I tend to overreact to things and it’s true that I live day-to-day in a kind of undimming terror of car crashes and hurricanes–things that could happen, of course, but there’s no benefit to be had in thinking about them all the time, worrying.
So I try to be disciplined about it. Deep breaths, etc.
The one thing I can’t quite wash my brain of is the fear of mass shootings–and, weirdly, this is another of those things that most people tell me I shouldn’t be worried about, cuz the shootings, as they point out, are so rare.
And that’s true!
2020, despite a pandemic that should conceivably have kept people indoors, saw the most gun deaths in America in twenty years: 19,379.
Look at that number, compare it with 300 million citizens, and it hardly seems like a speck.
But, as Jonathan Franzen once illustrated in a public conversation, let’s figure that each of those victims of gun homicide was loved by a hundred people. On average.
So that’s 1.9 million people grieving. 1.9 million people who are considerably more concerned about their safety, sleeping poorly, paranoid, stressed–and stress, let’s not forget, is the very fertile soil from which almost every conceivable ailment sprouts complications. Sprinkle that shit on someone with a pre-existing condition, be it high blood pressure or depression or erectile dysfunction, and watch the support beams granulate…
Aside from the victims’ loved ones, racked with grief, let’s say there were ten bystanders in the immediate vicinity of each of those shootings. That means 190,000 people with (likely-debilitating) PTSD. Let’s say, actually, that their PTSD is so debilitating that they become, by no fault of their own, somewhat derelict in their parental responsibilities.
Now we’ve got a generation of people that we will be able to identify as Children of Gun Trauma (seems like a niche thing, I know, but I was surprised to learn, a couple years ago, that more than one person in my family attends a support group called Children of Alcoholics, or something like that, and they report, in their discreet ways, that the doors to those meetings are constantly swinging, and that the sitting space is ample, and that no chair is ever empty).
Also: the spike in gun violence freaks people out. They start worrying someone’ll attack them with a gun.
And so they buy guns to defend themselves.
2020 saw the greatest boon on record: 40 million guns were purchased in America. Each of those guns cost over a hundred bucks. Such an influx of cash, as you can imagine, strengthens the gun manufacturers, it strengthens the NRA, it strengthens the gun lobby. The gun lobby is able to purchase politicians and ensure that gun restrictions are loosened, so that mental illness is no impediment to the acquisition of a gun, nor a rap sheet of domestic violence, nor anything at all.
And incidentally, that figure of 40 million gun sales: that only accounts for legal gun purchases. Doesn’t account for parking-lot trades that were implemented through Craigslist. Doesn’t account for the blooming market of untraceable and self-assembled “ghost guns”.
It’s a shit show. And so, yes, my acquaintances who tell me I’m wrongheaded to live in constant fear of getting shot have a point, but I think it’s fair to say that guns pose a greater threat to society than broken skin and death (though it feels weird to have to illustrate this).
Gun violence causes trauma, trauma lessens worker performance, it compromises parental responsibility, it incites drug abuse and social withdrawal; as for the violence itself, in case the matter of human suffering isn’t too high a deterrent on one’s list of Faults (and, for the near-majority of Americans, it truly isn’t), gun violence ties up politics, damages local business, hurts real estate value and, something we seldom consider, it fucks with cops in a big bad way.
While cops might be gun enthusiasts themselves, by merit of their profession, they tend to not be fans, personally, of a heavily-armed citizenry.
Make of that what you will.
What I’m trying to say is that the ramifications of gun violence are far-reaching.
And they’re all over Miami.
Of the several shootings around Miami Dade County on Memorial Day weekend, the most notable took place at a banquet hall in Miami Springs. 25 people were shot, two died on the scene, and three are listed in critical condition.
30 people were shot this weekend across a number of episodes.
Which, again, if you compare that number (30) to the 3 million living in Miami Dade County, it hardly seems like a speck–and it’s trite at this point to bend over backward illustrating how these tally-marked victims represent actual flesh-and-worry human beings who went to the mall and weighed the price of haircuts and tried dieting and failed at dieting and quarreled with their spouse and then made-up with their spouse, stayed up late in their childhood bedroom thinking about their crush, stood in a long line to see Austin Powers 3 and then didn’t know how they felt about it, sat in traffic, voted.
Vivid people, each.
William T. Vollmann, in his book Rising Up and Rising Down, quotes the diary of a woman who, if I remember correctly, was living under Stalin’s rule when she wrote that, despite hearing news all the time about people getting shot to death, nobody really pauses, when they hear this news, and closes their eyes and envisions the terror and agony of getting your body pieced with hot bullets and then laying on the pavement in agony and slowly dying and thinking of everything that falls apart with you.
Which is understandable, Nobody would be able to function if we were to really stop and contemplate every shooting we hear of.
So it makes sense if your response is to look at the news of a recent shooting and then blink a few times and move on to something else. It’s tough stuff to bear and, ultimately, you feel kinda impotent because what are you supposed to do about it?
We start to think of unpredictable and routine mass-murder the way we think about hurricanes: Acts of God, unpredictable, innevitable.
But it’s not natural. We can curtail it.
And our mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, has a plan.
If your argument against gun violence is that “it only happens to a tiny percentage of people”, your argument is immoral.
Consider: there will be another mass shooting in the next ten days. We all know that there will be. And if you, personally, are numbered among the victims, if everyone you love is plunged into grief and everything you’ve planned and hoped for is suddenly stricken from the forecast, then it begs to reason that the idea of each victim being, simply, “part of a tiny percentage” will lose a lot of its juice.
So here comes Mayor Levine Cava.
Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has a plan that isn’t getting much attention, but I think you oughta look at it if you live here.
It’s called “Peace and Prosperity” and it pledges the spending of $90 million over the course of 19 years to fund various programs, most of them having to do with kids in dangerous environments, that will, in the long run, reduce gun violence.
You can read the proposal here--a lot of it is too in-the-biz to understand, I’d need someone to walk me through it before I could tell you with certainty that it’s something to fall in love with, but here’s what’s got me swollen with affection for it: I was compelled to follow links and read the actual document because of this weekend’s bloodbath.
And what I found is that it was posted nearly a month ago.
Mayor Levine Cava has been focusing on this issue for a while now, staking some of her political credibility on the exact kinda plan that politicians are generally reluctant to pursue because, as with any preventative measure against violence, you can’t take people’s money and then show them, afterward, evidence of murders that didn’t happen, murders that were prevented.
I think it’s No Country for Old Men where Cormac McCarthy muses on never being able to know “the worse luck that your bad luck saved you from.”
You’ve got my word on this, though: reading the proposal from Mayor Levine Cava’s office isn’t as tedious as you might think. David Foster Wallace, in his unfinished novel The Pale King, illustrates how it’s common for certain institutions of power to conceal their wrongdoings behind a veil of tedium. So let’s say, for instance, that some governing body is being covered by CSPAN as they vote on an issue of critical local importance–well, maybe they’ll implement an excruciatingly tedious attendance-calling protocol that lasts six hours so that interested voters will tune out.
The report breaks down how this $90 million will be spent and it all seems pretty above-water, as I suppose it would when you’re getting it directly from the office of the politician looking to implement it, but there was one thing in the report that stood out as questionable.
Namely, the investment of a half-million dollars in something called STAND (Students Together Against Negative Decisions)–which, apart from the atrocious title that’ll basically glaze a kid’s eyeballs for smoother rolling, sounds eerily similar to the D.A.R.E. program, of which I, as a kid in Florida’s public school system, was an participant.
The D.A.R.E. program fucked me up and has since become a figure of unrelenting ridicule for my generation.
The program vilified “drugs” without discrimination and, in oder to make it all the more menacing to a classful of children who’d just been injected with their annual inoculations, the emphasis was placed on crack cocaine and heroin–heroin, in particular, was depicted as something that existed in a needle. Something you wouldn’t want anything to do with anyhow.
Because of the program I came to equate the word “drugs” with needles, with heroin, because no mention was ever made, by the visiting officers or instructors, to pharmaceuticals. So I remember being eight years old, watching Mad About You, and, in the episode where Helen Hunt is giving birth, there’s all this banter about “drugs,” how she needs “drugs” to deal with the pain of child birth, how even the doctors are hasty to present and inject her with “drugs” so that she can feel better.
I watched the whole thing gaping, mortified.
Anyway. I don’t know if the STAND program can present any data to show that they actually work, but I’d be happy to look at it if they do.
Otherwise, it seems like a solid plan.
Give it a look.