This Unholy Mess


Who Should See Mass Shooting Photos?

It’s taken a long time for me to come to grips with America’s gun madness, one of the world’s premier paranoid stupidities. Along with many other opponents of gun fetishists, I agree that the sickness is so virulent that it’s likely that nothing much can be done about it in the short-to-middle term. For me, that horrible realization actually dates back to December 14, 2012—the date of the Sandy Hook school massacre, a shooting that claimed the lives of twenty first-grade children and six adult staff members.
You just knew the possibility of taking meaningful political action to curb gun violence in America was zero when something like that could happen and America’s response was the rough equivalent of “Gee, that’s just terrible. Those poor kids. Shall we go get some lunch?”
It was “game over.” There might be equivalent or worse gun violence horrors in the future–and indeed there have been—but the message was delivered. No chance of getting a system of comprehensive background checks, no chance of banning assault-style weapons, not even a chance for making it illegal to possess oversized magazines. Nothing.
So in the face of all that, here is a modest proposal:
At frequent intervals–which is to say, after each mass shooting in America—the question comes up for debate: Who should see the evidentiary/autopsy photos of these tragedies? Status-quo advocates say it’s best to keep them within law enforcement circles to avoid adding to the trauma experienced by the families and friends of victims, as well as to prevent trauma in vulnerable members of the public when the media inevitably use them as “news” or as lurid bait to titillate their audiences. Advocates of change, on the other hand, say it would be far better to allow the broad public to view these tragedies up close in order to raise consciousness of the horrors involved, and hopefully generate a groundswell of public interest in enacting further legislative curbs to gun violence.
Both positions have some merit, but there’s a better way forward. I agree it would be unfortunate for the public at large to be exposed to photos of victims, especially those of children who were sometimes identifiable only by their shoes or their DNA. Such a thing is too monstrous. But I also agree that a system restricting such graphic evidence to law enforcement circles doesn’t do enough to shock our collective conscience and create awareness that would produce positive change.
So who should view the visual evidence of these shootings, the photos and videos of the sometimes horribly mangled bodies of victims? I’ll tell you who: every single member of Congress who has consistently voted against even the most modest restrictions on gun possession and use. They should not just be permitted to view the photos, they should be required to do so. They should be obligated to see, up close, exactly what their fecklessness and cowardice have wrought. They are the people with the power to act and yet who refuse to do so, even in the face of public demand. They are the people with real blood on their hands.
When I talk about this “requirement,” I don’t think it should be taken figuratively or casually, something that could be done by a staffer or quickly breezed through as part of a longer meeting. These legislators should be strapped into a chair and have their heads snugly cradled, facing forward. If necessary there should be an apparatus that hold their eyelids open. The 1972 Stanley Kubrick film, “A Clockwork Orange” contains a good prototype for such equipment, and its development would be worth every penny of taxpayer money.
If I could write the whole ticket for this requirement, it would include Wayne LaPierre and all the officers of the NRA, as well as U.S. Supreme Court justices Thomas, Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. After all, these are the people who maintain the current, utterly fictitious interpretation of the Second Amendment. You know, the one that appears to include in its description of “a well-ordered militia” characters like the shooters at a bowling alley and a restaurant in Lewiston, Maine; at the Allen Premium Outlets in Allen, Texas; at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, California; at Ross Elementary in Uvalde, Texas; and at the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York, along with the string of other assorted violent sociopaths who are responsible for so many needless deaths in over 1100 mass shootings across the nation in just the last two years.
I say let’s have “compulsory viewing” for the lot of them. After all, it’s only right that the people who have caused so many blood-chilling visions for America’s citizens should experience some horrible nightmares of their own.

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