Another week, another massacre. Last week, a mentally ill young man armed with three handguns and a pump-action shotgun began firing inside a crowded auditorium at Northern Illinois University, but he managed to kill “only” five people and wound 16 before he turned a gun on himself. So the story disappeared off most newspapers’ Page One in a day. Over the past year, nuts with guns have produced bloodbaths in colleges and high schools, in shopping malls and stores and city council meetings, and even in the pews of a mega-church. These acts of homegrown terrorism have become almost routine, like tornadoes in Kansas or suicide bombs in Iraq. Yes, they’re terrible. But what else is there to say?
You could say, as some do, that these killing sprees prove the need for better gun control. But Americans revere their right to bear arms, and there are now 200 million weapons in circulation in the U.S.; no one can unspill that milk, even if elected politicians had the courage to try, which they do not. You could say the answer is to put more guns in the hands of citizens, so that whenever a psycho started firing inside a crowded classroom, students and teachers would take cover behind an upturned desk and start shooting back, like in the good old Wild West. Or you could admit the godawful truth, which is that this mutant meme has wormed itself into our nation’s DNA. Every few weeks or months, some tortured soul will arm himself to the teeth, find a crowd of people, and show us all exactly how he feels. And we have no more power to stop it than we do tornadoes in Kansas. - William Falk