It’s become traditional, after high publicity mass killings, for the families of the victims to make a public statement. And right there, that demonstrates how routine mass killings have become. We’ve developed social patterns based on them, and those patterns have developed into traditions.
Most often, these family statements take the form of a public eulogy. The families talk about the victim — how wonderful they were, how tragic their death, how much they had to offer society, how much they’ll be missed. Sometimes the statements will include a call for finding some way to insure “this will never happen again.” That call will be repeated for a while, then conveniently ignored.
The family of 18-year-old Quinn Cooper, who was killed in the Umpqua Community College mass killing, has issued the traditional statement. It includes this:
“We are hearing so many people talk about gun control and taking people’s guns away. If the public couldn’t have guns it wouldn’t help since sick people like this will always be able to get their hand on a gun(s).
We need to be able to protect ourselves as a community and as a nation. Please don’t let this horrible act of insanity become about who should or shouldn’t have a gun. Please remember the victims and their families. Please remember Quinn.”
I have a lot of empathy for the Cooper family. I’m certain they are sincere in their belief that nothing can be done to prevent these tragedies. But sadly, they are misguided — and more to the point, they’re just plain wrong.
This ‘horrible act of insanity’ is always about who should and shouldn’t have a gun. I’m sure the Cooper family would agree that Chris Harper Mercer should not have been able to stockpile an arsenal of a dozen or more firearms. The only reason ‘sick people’ are ‘always…able to get their hands on a gun’ is because we’ve made it ridiculously easy for them to do so. The only reason so many people were killed and wounded at the Umpqua Community College is because we’ve made it ridiculously easy for mass killers to hike up the body count.
And we’ve done it deliberately. We’ve deliberately created a convoluted and inconsistent record-keeping system that impedes the transmission of mental health records to gun dealers. We’ve deliberately created barriers that prevent law enforcement officers from obtaining or sharing information about potentially illegal firearm transactions. We’ve deliberately created an alternate system of firearm sales that’s essentially designed to avoid background checks.
And, of course, when I say ‘we’ deliberately did that, what I really mean is ‘Republican legislators’ and ‘the National Rifle Association’ have deliberately done that, along with a scattering of cowardly and selfish Democrats.
Yes, of course, there will always be disturbed people who want to kill groups of people. And yes, of course, many of them will always be determined enough to find a way to do that. But we don’t have to make it so easy for them. And we don’t have to give them tools that multiply the body count.
The Cooper family is right in one regard: we should remember the victims and their families. We should remember Quinn. And we should also take a few simple common sense steps to prevent other families from experiencing what the Cooper family is coping with right now. One last line from the Cooper family statement:
“No one should ever have to feel the pain we are feeling.”
Agreed. So maybe instead of just offering post-tragedy ‘thoughts and prayers’ we should take a few practical steps to make it a wee bit more difficult for these tragedies to take place.