Monday, July 30, 2012

Guns, fear and human nature

My friend saw a man gunned down a week ago in a local parking garage in Downtown Gainesville. She was coming up to get her car after a night at a pub  when she heard shots. Instinctively, she fell to the ground and then run back to the closest bar for safety and banged on the door until they opened. It was only a day after the movie theater massacre in Colorado made national headlines. Had she shown up a few seconds later she may not have lived to tell us about it. The Aurora events launched another great debate about the ease of accessibility of firearms in America and I hear that in a fashion similar to the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks movie studios are now reshooting and cutting features involving violence and guns. I don’t have strong views on the Second Amendment either way. I was not born here, so I don’t consider carrying  a gun my birthright. As an attorney I would never get one. I wouldn’t feel safe operating a weapon of any kind as I would probably just injure myself as a result. I don’t mind others having them if it makes them feel safer and sometimes just having that comfort makes all the difference. I also understand how some people are uncomfortable just wondering what strangers may have on them. I do feel safer when people trained and able to use guns have them, provided that they actually do know what they’re doing as opposed to just carrying them around as an accessory, and know how to act in a crisis situation. As an attorney I  know  most positions on the issue and I could make any argument. The Aurora event is of course a great tragedy and I don’t want to play it down. But I don’t think it’s a good material for a Second Am debate given the months and months of preparation, the design, the chemicals and materials used. This cannot simply be lumped in together with gang shootings, the crimes of passion or somebody getting shot by mistake. It’s not a gun issue, it’s an issue of the human psyche bent on bringing pain and destruction. Quite honestly, I don’t think that our laws which our designed to regulate relations within societies will ever be adequate to deal with sociopaths, by definition having no regard or empathy for that society.

I wanted to focus on the fear aspect of this story. We’ll just end up more afraid to be out in the public, more scared of other people, always looking over our shoulders. We cannot predict and prevent all the ways we may ended up getting injured.  If it’s not guns, it’s clubs or knives, or knives or blades or chemicals and fists.There’s no end to human creativity. Someone will always find a new way to harm another human being if they are determined to do so. We can restrict and regulate everyone or everything. we can arm ourselves up to our teeth and never crack a smile. Or we can come to a conclusion that perhaps we are not out there to harm each other and events like that although tragic are limited and rare. With every story on the national news cycle that has  us fearing our neighbor I think a bit of fun is sucked out of our life and  while we can  never be a 100% safe. So why worry about things we can’t possibly predict? My brother told me once that he’d rather pay more money if there ever was an airline that allowed him to sign a waiver and skip all the security checks. You know, a fly-at-your-risk scenario that would let him just enjoy his life and travels without the governments having him wait in line and take off his shoes at his own risk. I can see that- it seems like we live in a world where we are more and more afraid every day. And that’s just no way to live a life. At the same time we put so much trust and faith in other people in ways we don’t even consider. We assume things about someone we’ve never met. Think about it. Every time we cross a street, we assume that the cars will stop for us. It’s one thing to think that they will not harm us intentionally, but we also assume that they can see us, that their senses, faculties and reflexes are not impaired. We assume that they are not drunk. We assume they are not on their cellphone, applying make up, looking for things dropped on the floor or too angry to react on time. What are we basing those predictions on given that we have no way of knowing who the driver is? Most of the time we are fine, but accidents happen. We have strangers preparing and serving our food. It’s one thing to trust they will not poison us, but what can we say about their health as they handle our food.  What about a room full of random strangers, do we worry about the viruses and bacteria from every person we shook hands with  every time we are out in public? We don’t think about that, because considering all the things that could go wrong can drive us crazy. And take out even more joy in our lives. Things in our own community in reality affect us more than stories from half way across the country. And every time something happens we are looking at having more laws, more regulations, more restrictions. For our own good. To protect us from each other and sometimes- ourselves. Life is full of close calls and near misses and that makes me appreciate life much more. I was hit by a city bus, I was held at gun point at a Subway restaurant, I rolled down a steep hill in Puerto Rico hitting my head. It didn’t really make much difference if it was accidental or intentional, a gun or a car. Things happen and life comes at you fast.

If anything- the fact that the Aurora event is seen as a horrific tragedy and not something you see every  day is pretty telling that things are not as bad as we think. And it shouldn’t be stopping us from living our lives, because each of us only has one. That weekend I went to see Batman and I have to say I was pretty uncomfortable during the shooting scenes. But we got to shake it off. If we just give in to fear what kind of lives will we have and what kind of a world will we leave to our children?

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