a myriad of misconceptions and skewed data

Back in August, after the El Paso and Dayton mass murders, I wrote that the primary reason we’re seeing more of these sorts of crimes is because of easy access to guns.

It’s the guns. Guns, high capacity magazines, and lax firearm laws. You get yourself a semi-automatic rifle and a few 30-round magazines, and you can rack up a high body count in a very short time. Doesn’t even have to be an assault-style rifle, though the military design of those weapons makes them more attractive to would-be mass killers. Any semi-auto rifle would do the job, so long as you’ve stocked up on hi-cap magazines. Gear up, take a walk, and until you open fire, you’re probably acting within the law.

Some folks, of course, disagreed with me (which isn’t all that uncommon; people disagree with me all the damned time). One of those who disagreed recently left a comment on that blog post. Not a comment exactly — a link to a post on his (I’m assuming it’s a guy) website. The post is titled ‘The Colt AR-15- Is It Rightfully Demonized?‘ It’s a question worth discussing (SPOILER: the answer is yes, it is properly demonized).

AR-15

Since I don’t have this person’s name, and since his blog is called Inverted Logic, I’m going to refer to him as IL.

IL states, “a pervasive fallacy among the anti-gun crowd is to conflate the motives of the murder with the murder weapon.” This certainly would be a fallacy if it was accurate. But it’s not. As IL himself correctly points out a sentence or two later, “an inanimate object does not possess motives.” Bingo. I don’t know anybody who believes firearms have motivations. What some of us actually believe is this: there are certain weapons commonly used by people who are motivated to kill a lot of other people in a short amount of time.

It’s like this: a lawn mower and a pair of garden shears are both tools that can cut grass. Neither tool has any motivation. It’s not that lawn mowers want to cut grass faster and more efficiently; it’s just that it’s designed to do that. People who are motivated to cut grass are much more likely to opt for the lawn mower than the garden shears. That’s the same motivational process of people who want to kill other people faster and more efficiently.

IL then examines FBI crime data. He states, “four times more people were murdered by a knife than were by a rifle.” That’s correct, but misleading. We’re not talking about murder rates here; we’re talking about mass murder — a totally different beast. Mass murders are relatively rare in comparison to ordinary murders. Most murders occur between people who know each other, usually during an argument and often fueled by alcohol. That or some fuss over drugs. Most murders are crimes of — I hate to use the term ‘passion’; let’s call it high emotion. In general, they tend to be spontaneous, unplanned, spur-of-the-moment crimes.

In fact, most mass murders also follow that pattern. The problem is in how mass murder is defined. Here’s the most common definition:

Shootings at a public place in which the shooter murdered four or more people, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence, in a single episode.

If a drug deal between gang members goes bad and a few of them get killed by gunfire, it’s not technically considered a mass murder. Similarly, if a man gets drunk, argues with his wife or girlfriend, grabs his gun, shoots her and her kids, and maybe her parents, it’s not technically counted as a mass murder. Seriously. I’m not making this up. So most mass murders aren’t even considered mass murders. The victims, though, are just as dead.

Henckels chef’s knife.

Back to IL and his knives. There have, of course, been mass killings committed with knives. China, for example, suffered a spate of school attacks between 2010 and 2012. In ten separate incidents, 25 people were killed and around 115 were wounded. Those attacks were made with knives, box cutters, machetes, and meat cleavers.

That’s 25 dead and 115 wounded in ten attacks over three years. Twenty-five dead is maybe ten minutes work with a semi-auto firearm, including re-loading time. The thing is, killing groups of people with a knife requires a lot of work. To begin with, a knife attack is more likely to wound than to kill. And there’s a lot more chasing involved in a knife attack; you literally have to get close enough to the victim to touch them — and most folks aren’t going to stand around to give you the chance.

AR-15 with modifications

So let’s just dismiss the knife argument. Given a choice between an edged weapon (a knife or a machete or a meat cleaver or a damned box cutter) and an AR-15, I’m confident most would-be mass killers would opt for the rifle.

IL also points out that rifles aren’t a common murder weapon. Which is true. He writes:

Only a minuscule 3.2 percent of all reported murders in the same decade were committed with rifles. Even per the New York Times, 173 people have been killed in a mass shooting where an AR-15 was used from 2007-2017 (total number of homicides 13,657). If you do the math (173 divided by 13,657=0.012667 X 100= 1.266 %) that is a number that is slightly above 1 percent of all homicides. All this uproar and outrage is being focused upon a weapon that is only responsible for approximately 1 percent of all murders.

But, again, we’re not talking about murder rates. We’re not talking about individual murders. We’re talking about mass murders. Using IL’s dates (2007-2017) there were at least 480 fatalities that met the traditional definition of mass murder. If 173 were committed with AR-15 variants, we’re talking about a quarter of all mass murders. Add in all the mass murders committed with AK47 variants and…hell, add in ALL semi-auto firearms, rifles and pistols, and you’ve just about covered it all. (I say ‘just about’ because technically multiple deaths in arson attacks and explosions also fit the common mass murder definition.)

The important question IL doesn’t address is this: why do so many mass murderers select AR-15 and AK47s as their weapons of choice? I mean, a Ruger mini-14 would be just as effective at killing large numbers of innocent people. Like the AR variants, it’s a semi-automatic rifle that uses .223 caliber rounds, and hey, it can utilize high capacity magazines. It’s also a lot less finicky than the AR. So what is the appeal of the AR variants?

Ruger Mini-14

I’d argue it has to do with two things. First, they look dangerous. There’s a reason so many mass killers dress in black (or camo or trenchcoats). It’s not because they want to blend into their environment. Camouflage isn’t going to help you in the aisles of Walmart. It’s because there’s a mass killer aesthetic; there’s a popular culture notion of how mass killers are supposed to look. Militaristic-looking weapons are a part of that aesthetic. A mini-14 may be as efficient a killing machine as an AR, but it doesn’t have that brutal militaristic aura. It just looks like a plain old rifle. No self-respecting mass killer would walk into a Walmart with a Ruger mini-14.

Exploded view of AR-15 modifiable parts

Second, AR variants are exceedingly customizable. They’re like Legos for gun nuts. You can interchange or upgrade just about every part of the AR — switch barrels, change the stock, add a sound suppressor, modify the grip, get a new trigger. A LOT of gun owners like AR variants because they can play with them more than other rifles. If you want a semi-auto rifle that will operate under almost any condition, you opt for the AK variants. If you want one that looks brutal to begin with and want to make it look even more brutal, you go for the AR.

IL does, though, say one thing I mostly agree with. “The take away here is that we need to be critical consumers of media. There are a myriad of misconceptions and skewed data represented as being conveying the whole picture. When, only a sliver of factual truth is being presented and is reframed to support a specific ideology or agenda.

Ignore the grammar and creative punctuation; IL is right. We DO need to be critical consumers of media. We need to be able to recognize and dismiss arguments that are misleading. We need to be aware of arguments that have a hidden agenda.

Because I want my agenda to be completely open, let me say this (I’ve already said it dozens of times on this blog): I don’t hate guns. I like guns. Guns are fun to shoot. I just don’t think they should be easy to obtain and keep. I don’t think all firearms are equal. I’m okay with certain firearms being banned. I don’t believe anybody needs a magazine holding more than ten rounds. I don’t think anybody needs a sound suppressor. I’m okay with the government putting limits on the Second Amendment just as they’ve put limits on the First.

Will banning or confiscating AR and AK variants put an end to mass murders? No, of course not. It might reduce the butcher’s bill, which is still a worthy goal. Probably a more immediately effective way to do that, though, would be to ban and confiscate magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. Or what the hell, 7 rounds.

Just my opinion.

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red flags, fear, & a wee bit of common sense

After the Santa Fe High School mass killing event…wait. Do you remember the Santa Fe mass killing? A year ago, in Texas? May 18, 2018? Ring a bell? Ten killed — eight students and two teachers — and thirteen wounded? Remember now? C’mon, it was the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Comrade Trump said, “we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever.” Remember now? No?

Following the Santa Fe High School mass killing.

Okay, these things happen. They’re easy to forget. Anyway, after the Santa Fe shooting Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, created the Texas Safety Commission to look into ways to prevent that sort of tragedy from happening again. The TSC released its report and recommendations last month, two days before the El Paso Walmart massacre. Here’s what Gov. Abbott said at the time:

“In the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Santa Fe, we had discussions just like what we are having today. Those discussions weren’t just for show and for people to go off into the sunset and do nothing. They led to more than 20 laws being signed by me to make sure that the state of Texas was a better, safer place, including our schools for our children.”

Those laws to make Texas ‘a better, safer place’ weren’t common sense laws to increase firearm safety; they were mostly laws that loosened existing restrictions about where Texans could carry guns. There’d been some discussion about including a ‘red flag’ law — a law that allows police or family members to ask a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person considered to be a danger to others or themselves. But in the end, Gov. Abbott and the TSC decided a red flag law would put too many burdens on gun owners.

“I think we need to focus more on memorials before we start the politics.” Texas Gov. Greg Abott

Seventeen states have some sort of red flag law. Although these law are still fairly recent, research suggests red flag laws have, at a minimum, reduced suicide rates. There’s not enough data yet to comment on their effect on murder rates, but red flag laws have been used in at least 20 instances in which people were threatening to commit mass murders. Threatening to commit a mass murder doesn’t mean a person will actually attempt it, but common sense tells us seizing their firearms would certainly make any attempt a lot less likely.

There ARE a few — a very few — valid constitutional concerns about red flag laws. There are due process issues involved when you allow police to seize property from somebody who hasn’t actually committed a crime. But when the crime is murder and the property involved is a tool designed specifically to kill, I think we can allow a few narrow due process exceptions.

Gun rights advocates argue red flag laws give too much weight to the accuser. They fear angry women will use the laws to punish men by having their guns seized. They argue law-abiding gun owners could lose their weapons “because some woman was slighted by a comment taken out of context or jilted by a lover.” Others are afraid the laws would be used by liberals to confiscate the firearms of conservatives. Some even claim red flag laws are, in fact, the first step in a Deep State plan to disarm conservative ‘patriots’.

Most of these folks are idjits.

At the heel of the hunt, it always comes down to this: fear. Politicians fear the money and power of the NRA. They fear losing their status, their power, their ability to shape laws to their own ends. Gun rights advocates are also afraid. White fear of minorities, and fear of becoming a minority themselves. Male fear of women, of being humiliated by women, of not being able to control women. Fear of losing privilege. Fear of losing dominance. It’s all about fear. The ONLY reason for a civilian to carry a firearm is fear. The only reason for a political figures to promote or tolerate looser gun laws is fear.

Folks who don’t own guns are also afraid. Students are afraid they’ll be shot at school. Families are afraid they’ll be shot at church or at the mall. Parents are afraid their kids will be shot. Young adults are afraid they’ll be shot at bars or parties. We’ve actually reached the point where there are survivors of multiple mass shootings. Two brothers who were present during the Gilroy Garlic festival mass shooting had also attended the Las Vegas concert where 58 people were killed. Two other survivors of the Las Vegas massacre were present at the Thousand Oaks mass murder. One of them survived the second mass murder; the other didn’t.

Years ago, Frank Herbert wrote, I must not fear Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I think he was only partially right. Fear IS the mind-killer. But fear can be rational and appropriate; fear can clarify as well as cloud your judgment.

Here’s a true thing: the vast majority of gun nuts (and by ‘gun nuts’ I mean those men who amass a sizable arsenal of firearms) aren’t a threat. Common sense tells us most of these folks aren’t the sort of nuts who’ll use those guns to commit mass murders. We don’t have to be afraid of them. But here’s another true thing: anybody who threatens violence is thinking about committing it, and if a person who threatens violence has weapons, it’s rational to fear he’ll follow through on the threat. It’s common sense to remove those weapons.

Again, it’s all about fear. Their fear and our fear. But it shouldn’t be about whose fear will win. It should be about common sense. Red flag laws are simply the application of common sense to a social danger. Common sense is a fear-killer. We don’t have to let anybody’s fear win.

 

still the guns

In December of 2012, I said it was the guns. It’s still the guns. All the guns. The easy availability of guns. It’s the goddamned guns.

Do hate and bigotry and prejudice play a part? Sure. It doesn’t help that we have a president who feeds into the hate and bigotry and prejudice. Inadequate mental health care? Yeah, sure, that’s part of it. The entire for-profit health care system in the US is fucked up, and the mental health system is more fucked up than the rest. Economic tension, free-floating anxiety, inchoate rage, fear of change? Sure, all that figures into it.

But basically, it’s the guns. It’s obviously the guns. Other nations have all the social problems that trouble the United States, but they suffer only a small fraction of the mass killings. Because it’s the guns. Guns make all the difference. Guns and high capacity magazines. They make killing easier, they make body counts higher. THIS IS WHAT GUNS ARE SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO DO: KILL THINGS.

Who would this guy in Dayton be without his AR15? Who would Patrick Crusius be without access to an AK-47? He’d be just another angry young white guy with a dodgy understanding of history and the influence of social forces. Just another inadequate person man who wanted so very desperately to believe he had an important part to play in some imaginary racist redemptive narrative.

Who would Stephen Paddock be? Who would Devin Kelley or James Holmes be? Adam Lanza, Nikolas Cruz, Omar Mateen, Robert Bowers — who would these guys be without easy access to guns and high capacity magazines? Without the guns, they’d be…insignificant. These guys think the guns might make them matter.

Sadly, they’re right. It’s the guns.

You want to tell me guns don’t kill people — people kill people? Fuck you. Jumping off buildings doesn’t kill people — deceleration trauma kills people. You want to tell me the majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens and shouldn’t be punished because some asshole misuses a firearm? Fuck you in the neck, life doesn’t work that way. I’m not going to cook meth, but I still can’t buy Sudafed without a huge amount of fuss because some asshole misuses it. You want to tell me you can also kill people with a knife or a baseball bat? Fuck you, you half-witted ballbag. That’s so damned stupid it doesn’t deserve a response. You want to tell me the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun? Fuck you, fuck your whole family, fuck everybody you know. Texas is jammed with ‘good guys with a gun.’ But Crusius was still able to waltz through the aisles of Walmart shooting folks IN TEXAS, walk out unmolested, get in his car, and start to drive away before police officers stopped him. And this asshole in Dayton managed to kill nine and wound a couple dozen more in about 2-3 minutes before he was shot.

I’m going to say it again. It’s the guns. The guns and high capacity magazines and lax gun laws. Patrick Crusius and the Dayton shooter (who hasn’t been publicly identified yet) were both law-abiding citizens until they opened fire. It’s legal in both Ohio and Texas to openly carry long guns. Seriously, you can walk down the street in Dayton or El Paso with an AK or an AR slung over your shoulder, wearing camouflage and tactical gloves, with a pouch containing a few high capacity magazines and it’s absolutely legal (although it wouldn’t be wise to do that if you’re not white).

This morning in Dayton.

I’m going to say it one more time. It’s the guns. Guns, high capacity magazines, and lax firearm laws. You get yourself a semi-automatic rifle and a few 30-round magazines, and you can rack up a high body count in a very short time. Doesn’t even have to be an assault-style rifle, though the military design of those weapons makes them more attractive to would-be mass killers. Any semi-auto rifle would do the job, so long as you’ve stocked up on hi-cap magazines. Gear up, take a walk, and until you open fire, you’re probably acting within the law.

Basically, it’s the guns. It’s the easy access to guns. It’s always been the guns. It’ll be the guns again tomorrow. It’s the goddamned guns.

breaks your goddamn heart

— So did you hear about Thousand Oaks? The mass…
— Yeah.
— You hear about the kid who survived the mass murder at Vegas only to…
— Yeah, I heard. Tel Orfanos.
— Is that his name? You see the video of his mother talking to…
— Yeah. Saw it.
— Breaks your goddamn heart.
— Yeah.
— Guns, man. I dunno.

— Thing is, the shooter? He wasn’t mentally unstable enough to be committed. So he could legally buy and own a…
— Just stop.
— What?
— Just fucking stop.
— What?
— Stop with the ‘nobody knew he was that disturbed’ shit. I’m sick of hearing it.
— I’m just saying maybe there should be some sort of law where people who aren’t unstable enough to be committed but are still pretty fucking unstable should…
— There is.
— There is what?
— There IS a fucking law. In California. Right now. A gun violence restraining order law. It allows law enforcement to temporarily disarm somebody who’s shown dangerous behavior, even if it’s not extreme enough to commit them.
— Seriously?
— Yeah. They passed the law after the Isla Vista mass murder.
— Which one was that? I can’t keep track of all…
— Elliot Rodger.
— Why do I know that name?
— He’s the patron saint of the incel movement.
— Aw, fuck.
— Yeah.
— So they…
— Yeah. After this guy went on a killing spree because he hated women California passed a law to disarm angry dangerous people who’ve demonstrated a capacity and a propensity toward violence.
— But they haven’t enforced it?

— No, I guess not. I wonder why. Maybe the law is just unpopular?
— Let’s ask Tel Orfanos’ mother.

march 4 our rights, sorta kinda, maybe

You guys, did you know gun rights are human rights? No? Well, the reason you don’t know that is on account of you weren’t one of the thousands hundreds dozens of people who showed up at the thirteen (13!) student-led ‘March 4 Our Rights’ events last weekend.

You probably think the only student-led gun rallies are those led by gun-hating high school drama students with skinny arms or bald brown lesbian heads who want to take everybody’s guns, melt them down, and turn them into dildos and instruments to be used in abortions. But no! Some students love guns. And they totally love the Second Amendment. Also, America.

The March for Our Rights in Washington, DC (well, it was hot that day, and people were tired from staying up late and torturing pets by shooting fireworks on the 4th of July).

The Chairwoman and National Director of ‘March 4 Our Rights’, Xena Amirani, said her movement is “organic, which is in stark differentiation with the marches held by Parkland gun control activists.” Organic, you guys! Like avocados. You can tell the movement is organic and totally trendy because just look at how they replaced ‘for’ with the numeral 4, just like the cool kids do. And as everybody knows, all those anti-gun rallies and marches are phony and paid for by the two Georges (Soros and Clooney) who want the American people disarmed in order to…you know, something.

Chairwoman Xena Amirani with organic flower.

Sadly for Amirani, her prediction that “thousands of students” would take part in the ‘March 4 Our Rights’ were maybe a tad optimistic. Or delusional. Maybe three dozen people attended the D.C. event. About 35 people showed up at the Chicago rally. And in Palm Beach, Florida there were only 13 (including the organizer, the three speakers, and the parents of the speakers). The organizer of the Palm Beach rally said,

“I don’t know why more people didn’t show up. I think a lot of conservatives are just afraid to show up for public events.”

I don’t know…maybe they wouldn’t be quite so afraid to show up for public events if there weren’t so many crazy fuckers running around Florida toting concealed firearms? Also maybe people didn’t show up because most folks think we don’t really need to keep arming those crazy fuckers. Just an opinion.

In case of domestic enemies. Or brown people. Or in case…what’s that guy got in his knapsack?

The problem, according to these students, is that their views are not being taken into consideration in the debate about school shootings. They just want to be heard. Instead, their call to “take back our gun rights” is met with a chorus of “What, are you fucking nuts? Take back your…just fuck off, okay?” Their complaints of “I’m being SO discriminated against and my friends don’t want to spend time with me anymore just because I love America and guns more than I care about them getting all shot up probably by a mentally ill immigrant and stuff, it’s not fair” receive shockingly little sympathy. Their heartfelt plea to part of the conversation is so often turned away by inconsiderate others who are unable to concentrate on the conversation because they don’t know who the fuck is carrying and what have you got in that backpack, anyway?

You see, gun rights advocates just want to start a dialog. Just a friendly dialog. A dialog in which they’re carrying a gun. Just in case you’re carrying a gun. A friendly dialog, so long as nobody makes an unexpected move. Or looks like they might make an unexpected move. Because c’mon, you can’t trust people; they might be some crazy fucker from Florida.

spink spink spink

Okay, I’ve come up with a plan to put an end to mass murder events. After the most recent mass killing (and it’s the sad nature of mass killings that the phrase ‘the most recent’ becomes meaningless almost immediately — so just to be clear, I’m talking about the mass murder of journalists and support staff at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, MD on 28 June), I knew we had to do something. I mean, thoughts and prayers just aren’t getting the job done.

I think we need to try a new approach. Bracelets of Submission.

Okay, I admit, I see some branding issues there. That ‘submission’ business would make it hard to market. But you see, that’s the actual name for Wonder Woman’s cuffs. The Amazons of Paradise Island wore them as a symbol of their loving submission to the goddess Aphrodite. They also served as a reminder to the Amazons ‘of the folly of submitting to men’.

So yeah, that goddess and submission business might discourage some folks. But I think we just need to shift attention to the bracelets’ awesome ricochet properties. I mean, these things are made from Amazonium, which everybody knows is the industry standard for deflecting projectiles. Not only that, the bracelets are imbued with magic that makes them impermeable to fire, invulnerable to traditional weaponry, immune to blasts of energy, resistant to deceleration trauma (as a result of, say, falling from a great height), and can repel ticks and prevent insect bites. Plus, can you say fashion forward?

But granted, we’d have to rebrand them as something other than Bracelets of Submission. Maybe we could call them Second Amendment Cuffs. Or what about MAGA Bangles? No, wait, I’ve got it. Freedom Gauntlets. Yeah, that would work. 

So I propose we issue Amazonium Freedom Gauntlets to every citizen of school age (at the very least, to those who have health insurance coverage) and hey, bingo, problem solved. Angry white guy breaks into school and starts shooting? Spink spink spink until the police arrive. Angry white guy walks into your place of employment? Spink spink spink and a bit of patience and it’s all over. Angry white guy attacks a women’s health clinic? Spink spink spink and maybe a couple more spinks. Angry white guy shoots up a gay nightclub or a mosque or a pizza parlor? Spink spink, bitches.

Spink spink spink, bitches.

Now, some folks will say this is silly. Some folks will say I’m making light of a terrible situation. Some folks will say I’m mocking the notion of thoughts and prayers.

All of those folks are right. It is silly, it is making light of a terrible situation, and I’m totally mocking thoughts and prayers as a response to mass shootings. Thoughts and prayers are no more effective at mass murder prevention than magical Amazonian Freedom Gauntlets. The response of the United States to gun violence deserves to be mocked.

Because we know this to be true: five men and women were killed couple of days ago by yet another angry white guy who legally purchased the weapon he used to kill them, and aside from the ritual thoughts and prayers, absolutely nothing will be done to reduce the likelihood that it will happen again tomorrow. Nothing.

forgetting

Yesterday we had the school shooting. Today we’ll name the victims. We’ll create a makeshift memorial, with teddy bears and balloon hearts, with heartfelt handwritten notes and painfully sincere poems, with photos of the dead before they became the generic dead. Today we’ll swear to remember them and keep them in our hearts and prayers forever.

“To the students, families, teachers and personnel at Santa Fe High School – we are with you in this tragic hour, and we will be with you forever…” — President Comrade Donald J. Trump

Like so much of what Trump says, this isn’t true. We won’t be with the victims and their families forever. Tomorrow — maybe later today — we’ll start the forgetting.

Not the parents, of course. Not their family members and their friends. They actually will remember the dead and grieve for them. But the rest of us? Well, school shootings are like buses; another one will come along pretty soon. Most of us will retain a better memory of the last bus we took than we will of individual victims of any school shooting.

We’ll forget. That’s just a fact. Back in December of 2013, on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, I made a similar comment about another school shooting victim.

Yes, a 17-year old girl got shot, but if it weren’t for the Sandy Hook anniversary thing, the national news media would probably have ignored it. Still, they did what they could with what they had. They emphasized the Cute White Girl Who Loved Horses angle, making her a classic innocent victim. They found some really nice high school photos of her. What was her name? Kaylee? Claire? Callie? Something like that — pretty sure it starts with a ‘k’ sound. She got shot in the head. With a shotgun. Nobody wants to hear about that. And nobody other than her friends and family will remember her in a couple of weeks. Same with what’s-his-name, the school shooter. Karl.

Her name was Claire Davis. She died ten days after she was shot. She and the shooter were the only physical casualties of that event. In the discussion that followed that post, I was taken to task by the mother of one of Claire’s classmates.

“Claire died and a entire community cares. My daughter was in that school. Many students will have post traumatic stress disorder due to this shooting. We care about this and it has nothing to do with the media. You came across very callous in this post and whatever you tried to communicate got lost in that.”

That, sadly, is exactly what I tried to communicate: that we’ve become callous, that we’ve become numbed by the sheer number of mass killings. There are so many mass killings and so many victims — so many dead, so many wounded and maimed — that as a nation, we can’t keep track of them. We identify them as individuals shortly after they’ve been killed; we give their names, we mention something specific about them in an effort to stress the magnitude of the loss, we try to say Look, this is a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life, and now that potential is GONE.

But the reality is there are just too many of them. Ten yesterday, seventeen a few months ago, three a few days before that, fifty-some in Las Vegas, a dozen here and there and they’re all inevitably clumped in the public mind as generic victims. We don’t remember them. We can’t.

But we should try.

This is Claire Davis. She was seventeen years old. She was a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. She loved horses. She was a real person who had hopes and dreams and the potential to live a full and happy and productive life. She was shot on December 13, 2013 and died ten days later.

Her name was Claire Davis.