No politician at any level of government cares to address the proliferation of assault weapons. Ten or fifteen years ago, after similar outrages, a few courageous senators or congressmen would introduce legislation to limit certain weapons, or the weapon’s magazine capacity, but not today. Elected officials have learned that gun control is like the electrified rail in a city subway: Touch it and you die. There’s nothing to be done, they say. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, 31,347 Americans died from firearms violence in 2009. Many of these deaths were suicides, and the majority of them did not involve multiple deaths at the hands of mentally ill persons with assault weapons. Nevertheless, the increasing frequency of mass shootings, in public, ought to raise some questions. If a new Ebola-like disease suddenly produced an outbreak of ugly, violent death, you can bet some Congressional committee would demand the CDC investigate and develop a vaccine or cure.
Instead, we hear from a Texas Congressman of his shock that not one good citizen of Colorado attending “The Dark Knight Rises” was actually carrying a concealed weapon, as is every good Coloradan’s legal right. Has it come to this? Do the citizens of this great civilization now have to carry firearms everywhere to guarantee their personal safety? Does that mean we should go ahead and buy fashion forward ballistic armor as well? Or maybe everybody should just stay home and avoid crowds? If there was a chance of a sudden Ebola outbreak at the local multiplex, I believe I’d just wait until Netflix got that movie.
In a peculiar, almost ironic sense, “The Dark Knight Rises” is about a first rate city in a nation that no longer has the monopoly of violence. One of the indices used to assess whether a country is a failed state, is whether the government has a monopoly on violence. Do we want to be like Mexico, where armed criminal gangs with military arsenals roam the public space and displace civilization as we know it with a primitive tribalism, barely a step above that “state of anarchy” described by the 17th Century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes? Do we really want to replace modern civilization with a world where life is “nasty, brutish and short?” If so, then the Texas Congressman is right: everybody ought to start packing, accidental crossfire be damned.
For now, at least, this is a conversation that no one in authority wants to have. The freedom-loving gun zealots in our midst are the only ones talking about the issue for now, so we just have to put up with Aurora-like casualty rates in the public square. I suppose we should teach our children and grandchildren the old “duck and cover” moves we learned back in the Cold War 1950s. That’s ironic too: We spent billions of dollars defeating Communism only to learn, in the words of that comic strip sage Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”