Mass Shootings and Red Herrings

Red Herrings, if left unattended, tend to stink up the place and the red herrings that prevent intelligent and common-sense responses to mass shooting are indeed stinking up our country.

Can you say red herring?  A red herring fallacy is a ploy used to divert people’s attention from the original topic of discussion.  Following the Uvalde school shooting, the issue was an angry 18-year-old who could walk into a gun store, buy two semi-automatic assault rifles along with enough magazines of ammunition to start a war, and then ruthlessly mow down 21 people, most of whom were children.  The issue was how lax gun laws allowed this to happen in the first place.  That is the issue. 

Gun advocates tried several ways to divert attention from lax gun laws.  They appealed to the mental health cause, but that didn’t seem to take.  The young man had not shown signs of mental issues up to the point of the shooting.  They tried the closely associated “guns don’t kill people, people do” ploy, but people didn’t seem to buy it, not this time.  Now, they have located a different diversion and are asking their police force to fall on their swords.  The problem is not guns.  The problem is an incompetent police force who did not act quickly enough and this time, the press seems to be buying it.

Outside of adrenaline rushes and killing people, are these really necessary?

It may be true that errors occurred in response to the school shooter, but errors don’t take away from the fact that an 18-year-old man was able to walk into a store and buy weapons to destroy the lives of a nearby school.  The other issues, it seems to me, are peripheral to this one.  Yes, people kill people.  Yes, mental health care in this country is dismal.  Yes, the police force in small communities are understaffed and may make mistakes in the midst of such a horrifying crisis. Yes, yes, yes.  But it was not the police that killed these children.  The kid that did the shooting may have suffered from a mental health condition, but it was lax gun laws that allowed the Gunshop owner to; put the guns in his hands, and that is the issue.  Nothing else.

So. Let’s look at what is happening here.  People are sick to death of mass shootings and far from being numbed to them, they are scared.  They are scared to go to events even though they do.  The nagging thought of whether it is safe or not lingers in their minds.  They are scared for the safety of their children.  Kids are supposed to be safe at school.  It is supposed to be a place where they can make new friends, learn not only the three “R’s,” but how to be successful and make a contribution to their communities.  People worry that their loved ones could be next and that introduces a feeling of dread and uncertainty into them, a condition that leads to a subliminal anxiety they don’t like, so they look for solutions., What will fix this?  What type of laws are necessary to help prevent these tragedies?

When is it going to stop, and what can we do to stop it? Difficult questions to answer, but it is time, and something needs to be done.

Most people in this country think something as simple as universal background checks would help, yet such laws rarely make it through congress whether at a state ior federal level.  Why not?  Red Herring.  The gun lobby rushes in and changes the issue.  The law dies.  Many communities long for a better police force so that those brave people that serve and protect them might be fortified against the onslaught of terror unleashed by the availability of assault rifles.  Yet, police forces are understaffed and police officers poorly trained with a predictable result: people die.  Why?  Red herring.  The lobbyists rush in and change the subject.  All of this is pathetic and highlights the spinelessness of our political leaders and the power of those forces that bring fear and uncertainty into our lives based upon an inane reading of the Second Amendment—the well-regulated militia part—that allows the common sense of the many to be thwarted and the anxiety of most to increase.  And what is even more pathetic is the press seems to buy it and in the case of Uvalde School, have forsaken the tragic deaths of children and turned on a struggling police force.  It is their fault!  Red Herring.

This has to stop!  The issue is the easy availability of assault rifles and large capacity magazines that allow an angry person to walk into a school, a grocery store, a movie theater, a concert, or whatever and begin blowing people away, That is the issue. We need to keep it the issue and not allow our attention to be diverted by those who wish “to keep their guns.”  Most people are not calling for a total ban on guns just semi-automatic assault-style weapons that have no other purpose than adrenaline rushes and killing people (I’m quite certain these two things go together).  You don’t need these weapons to have a successful hunting trip.  In fact, I know a lot of hunters and not one of them uses an AR-15.  If you feel that you need to protect your home, a shotgun will probably be more effective.  No one, in my opinion, needs to carry a handgun.  Get over yourself.  I’ve lived successfully for 70 years without the protection of a handgun on my person.  If you wish to own a firearm, get the proper training, talk to the experts about your reason for purchasing a gun (the experts usually are at the local police department), and pull together all the documentation you will need to make the purchase.  Oh yea.  That wouldn’t be necessary in Texas, only those states with reasonable gun laws that make people wait after the purchase and undergo background checks. You can still use that new gun to go hunting, You just have to plan the hunt in advance.  Mass shooters make plans too, but if we slow the process down and give other social services a chance to work, then it may also slow down the shootings and save people’s lives.

If you wish to own a firearm, talk to the people who know guns concerning the type of gun you need. Get the proper training for the weapon you own and properly register it. Most people don’t need a handgun and talking to a knowledgeable person may help you come up with an alternative.

Red Herrings, if left unattended, tend to stink up the place and the red herrings that prevent intelligent and common-sense responses to mass shootings are indeed stinking up our country.  Get rid of the red herrings, focus on the issue at hand—the easy and quick availability of assault style semi-automatic weapons—and perhaps much of our anxiety levels will subside. That is good mental health.

Published by Harold W. Anderson, Ph.D.

I am a retired United Methodist Minister and recently closed my practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, retiring with my wife to Rancho Murieta, CA. Now I have a blog and several hobbies that take up my time. We enjoy traveling and occasionally spending time at our cabin in the mountains of Colorado.

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