The latest mass-casualty shooting spree -- this one in Santa Barbara, California -- has touched off the usual debate about how to put a stop to these hideous spasms of murder. These random massacres have become, as I wrote in a previous column, an American psychosis.
Some, including the anguished father of one of the victims, point to guns and the National Rifle Association as the villains. Defenders of guns respond with the usual arguments -- which I find persuasive. That much having been said, I wish people who defend the Second Amendment wouldn't talk about their guns with such lascivious pleasure. Guns are necessary to self-defense. The right to own them is enshrined in the Constitution. Enough said. Let's not worship them. Gun worship -- by the Hollywood left which uses it to sell tickets, and by the conservative right, which fetishizes guns -- are both part of our national problem.
Some criticize our overly libertarian approach to mental health treatment as partially to blame for the murderous rampages we've suffered. I've made this point many times. Critics respond that a focus on the mental health status of shooters can contribute to an unfair stereotyping of the mentally ill. Jeff Deeney argues in The Atlantic that involuntarily committing someone for mental health treatment can be an unpleasant as well as arbitrary process.
Some young women have responded to the shooter's fury about his sexual frustration and loneliness with a focus on misogyny. "Many women interviewed on this sun-splashed campus," the New York Times reported, " ... said they believed that some of the attitudes toward women expressed by the gunman ... in his perverse manifesto of rage and frustration reflect some views that are echoed in the mainstream culture."
When a gunman mows down innocent people, isn't it missing a step to interpret this as a gender equality issue? Mental illness to one side, doesn't it suggest a basic moral collapse?
Let's talk about what's realistic: This country is not going to restrict guns in any serious way. Even if new laws were passed closing down every gun shop and show in the country, a) they wouldn't pass constitutional muster, and b) an estimated 310 million guns would remain in circulation.
Violent TV, movies and video games are protected by the First Amendment, and are probably too broadly popular to curtail, though I suspect that we'd have a gentler society if we entertained ourselves with less gore and blood.