In August of 2014 I began writing what eventually turned into a series of posts about entertainment and violence. At the time I was interested in understanding the dynamics behind oft-repeated claims that violence in entertainment begets violence in the real word, along with parallel assertions — oft-repeated in the press — that the motive for acts of violence, and in particular acts of mass violence, can be reduced to a certainty. While I had long been interested in the subject matter as a storyteller, particularly having worked in the interactive entertainment industry for many years, the catalyst for digging into the issue was the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. That tragedy also marked the moment when I checked out on the calcified gun violence debate, because any country that responds to an atrocity like that with a collective shrug is on its way to cultural collapse.
The problem, of course — beyond the violence itself — is that I did not and still do not feel fatalistic about America. I feel fatalistic about a debate which is so entrenched that it cannot be dislodged by any act of barbarity, including the recent mass killings in Orlando. What is now being described as the single deadliest mass shooting in American history could be surpassed tomorrow, and quite easily. There are no protections, there are no steps being taken to prevent the next atrocity, and the horrifying idea that such violence may become the new normal in American culture is already a historical footnote.
If you want to read the posts in order, you can start here. Toward the end of the seventh of eight total posts, however, which were written over a six-month period, I wrote this, in a post about Real-World Violence and Means:
Whether an act of violence is caused by terrorists or a berserk mass murderer, the civilian authorities charged with responding to such emergencies need to have the means of doing so. Because any American citizen has the legal right to own as many weapons as they want, and there is often no way to determine who owns what when police arrive on scene, let alone whether today is the day when a formerly law-abiding citizens is going to go berserk, the police rightly feel they should have military-grade weapons with them at all times because it’s impossible to predict in advance when such weapons may be needed. The militarization of America’s police, then, is simply following in lockstep with the militarization of America, which in turn encourages those who have an axe to grind or who hope to terrorize the populace or destabilize the government to also procure even more destructive weapons. Sprinkle all those firearms and tensions with time, economic pressure, martial discord, substance use, long-simmering hatreds and even mental illness, and not only is it likely that mass murders will increase, it’s likely that the police will eventually become stressed and begin overreacting to any threats they do perceive.
It’s a maddening and vicious cycle, but just when you are convinced that the problem can never be solved, you realize that it will necessarily resolve itself. Yes, a lot of people will die in the interim, but at some point, after enough attacks take place on American soil using ever-more-lethal and legally purchased firearms freely available in the marketplace, either at the hands of foreign terrorists, domestic terrorists, or both, targeting shopping malls, schools, hospitals or even police stations, the sheer amount of blood running in the streets will convince a majority of citizens, and in particular a majority of government officials who themselves may have been targeted, that the 2nd Amendment must be repealed. There will be a lot of wailing along the way, of course, to say nothing of fatalities, but precisely because the 2nd Amendment cannot be infringed it will at some point have to be retired so firearms can be regulated in the interest of public safety.
In the aftermath of the shootings in Orlando you will read a lot of well-intentioned think pieces like this, which will ultimately do nothing to prevent the next Orlando or Sandy Hook from happening. In America, what stands in the way of common-sense gun restrictions that other civilized countries have adopted over the past two hundred years is not a lack of insight into possible solutions, but the industrial franchise granted by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.
As noted in the quote above, the 2nd Amendment will inevitably fall of its own weight, but it’s equally true that there is nothing anyone can do in the short term to hasten its demise. What you can do as a citizen, however, is simply flip that switch in your own head, leaping past all of the pros and cons to a simple determination that the 2nd Amendment has outlived its usefulness. If there are negotiations to be had about who can own a gun in America, and what types of guns they are allowed to have, we can have those debates after the 2nd Amendment is gone.
So have that conversation with yourself and your friends. Because that’s the same conversation people had long ago about slavery and women’s suffrage, and more recently about gay marriage, and other cultural changes that have come to pass. It may take a long time for change to come, but it won’t come at all if people aren’t willing to accept it. For me, if it keeps anyone from being shot to death by a berserk American with enough firepower to wage war, I’m willing to accept that change.
— Mark Barrett