Yesterday, I'm sitting in my room in Oakland, and I hear a series of gunshots very close to my house. I look out of the windows, but don't see much. The police block off the street, and apparently, someone was at least gravely injured, but I haven't heard details. But of course, this was only one of many incidents of gun violence, in Oakland, in Californai, and in the United States.
The US has the highest rate of gun violence of any industrialized western nation, and also, by far the most lenient gun regulations. The evidence is incontrovertable: where there are more guns, there is more gun violence. This is true by country, as well as comparing states within the US. Of course, it shouldn't take a Ph.D., a tenure-track job, and a grant to tell you that.
But here's the crazy part. Even given the number and publicity of mass shootings in the US, people still mostly don't really like gun control. In fact, only 29% of people surveyed most recently think that we should ban the possesion of handguns. 29%. Remember, you don't shoot deer or ducks with handguns. Handguns are only used to shoot other people.
So what is it? Why is it that more than 2/3 of people think it should be OK for people to own something whose only purpose is to injure or kill other people? Why is this at all sane? And given that political reality, nothing is going to be done. Obama has been pretty lukewarm about the whole thing, and I won't even bother to talk about what Romney said. Some states where there is more public support for strict gun laws, have them (and have less gun violence as a result.) But nothing really is going to happen at the federal level with the lack of support for strong gun laws than is currently present in the US.
What is it going to take for us to move away from a culture of violence, where it seems sane to own guns, sane to make them, and sane to sell them?
One of my favorite science fiction writers, Marion Zimmer Bradley, in her Darkover series, had a unique, and I think intelligent answer to all of this. There was a rule about weapons, and that rule was that you only could have weapons that put you in as much risk of injury as the person you were attacking. Short swords and knives only. And pretty much everyone carried them, and trained how to use them. No bows, and no projectile weapons.
I guess if we have to admit that human beings are violent, then perhaps that's the best answer. It seems (almost) sane. But the current state of the US in terms of guns and gun laws is not.