Life Imitates Heart

If we’re not going to talk about gun control, can we talk about the shooters?

Irrefutable fact #1: Mass shootings do not happen in other developed countries at the rate that they happen in the United States.

Irrefutable fact #2: Facts no longer mean anything.

I have given up all hope that we will ever have adequate gun control in the United States. I won’t ever stop fighting for it – ever – but at this rate I’m more likely to get killed in a mass shooting than I am to ever see laws enacted to protect children from getting gunned down in their schools. Children who had lives and loves and futures ahead of them and are now just numbers like 17 and 26 and 13.

But let’s settle into this reality where we let civilians terrorize children with weapons of war. Let’s get cozy with it. Let’s ignore what other countries have done to successfully curb mass shootings. Let’s keep praying even though God clearly is not listening.

If we flat out refuse to take guns out of the hands of madmen, let’s talk about the madmen themselves.

Can we talk about how mass shooters in this country are overwhelmingly, almost entirely young men? Can we ask why? Because if you believe that guns don’t kill people, that it is indeed the person holding the gun, than you must also believe that we’re raising some really shitty people right now. Some really broken young men who only know how to express their anger by hurting as many people as they can.

If we’re not going to talk about gun control, can we finally address toxic masculinity? Can we acknowledge that teaching men to not show a drop of emotion hinders their ability to effectively communicate when they are hurting? Can we address that online threats of violence overwhelmingly appear to come from men, too, that when they feel their socially-reinforced identity as a man is threatened in any way, their default response is to hurt, and hurt, and hurt?

If we’re not going to address the gross lack of necessity for a civilian to own an automatic weapon, can we at least discuss how many of these mass shooters have a history of domestic violence? Can we talk about how many women get murdered by their male partners (both current and ex)? According to an Everytown Analysis, “The majority of mass shootings—54 percent of cases—were related to domestic or family violence” between 2009 and 2016. Can we talk about how little stock society puts in a woman’s life, that even after the #MeToo uprising we are still hardwired to dismiss women’s pain? You don’t have to look much further than the White House to find that disgusting truth.

Can we acknowledge that if we cared more about women’s worth, if we took domestic violence as the serious issue that it is, 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 may have been prevented? 

Can we talk about the interconnection between mass shootings, domestic violence, sexual assault, and toxic masculinity? Because they are braided together in this noose. For all the weight women are asked to bear in silence, they do not regularly attempt to commit mass murder. They may laugh at you and they may break your heart, but they rarely try to empty a loaded gun into a classroom. They rarely try to erase humanity.

Let me be clear: This is not an attack on men. This is an attack on the society that tells men that they do not have permission to break, and then gives those men access to weapons that are made with the intent to take as many lives as possible. And it breaks my goddamn heart.

So if we’re not going to talk about gun control, can we talk about the shooters? Can we talk about how we are systematically failing boys? Can we talk about how our rigid definition of masculinity perpetuates violence and an unrelenting struggle for power?

Can we? I don’t know. That’s a lot to unpack. That’s hundreds of years worth of hardwiring to reroute, years and years worth of painful conversations to have, choices to be made, and systems to dismantled.

We’re not the only country with an angry man problem, but other countries have done their due diligence to keep guns out of angry men’s hands. It’s way past time for this country to make it harder for anyone to kill children at will.

1 thought on “If we’re not going to talk about gun control, can we talk about the shooters?”

  1. I think this is the most powerful essay I have seen on the subject. Just astonishingly cuts to the heart of it, to the bone. Will attempt to send it to everyone I know. Thank you, thank you.


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