Numbness comes on in these strange times when mass slaughters in the U.S. are almost weekly news. What should be shocking news is becoming routine – and it is dehumanizing to see us become used to mass murder.
Mass murder is so random, so unpredictable and so demoralizing. There are now two kinds of indiscriminate mass murderers. There are the terrorists and there are the “crazies,” but in the end there is so little difference between them. They both kill as many as they can.
Both kinds of these attacks lead to astounding numbers of dead people of all ages and genders. That’s the indiscriminate part. Then there are the wounded that somehow survived the bullets but are struggling. Many maimed people, young and old, will struggle for the rest of their lives.
The news networks feed off these terrible tragedies. Anchors go on location and the drill is always the same. Beginning interviews with victims’ family members they tell them how sorry they are for their loss. But the sorrow sounds hollow because being sorry too many times makes it almost sickly mundane.
We grew accustomed to bombs and other devices exploding in faraway places in Africa and the Middle East. Terrorist attacks and insane killing sprees in Western Europe and North America are relatively newer, but hardly anyone seems to be shocked anymore. Not like Canadians once were.
December 6 will mark the 28th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre at the Université de Montréal. Fourteen women were murdered – and another 14 people were wounded – by a madman who came to the engineering school that bitterly cold winter day to hunt down and kill women because, as was made clear in his suicide note, he hated women and the feminist movement. Marc Lépine didn’t think women should be engineers.
Canadians were shaken and sickened and there was political pressure on Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government to toughen Canada’s gun laws. While there was disagreement and later repeal of the long gun registry by Stephen Harper’s government, there was a strong Canadian consensus to make enhanced gun control a Canadian standard to be proud of.
December 6, 1989 was a long time ago and there hasn’t been a mass killing on that large a scale in Canada since. But we shake our heads in bewilderment as mass killings in the United States continue unabated.
For all the security measures now in place, there seems to be no defence at big gatherings like an open air country music concert, or at an indoor gay discotheque, an elementary school, a high school, or a church. And no defence on a bicycle path when a homegrown terrorist wants to kill people by mowing them down with a truck.
We know that with so many votes to lose, that American politicians are not interested in passing tougher gun laws. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of their fellow citizens are gunned down by assault rifles and machine guns which remain readily accessible to virtually anyone with the money to buy them.
The attacks in recent weeks indicate Americans with documented troubled pasts can still manage to get weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to slaughter people. What is so hard to understand is how anyone could think a machine gun can be used, outside of military use, for anything other than killing dozens of innocent people in seconds.
It is beyond sad to see all these lives lost, all these families’ hopes shattered, because so many troubled insane people in the U.S. can use assault weapons to turn themselves into killing machines. The problem seems so obvious, the solution seems so easy, and yet American politics make significant reform out of reach.
In 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut 20 six- and seven-year-olds were gunned down for nothing. It was a low blow to humanity that set a trend to which we can now add Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Orlando, Charleston, and Sutherland Springs, Texas. And with every massacre we wonder why nothing changes in the U.S.
And after every massacre so many American politicians keep saying that after a mass killing is not the time to discuss gun control. And with the frequency of these events it will never be the right time for them.