Another day, another mass shooting.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I recently realized I’ve stopped asking myself, “What are we going to do about mass shootings and gun violence in this country?”
Instead, I now ask, “When is the carnage going to come to Enumclaw?”
It’s not even an “if” in my head – it’s a “when,” because is there any reason why we should be lucky enough to be spared? Have we really prepared ourselves enough, as individuals and as a community, to prevent a mass shooting on the Plateau?
I watched “Murder on the Orient Express” last night with my wife.
Unfortunately, you’re about to hear some spoilers. Sorry.
Here’s the gist: Detective Hercule Poirot finds himself on a moving train when a gangster is murdered, and Poirot believes he could have only been killed by someone on the train.
Throughout the movie, Poirot discovers everyone else on the train is somehow connected to the gangster, and more specifically to one particularly heinous crime he committed, and had a motive for killing him.
But Poirot just can’t make the puzzle pieces fit together — there was always a clue or a fact that didn’t work with whatever theory he had.
So, as Poirot’s creator Agatha Christie wrote, “Everything must be taken into account. If the fact will not fit the theory — let the theory go.”
Poirot’s answer to his mystery, like the answer to ours, must encompass all the facts.
Unfortunately, the facts are not on our side.
Over the last 50 years, close to 1,000 people have been killed in mass shootings. More recently, mass shootings have killed dozens of people every month.
The reasons behind these shootings are myriad — religious intolerance, political intolerance, mental disability, domestic issues, terrorism, racism, and many more.
And in regard to the Las Vegas shooter, sometimes we just don’t know why.
How do you protect yourself from what you don’t know?
Like the reasons behind these shootings, the weapons are diverse – semi-automatics, revolvers, shotguns, hunting rifles and, yes, automatic weapons.
Out of the 274 different guns used in these shootings, it’s known that 164 were obtained by the shooter legally, and another 42 illegally.
All these facts. All these figures. How do we make them fit together?
Unfortunately, this mystery goes deeper still, and while mass shootings are by far the most grandiose problem, they are not the most sinister.
According to the Associated Press, close to 800 Americans, the vast majority women, are shot and killed by current and ex-partners every year.
Three hundred and fifty kids and adults were accidentally killed by minors with a gun, and 800 more injured, between January 2014 to June 2016, according to a joint AP-USA Today study.
In 2012, 60 percent of all murders in the U.S. were committed with guns, compared to 31 percent in Canada, 18 percent in Australia and 10 percent in the U.K, the BBC quoted.
And with some 300 million guns in this country, it is estimated more people have died via gunfire — homicide, suicide or accident — between 1968 to 2011 than the death count of American soldiers in every war the U.S. has ever been involved in, Politifact verified.
Take all these facts into consideration. Can you stop gun violence from coming into your community? Into your life?
Some people say yes.
After the Sutherland Springs shooting, President Trump responded to a question about “extreme vetting” of gun buyers, saying from a podium in Seoul, South Korea, “If you did what you’re suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago, and you might not have had that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck go out and shoot him and hit him and neutralize him…. If he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.”
The National Rifle Association has been making that argument, albeit more eloquently, since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting — “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
It’s true that when Stephen Willeford shot Devin P. Kelley, he probably stopped many more deaths.
But that line of logic only goes so far before it gives way to the “just-world fallacy,” the idea that good things will happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people, and if we just prepare well enough, we can keep ourselves, and our loved ones, happy and healthy and alive.
The flip side of this fallacy is that when bad things happen to good people, we think somehow, they must have deserved it.
People often fall into the just-world fallacy to rationalize rape.
“What were you doing?” people ask, as if anything someone was doing at the time meant they deserved to be raped. “What were you wearing? Were you flirting? Were you drinking?”
The NRA and our president applied the same logic to mass shootings and gun violence.
The message the American public received, after the methodical murder of 26 people, was, “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. Why aren’t you armed?”
We all share a responsibility toward making our country safe for every one, but it’s the government’s responsibility to lay down that foundation in law, a responsibility our elected leaders have abdicated and set squarely on our shoulders.
No single solution – not gun bans, “extreme vetting,” a larger focus on mental health care, or increased spending on state and federal law enforcement and background check systems – will solve this problem, just like how arming yourself will not keep you, or your loved ones, safe from the terrorist. The mugger. The abuser. The child.
Even as a community, a society, we can’t turn this fallacy into a reality.
But we can certainly make it a bit more real.
As Poirot must hypothesize until he develops a theory that encompasses all the facts of his mystery, so must we work on a solution that solves not one or a few of our issues with guns, but all of them.
The work will be hard, even impossible – we’ll have to look hard at ourselves, our society, and determine what sacrifices we need to make, and whether they’re worth a little extra security and safety for not just us, but everyone.
And in the end, the solution won’t be popular. The correct answer, in its time, never is, and only later is it ever accepted as just and necessary.
But until then, we have to deal with a monster of our own making, and though it was born of reason, it has turned to madness.
The monster is coming.
The monster is here.
Can we stop it?
Do we even want to?
Reach Ray Still, assistant editor of the Enumclaw Courier-Herald, at firstname.lastname@example.org.