January 4, 2014
Guns and gun ownership have been an integral element of our society since the Pilgrims landed. The NRA has been active since 1871. “Traditional” firearm related deaths (robberies, suicides, murder) have been in steady decline since 1990.
The recent spate in senseless mass murder/suicides obviously represents an anomaly not readily identifiable or definable on a historic basis. Through the 1970s and 80s such events were unusual. The uptick began in the 90s. In the eight years of the Clinton administration about 16 mass shootings (more than 4 killed) were recorded. Ten episodes were recorded during the 8 Bush years, nine of them in the last 4 years. In Obama’s five years, they have escalated to ~20. This might to some extent reflect an increased reporting sensitivity, but the trend seems inescapable.
One’s gut reaction is that these alarming acts stem from cultural changes in America. If so, one could speculate that they in part represent an unintended consequence of the leftward drift in our society. In the wake of the “New Left” movement of the 60s we have evolved from a nation of social commitment to nuclear family, community, and faith to one of self-immersion, anonymity, and unaccountability. Behavioral restraints once provided by strong civil institutions have been weakened. Shared value sets of the past have given way to personal gratification and self-indulgence. These changes are embraced by progressive elements which seek to destablize civil society in favor of statism and government dependency. More recently, the current administration’s disingenuous rhetoric and progressive policies have driven the ideological gap in the populace to unprecedented extremes. We have become a divisive and angry society. Ubiquitous mass media stokes the anger with its partisan rants. In this context of societal orientation, it is perhaps noteworthy that in the 3 years following the 9/11 WTC attacks there was only one mass shooting, but in the subsequent 4 years there were 9. One wonders if the post-attack feelings of intense patriotism and solidarity were suppressive, while the subsequent mounting anger, arising from the left, over the Iraq War rekindled their activity.