October 15, 2007

Guns Killing People in a Safe Suburban Town With a Mall

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When authorities thwarted 14-year-old Dillon Cossey’s planned massacre at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, the community of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania—a forgettable Philadelphia suburb best known for its mall—shivered in terror upon realizing its own mortality. The disturbing near-disaster thrust a community who prides itself on proximity (20 minutes from Philadelphia, 90 minutes from both the Pocono Mountains and the Jersey Shore) into active participation in a distant world that previously only existed through their television, observable from the safety of a tender suburban living room. School shootings happen in rural schools filled with buck-hunting evangelists who think psychological issues are for the weak and the sinful, or in city schools filled with the drugged-out, 50 Cent-obsessed descendents of poor rapists and murders, but not in Plymouth Meeting. No, these types of things don’t happen in such a pastoral oasis of sensibility.

But now it seems that unspeakable tragedy was imminent. It appears that if not for Cossey’s inability to keep his mouth shut about his plan, Plymouth Meeting would have transformed from a town with a mall into the contemporary idea of tragedy. It would have become a reference in a litany of essays, a principal example in innumerable arguments.

I ask you now, only days after nearly witnessing my former high school erupt in murder, only days after nearly hearing horror stories of friends dying in the hallways, only days after nearly watching a weepy CNN montage memorializing dead neighbors with images of bloody carnage and crying young girls with tans, should this disturbed young man have been able to bear arms? Along with a cache of pellet guns, swords, and grenades, the kid had a handgun, a rifle, and an assault rifle, all of which were bought for him by his mother. Though the mother is obviously at fault for being crazy enough to buy her son these weapons, the larger issue is whether or not anyone should be able to buy guns in this country.

I can go to a store right now and buy an AK-47; is there not something incredibly disturbing about that?

Allowing people to run around with machine guns in order to maintain the integrity of the Bill of Rights is a sickening display of blind faith. The Second Amendment was drafted in the infancy of our nation and is not just inapplicable to our contemporary nation but detrimental to our contemporary nation. People aren’t keeping muskets in their cupboards in case the government comes and tries to take their land; they are stockpiling assault rifles so they can go out and murder dozens of little kids before anyone can even reach for their cell phone to call 911. Our loyalty to the Constitution is killing thousands of Americans a year.

And for those who want to keep guns legal so that they can fulfill some twisted fetish by murdering defenseless animals, I’m deeply sorry. I know that hunting is a popular hobby in this country but allowing people the pleasure of slaughtering animals at the expense of human lives is unacceptable. Once guns are made illegal, hunters can trap deer and beat them with baseball bats or knife them to death, everyone wins.

The delusional Neanderthals at the National Rifle Association should be charged as accomplices in every gun-related murder since 1871. Their efforts to brainwash millions of people and bully politicians into thinking that anti-gun laws are written by communist traitors have led to hundreds of thousands of murders. The NRA’s motto for demanding widespread firearm availability, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is one of the single dumbest combination of words in the English language. Are you kidding? If I don’t have a gun, the likelihood that I will be able to kill to you is undeniably much lower. Guns kill people. There is no chance that Americans would be killing each other at this high a rate if guns were illegal. You’d have to be crazy to think that there would be the same amount of murders in this country if no one had firearms. Something that can inflict as much damage as a gun has no business being readily available.

I’m all for individual liberty, but giving 300 million people the option to murder each other is not an inalienable right. The idea that not allowing citizens to carry firearms strips them of their rights is vastly overstated. My right to stay alive, my right to not get murdered, supercedes your right to have the option of murdering me. This is a case of putting the right to life behind the right to bear arms. Fewer guns make everyone safer. Banning guns allows for an unfettered pursuit of happiness.

The threat isn’t in the possibility of future massacre; it is in the impossibility of future massacre not occurring under current gun laws. The high volume of deranged adolescents in this country combined with the laughably high availability of guns ensures that it is only a matter of when and where the next massacre will occur.

Our current gun laws assure that no one is safe. No matter if we go to school in an Amish one- room schoolhouse, or an under-funded inner-city school, or a standard suburban school with manicured lawns and high test scores, we live in a constant state of fear. Guns guarantee not just the threat of murder, but murder itself.

I ask you, for what? Why does the government sponsor the slaughter of thousands of its own citizens? Why does the government allow the chilling fear of bloody atrocity to materialize in every corner of the nation it governs?

A high school massacre in suburban Philadelphia, a murderous rampage at a mall in Minnesota, a two- year-old accidentally blowing his head off in Florida, a mother killed by a stray bullet in California—for what?

Tony Manfred is a Sun blogger. He can be contacted at blogs@cornellsun.com.