Comic books and guns

There are those who would blame the Batman comic, the Batman movie, for inspiring the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado.

However, I grew up with comic books, I loved comic books, they helped me learn to read, I read every comic book I could get my hands on: Superman, Batman, The Green Lantern, Archie, the Classic comics, war comics. If it was a comic, I read it. Never once did they encourage me or inspire me to commit mass murder or, to commit a crime of any kind. I was on the side of the Super Heroes, fighting for justice.

Although, in some ways, I had a strange upbringing (and who doesn’t), I never identified with the Joker or with any of Superman’s arch enemies.

Comics never separated me from the fact that acts have consequences. Dumb acts on my part were normal adolescent inability to imagine my mortality. That’s an adolescent trait. It makes young men good soldiers. Others may die but they know they won’t. If we are lucky we survive these years and become sensible.

The violence of the shooter at the Aurora theatre wasn’t caused by dumbness. He was a graduate student. He must have some smarts.

Intelligence doesn’t preclude serious personality disorders. It doesn’t preclude all sorts of illnesses.

President Obama used the word evil to describe what happened in Aurora. So did presidential candidate Mitt Romney. I would have preferred they had used other words, words that didn’t absolve us, society, from our part in the tragedy. The problem with using the word evil is that it takes what happened and puts the cause out there, in some other dimension. Saying and act is evil absolves us of responsibility. After all, someone can say evil is always with us so there is no point in trying to do anything about it. Assigning an act to the presence of evil takes away our ability to try to make things better. The words “an inability to understand consequences”. The words “an inability to separate fantasy and reality”. The words “an inability to have empathy for others”. I would prefer to hear those words about the shooter in Aurora. Those words give us back the possibility of creating a better society.

And having used those words, then we could look at what creates an inability to understand consequences, what creates an inability to separate fantasy and reality, what creates a lack of empathy for others. And then we can have a public discussion about what we need to do to create a society where people understand consequences, where people can separate fantasy from reality, where empathy is nurtured.

Before I make the rest of my argument, let me say that I grew up with guns. My father started to teach me to use a rifle when I was only able to pull the trigger. When I was two, he took me deer hunting by towing me on a sleigh behind him. I got my first rifle when I was twelve. I got my shotgun when I was sixteen. I hunted. I skinned and plucked and gutted. I ate what I shot. But I used a single shot .22 and a 12 gauge shotgun. You don’t shoot rabbits and ducks with a Glock pistol. Or any pistol. You don’t need a repeating rifle or a rifle intended for combat to hunt deer or moose.

If I still lived in the country, I’d own a small calibre rifle and shotgun. I’d still hunt small game. But I live in the city and there is absolutely no reason for me to own any kind of weapon. None.

Semi-automatic and automatic weapons are just that, weapons. They are not used for hunting. Hunters do not need semi-automatic and automatic weapons. They don’t need pistols. If they do, then they’re not hunters.

We, as a society, are quite capable of placing restrictions on who may or may not own a firearm. We are quite capable of saying that there have been enough instances of people who don’t understand consequences, who can’t separate fantasy from reality, who have no empathy,  who have used firearms to do great harm. We are quite capable of saying we cannot afford to produce or distribute weapons that are only suitable for warfare.

The person who says, “But I need a handgun to protect myself.” is really saying, “I need a handgun because I might need or want to shoot another human being.”

The shooter in Aurora, if he couldn’t buy weapons because he had no proven need for them, could have stormed the theatre with a knife and done some harm. But he wouldn’t have been able to commit mass murder and wounding. We may not, even with our best efforts, stop someone who is deranged from attacking others, but we can take away the instruments that give them ability to kill and injure a lot of people.

The fact that a rancher in Colorado needs a rifle or shotgun on his ranch is no reason to provide semi-automatic pistols to people living in the Denver or its suburbs. It’s not even a justification for providing a semi-automatic pistol for the rancher. No rancher needs that kind of firepower.

America does not want the Iranian government to obtain nuclear weapons because they think that the Iranian government might do something very harmful with them. I’m all for that. But the truth is that the Iranians have never killed as many Americans as Americans have killed Americans. Americans kill other Americans at a rate of around 16,000 a year. A majority of those are killed with guns.

Just because you can produce something is not a reason to produce it. We can produce all sorts of weapons, hand grenades, mines, artillery, but we know those are for warfare. We don’t sell them in shops all over North America so people can mine their front yard or lob grenades over the fence into their neighbour’s yard.  These are the weapons of war. So are automatic weapons of any kind. Let’s keep guns but let’s make a shooter reload after every shot. That would at least give his targets a chance to bring him down or escape.