In the aftermath of the recent shocking gun violence in Las Vegas, we mourn the loss of so many of our fellow citizens, and our hearts naturally go out to the victims’ family members and friends. But at the same time, we should be deeply sensitive to the tender feelings of another group of victims who suffer terrible emotional damage in these tragedies: America’s gun owners.
Here we’re not talking about those who might own a couple of hunting rifles or a handgun for home security, by the way. We are referring to the truly dedicated, legendary Gun Loons among us. That means the wild-eyed guy who lives in the woods and dresses in camo, with a basement full of weapons and crates of ammunition, as well as cases of Van Kamp’s Pork and Beans and Snickers bars, as a hedge against the Apocalypse. It also refers to your more unassuming guy next door: the one who keeps a closetful of thirty or forty weapons of all sizes and shapes, just because you never know what mood you’ll be in when you head to the shooting range. Green Beret? Dirty Harry? Yosemite Sam? One needs flexibility. This is the guy who frequents the crème de la crème of paranoid, macho websites, which have convinced him that the government is coming to implant an obedience chip in his #14 molar.
It’s these victims and their ilk who desperately need and deserve our heartfelt sympathy.
Imagine the hell these poor souls must endure, the debilitating fear of losing any of their loved ones–even a single precious firearm–to Dark Government Forces. The agony of waiting for that inevitable, ominous knock at the door. Of course it might just be a guy selling solar panels, or a couple of Girl Scouts selling cookies, or even a nice, chatty Jehovah’s Witness offering a colorfully-illustrated pamphlet about why the world is ruled by Satan. But it also might be a full platoon of officers from the U.S. Deep State Gun Confiscation Agency, announcing that the house is surrounded, that all the guy’s weapons are forfeit, that they’ve canceled his Comcast Ultimate Sports Package, exploded both of his jet skis, and sold his wife into white slavery. In other words: the Apocalypse.
What the rest of us must understand in extending our sincere sympathy is that these people are gripped by a sickness. It’s a disease, like scabies or gonorrhea or alcoholism or any other physical malady, and we must avoid stigmatizing the victims by assuming they’re making the choice to be sick. No one knows the deep sources of this pathology, though we do know that it afflicts the United States far more severely than, say, England or Germany. Or Japan or Australia. Or France or Canada. Or—well, just about anywhere else.
If you can get one of these poor souls to a meeting of Firearms Anonymous, for God’s sake do it. It will be slow going. When told to surrender to a higher power, they will respond, “You mean the NRA?” You must be patient. When they repeatedly tell you that nothing can be done about gun violence, that “guns don’t kill people, people do,” and that “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun,” or even, as Bill O’Reilly recently said, these tragic massacres are just “the price of freedom,” you must believe that they really don’t mean that we as a nation should do absolutely nothing about trying to reduce the number of these senseless murders. They don’t mean to just shrug. They don’t mean that if we could find a way to prevent even, say, one in five mass shootings that it wouldn’t be worth trying. They are simply in the grip of this terrible disease.
You will find, unfortunately, that the sickness renders them impervious to facts. You can cite all the grim statistics: the 93 Americans who are killed with guns every day, the seven children or teens killed each day, and that America’s homicide rate is 25 times the average of other developed countries. None of it will matter to them. In this way, their pathology is similar to that of Donald Trump’s supporters. Which is to say, nothing matters but the object of their desire. There is no logic, no fact, no evidence that will shake them from the trance of their illness. In the Gun Loon’s case, it’s the need to own firepower far beyond the needs of self-defense or sport. In the Trump booster’s case, it’s the drive to give unqualified support to a demonstrated fraud, thus testing just how much damage this system of government can absorb before collapsing.
Remember: Patience in the face of madness is never easy.