At the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, Va., on Saturday, in a cavernous warehouse filled with thousands of customers and tens of thousands of guns, the sharp sound snaps a few heads.
“We’re going to have to have a discussion about those balloon animals,” Annette Elliott, the show’s organizer, said wearily.
Forgive Elliott — and everyone — if nerves are frayed in this era of weekly mass shootings. She, too, has become familiar with the ritual of gun violence in America, but hers comes with a personal twist. Another week. Another massacre. Another round of calls from reporters asking what can be done and who is to blame for the country’s deadly gun culture. After the latest rampage, which ended with 10 dead, including the shooter, at Umpqua Community College on Thursday in Roseburg, Ore., she is hearing the questions again.
“We’re being put out there like it’s our fault,” Elliott says. “But what we’re selling is an inanimate object. And I don’t know what the response is except to arm yourself to protect yourself.” As gun opponents ratchet up the calls for more controls and more regulations, gun owners and sellers have no choice but to push back, she says. The fault, she says, lies with a mental health system that doesn’t have enough resources and with the media which, she says, gives mass killers all the attention they crave.
This response is insane. The problem doesn’t just lie with the mental health system. The problem is imbedded in our culture. We love our guns, we love our violent video games, we love our rights, we love our media, and we love our polarized politics.
The solution to the problem of massacre by gun is not going to be solved by pointing one’s finger at the other guy. The solution has to be found in a subset of all of these components of our culture. You can’t leave anyone out. The gun folks, the mental health folks, the media, and the entertainment industry all have to collude and seek common ground. Each will have to give up a little.
When everyone decides we all own the problem then perhaps we can get to the solution to eradicate some of gun violence. We will never get rid of it all but we have to stop the epidemic of mass shootings.