked at the root causes:
        1. People are stressed because the middle class is ending. The economy no longer presents sufficiently secure pathways for someone to plan for the long-term. Of the friends in my age cohort, only one has had children. Part of that is that women are delaying childbirth, but part of it is that people are scared to death that they will watch their children go hungry.
        2. Those who do have jobs are working longer hours and being expected to do more. I don’t take a two-week vacation anymore because I don’t want them to be able to say, “Gee. We can get along without him for two whole weeks, why bother having him come in at all?”
        3. Our culture is isolating us. Sure, typing on this screen is a way of participating with a group, but aside from Ted, who I’ve seen speak twice, I’ve never met any of you. Most of my interactions with people are those with my co-workers, and I may like them fine, but they are not people I could go to with personal problems.

        The real problem is the underlying mental illness. Just like the real problem in this country isn’t the crime rate, it’s the poverty rate and it’s how what corporations and the wealthy do is never categorized as crime. (Steal a loaf of bread, go to jail. Shut down a bread factory causing 200 people to lose their jobs, all in order to make a quarter-cent dividend per share, get a $1 million bonus.)

        As I said, some whackjob who can’t get a gun will simply (depending on his functional level) either build a bomb, start slashing people with a machete, run a car into a crowd, set a fire, etc. People will still die. And quite possibly, to accommodate the desire for higher kill levels, the lunatics in question will simply go after targets with weaker victims: an old age home, a nursery school, the coma ward at the local hospital.

      • The mental health issue is a really important part of the problem.

        One perspective is concerned with “helping” people adapt to otherwise intolerable situations, making them more efficient cogs in the machinery of empire.

        Another perspective is concerned with making the workplace and living environment less adverse to maintaining mental health.

        Kurt Vonnegut wrote about a mentally ill SS soldier, Dampfwalze, whose mental illness was cured by a Dr. Vonnegut by a course of megavitamin therapy.

        Afterwards, the Dr. Vonnegut then tells the now healthy Dampfwalze that, if the doctor hadn’t recognized the seriousness of his illness “he might have tried to shoot Adolf Hitler by and by. That is how sick he was.”

      • The main reason the media always makes the conversation about gun control is because they are a bunch of cowardly, weak simpletons who work for an elite that wants to disarm the populace. The fact that it is a visual and uncomplicated argument is just a happy accident–for them.

        I mean come on. On any number of other issues everyone here is quick to note that the media does what it does for the elite that owns it, but when it comes to something like gun control, suddenly that’s no longer obvious?

      • And I’ve enjoyed your points this week Glenn–well the ones about guns anyway. ?

    • FBI data here:

      Murders by all rifles in 2014: 248

      Murders by knives in 2014: 1567

      Murders by hands, fists, feet, and pushing, in 2014: 660

      Disarm the public.

      We’d all be safer if our arms were amputated at the shoulder.

  6. > What is wrong with Americans?

    They’re humans. We’re wired to focus on what’s actively bothering us right now, not some future threat that we may not even live to see. While we like to think of ourselves as intellectual beings (“Homo Sapiens” … really?) we rarely bother to think things through.

    We prefer comfortable explanations to uncomfortable ones that might require action or – god forbid – change. “Global warming is a myth” … “The gun in my pocket will protect me from the maniac with an assault rifle” … “MY religion is good, it’s the OTHER GUYS’ religion that causes all the problems”

    • The Stanley Milgram experiments have demonstrated that roughly TWO out of every THREE people will do absolutely horrible things to other people if that is what some vaguely defined authority demands and takes, or is given, responsibility for.

      The experiment has been replicated all over the world. It’s more of a general species thing than a particular culture thing.

      Kind of like the people in the movie “The Matrix” who transform into “Mr. Smiths” at inopportune times.

      “Mass man is mass murder.”—William Gass

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