As a child back in Texas, as a not very sharp
shooter at West Texas State, even as a
conscience-plagued resident of Los Angeles, I
never dreamed of anything like this past year's
multiple mass shootings. It's as if the whole
country were shouting, What are you thinking?
Together with the rest of the nation, I've been
mourning the 27 lives snuffed out by a gunman in
Connecticut. Not that their lives were any more
important than those of the victims of the 15 other
mass shootings that occurred in the U.S. in
2012. It's just that most were children the age of
my granddaughter. And they brought this year's
death toll from mass killings alone to an incredible
They were killed at a health spa, a nightclub, a
beauty shop, a high school, a hospital, a funeral
home, a coffee shop, a soccer tournament, a
movie theater, a temple, a university, a
workplace, at random on the street, and now, at
an elementary school. When will the madness
The United States has a death rate from firearms
eight times higher than the other developed
countries in the world. Nearly 12 times as many
children under 15 are killed here each year from
gunshots than in those other countries. And we
have the highest rate of youth homicides and
suicides among of the 25 wealthiest nations of the
world. Is this what we want to be known for?
Our technology, prosperity and democracy are
the envy of the world. We also lead the world in
the number of deadly weapons in the hands of
individual citizens--one for every man, woman
and child in the country.
Eight to nine thousand Americans are killed each
year with guns, compared with fewer than 20 a
year in Japan, 40 a year in Great Britain and
around 200 each in Germany and Canada.
Why are we as Americans so much more violent
than the rest of the world? What makes us see
violence as our first option in dealing with
One answer is paranoia, a free-floating fear fed
by people trying to sell us everything from floor
safes to alarm systems, panic rooms to
underground escape pods.
Paranoia feeds on itself. As we watch
wall-to-wall coverage of the latest massacre, we
grow afraid. And what do we do? We buy
guns. There's been a near run on gun shops and
shows since the Newtown shooting. It should tell
us something that the shooter at Newtown got his
weapons at home.
The industry of fear also is fed by panicked talk
show hosts whose incomes depend on keeping
emotions high. And it's maintained by people
afraid of the other--sex, race, nationality, religion
or political viewpoint.
America was founded on the proposition that all
of us were created equal. There is no "other."
Police officers lead children from Sandy Hook Elementary School in
Newtown, Connecticut, where students, teachers and administrators
were killed, mostly in two classes of 6- and 7-year-olds.