“We’ll eat breakfast. Two minutes.”
My husband summons me in brilliant Czech to view the outcome of his weekend culinary endeavors. The language is very, very slowly but nevertheless seeping into the folds of his brain in spite of his obstinate effort not to learn the language of the land of milk, honey and corruption. But today, the euphoric tone usually aroused by the aroma of bacon has slipped from his voice.
Ever since the news of yet another American school shooting began spreading like the plague on the internet, my husband hasn’t been himself. He just shakes his head and sighs, as if it were something new. As if it hasn’t been long obvious that these horrible incidents are not sporadic.
Once again the shooter was mentally disturbed. And once again no one paid attention to that — or him?
Young gunmen who visit American schools with iron-clad regularity have nothing to lose. They may be crazy, but they’re not stupid. They’re lost and isolated. They know they probably won’t survive the massacre; sometimes they shoot themselves in the end. Still, they go and do it. There’s nothing left in their earthly lives that would be more attractive to them than to die in the midst of senseless murder.
What they do is a last, desperate cry, in my opinion — something that will finally draw attention to them and their problems. There’s no other way to attract that attention.
Some time ago, I wrote in my blog that the U.S. has one of the highest rates of psychological illness in the world. There wouldn’t have been such a tragedy if treatment of the mentally ill in the U.S. didn’t seriously lag behind the rest of the developed world. At the same time, early recognition in young people is critical, because otherwise it is difficult to stop their steep descent into the depths of depression or insanity. Of course, that doesn’t mean locking up the mentally ill, as is still frequently done in the Czech Republic, but they shouldn’t be left on their own. The fact that the most recent gunman came from a financially well-off, albeit broken, home, doesn’t mean that all necessary attention was paid to his “manifestly nasty” psychological disposition, or that he was treated.
A lot of Czechs and Americans are of the opinion that the state exists merely to pester “free” citizens and collect taxes from them. Although I’m an opponent of socialist collectivism, I don’t share this distorted concept of a free society. A free society doesn’t mean that public institutions don’t take care of people. It's precisely the “super-free” United States that is an example of why letting citizens solve their problems with freely available weapons is not exactly an ideal model.
And thus the question arises: Where did a twenty-year-old boy get three guns? It’s still not clear whether he borrowed all three from his mother, who apparently needed that arsenal to feel safe. But if that wasn’t enough gun access, he could, over a weekend, have just popped into neighboring Vermont, where we drove by one pleasant arms store last year.
The American constitution guarantees its citizens the right to keep and bear arms. The fact that this constitution was written by people who revolted against repressive European regimes and wanted to safeguard the option of defending themselves against a possible further repressive regime with weapons (preferably their own) in hand, certainly plays a role in this.
But, more importantly, this constitution was written at the end of the eighteenth century, when most inhabitants were farmers who literally needed guns to make a living and protect their secluded residences from both human and animal enemies. And firearms were so primitive that an individual could hardly have killed on a mass scale within several minutes.
But why does a private citizen need an automatic or semiautomatic rifle today? How is it possible that such weapons are sold to individual buyers?
“You have to write your senator and congressman to start doing something about gun regulation,” I inveigh against my husband, who won’t stop sighing. “You can’t be like Czechs, you have to do something!”
American politicians’ calls for prayer for the victims and survivors are failing long-term.
The right to own a revolver is like the right to smoke a cigarette. At the moment when the exercise of this individual right threatens or frustrates the lives of other members of society, it is necessary to limit this individual right, especially when it comes to children. The U.S. has a lead on the Czech Republic at pushing smokers into the margins of society. How long will it take them to apply the principle of regulating tobacco products to the sale and possession of firearms?
Or will it be more convenient — and mainly simpler — for them to place armed guards at the entrances of schools, making the frightful atmosphere in which American children already attend school even worse, all in the name of a sketchy liberty and the all-powerful weapons business?