The Century theater shooting was 13 miles from Columbine 13 years after 13 people were killed. 12 were killed at Aurora.
Mass killings are rising world-wide, and will increase as population increases. There are evil people, and although we do not understand their evil actions, people have been murdering forever.
We go into national shock over mass murder, but hardly notice a single murder on page 3. Apparently we feel more vulnerable when many people die, as we consider we could have been there, but do not when we do not relate to the vulnerability.
That guns are frequently used in the United States brings a hue and cry for bans on high-capacity weapons and large quantities of ammunition. The Aurora shooter had 6,000 rounds, thought to be unusual. But it is not unusual for a competitive shooter to fire 3000-4000 rounds per week. It is also not unusual for shooters to buy large quantities when ammunition is on sale, just as shoppers buy “on sale” items at the grocery store.
Quantity, however, begs the question of capacity. Trap shooters fire 2 at a time, from a firearm with a total capacity of 2. Although there is no need for a trap or skeet shotgun to have a large magazine, there is a need for military firearms to have high capacity.
Is there, however, a need for civilians to be able to acquire high-capacity magazines and assault rifles? The answer is a resounding “no.” Reasonable restrictions on the availability of these firearms are not only sensible but necessary. A ban on such firearms was enacted during the Clinton Administration. The “Clinton” restrictions should be re-enacted and made permanent. No citizen needs a semi-automatic firearm capable of discharging 100 rounds per minute with a magazine loading 100 rounds in response.
It is naive to believe directing our attention to the means of human destruction will reduce the fact of human destruction. We have 300 million firearms in the U.S. – surely ample to keep the killing going. If we could confiscate those weapons, the evil behind Columbine and Aurora would continue, and that evil would copy the mass killers of the Mid-East who favor bombs. Ted Kaczynski, the “Unibomber” did. If evil people determine to kill, they will use bombs, poisons, poison gasses, structural failures, and others. It is, then, the culture of evil upon which we should focus, not the means by which it is perpetrated.
We need to change the culture and reduce the violence. We need to change our conversation and social contract. And, we need to do this one person at a time. We are not going to change TV news when violence sells; we are not going to change the genre of movies when violence sells; we are not going to change the culture when we allow incivility to rule. We can change the culture of violence and evil only by changing the way in which we interact with each other.
We must do so by leading by example, speaking by example, being kinder than necessary, recognizing everyone is carrying a heavy load, being kind and respectful in the face of rudeness and insult, practicing random acts of kindness in large and small ways on a daily basis, and changing our conversation from negative to positive as a commitment to how we live. As the Navajo culture teaches, we must “Follow the beauty path.”
This takes conscious effort. We must be mindful of our actions and determined to change the world around us, knowing our example will influence others.
All human actions begin with a conversation. We must begin the conversation of kindness and civility as a commitment to leading by example. We must begin the process of changing the culture of evil, one word, one action, one thought at a time. Let us do no harm and follow the Beauty Path.