An outlier is something specific you can point to and say “that’s what differentiates group A from group B.”
When people ask why America has way more mass shootings than other countries, finding the outlier becomes an exercise for politicians, media, and citizens alike.
Republicans, who are close bedfellows with the gun lobbyists, always point to mental illness as the reason for mass shootings. But when you compare mental illness in America to mental illness in other countries, you see that Americans don’t suffer disproportionately. It doesn’t matter if you’re French, Italian, Spanish, or American. We’re all at the same level of crazy.
Mental illness is not an outlier for mass shootings.
But in America, when someone feels jilted, wronged, or bullied, they can stroll into a gun store, log in to a website, or walk to the back of their daddy’s closet and get a weapon like the AR-15. You can’t do that in other countries. They have laws that prevent that.
So, access to guns is an outlier.
Everyone knows that gun access is an outlier, but Republicans continue to focus on everything but guns. They put all their words and energy on other factors — steering clear of gun access like an infectious disease. For example, after the school shooting in Uvalde, TX, “hardening” targets (making it more difficult for potential shooters to access schools) became a talking-point for Republicans.
But “hardening” targets ignores the root problem. Even if we transform our schools into virtual fortresses, an angry or desperate person with a gun will find a way. When a wanna-be mass shooter gets their hands on an AR-15, they understand what they can achieve. They’ve seen what success looks like – they just need to pick a target. And if they can’t walk into a school, they’ll walk onto a playground, or they’ll walk into a mall, movie theatre, grocery store, or their place of work – as we’ve seen repeatedly.
Knowing that we can’t create universal safe zones, anxious Americans begin to feel like fish in a barrel. A sense that wherever we go or send our children, we’re potential victims of an angry man with an AR-15 who can murder multitudes in seconds.
An obvious solution is to address the outlier directly and limit access to weapons. Passing laws that up the age requirements for purchasing guns, requiring background checks, or banning certain types of weapons, such as the AR-15, would likely reduce the carnage.
The problem we face is that other outlier, which is the second Amendment to our constitution.
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Two hundred and thirty-three years after passing the second Amendment, Americans are reciting it as pushback against health and safety measures for fellow citizens. That’s where we find ourselves today.
With the 2nd Amendment, millions of Americans believe a well-armed citizenry provides a valid “check” on tyranny. And if you’re waging war against your government, you better be packing serious heat. A pistol and a 12-gauge can protect you from an intruder, but they’re no match for the 87th airborne.
That message, where citizens become patriots to fight against a tyrannical government, has been marketed and sold with great success. It’s a message that taps into our deeply held beliefs around freedom, independence, and rugged individualism. And the byproduct of this successful messaging and business model is a country awash in weapons.
I’d also argue that the mindset of “the patriot” and the mass shooter have something in common. If you push these people too far, they’ll respond in kind.
We’ve seen members of congress posing with and filming campaign commercials with the AR-15. Marjorie Taylor Greene created campaign posters of herself posing with an AR-15 and threatening other members of congress. We’ve seen angry citizens at town halls across America talking about taking up arms because they believe the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Whether it’s an 18-year-old incel looking for revenge, a deranged congresswoman from Georgia, or millions of Americans hoodwinked by lies and conspiracy theories, each sees guns as a means to solving their problems. Unfortunately, that socio-pathogenic attitude has infected America profoundly.
Passing laws to stop mass shooters from arming themselves will inevitably affect law-abiding citizens. But if you believe the polls, most gun-owners are OK with that. Moreover, gun owners are more than willing to be inconvenienced by regulations if that means their sons and daughters are less likely to be mowed down in 3rd period English.
The people who are not willing to make concessions are politicians. A politician who budges on guns will likely lose the NRA as a friend and endorser. And because most politicians have less backbone than a jellyfish, it’s unlikely they will do what is right and in the best interest of their constituents.
And so once again, America sits at a crossroad of gun rights and our right to health and safety. Politicians are left standing with their dicks in their hands, unable to make decisions and pass laws. And as they wrestle with the politics of guns, innocent people will continue to be mowed down in classrooms, grocery stores, movie theaters, concert venues, churches, malls, and parking lots.