There’s theory and there’s fact. My last column attempted
to focus on gun issues by way of the story of the prop gun purchased for
service in a theater piece of mine currently being performed in Culver City.
talked about how the plastic ‘toy’ pellet pistol I bought at a sporting goods
store took on a kind of power once I had removed the orange tip indicating it
wasn’t real and then spray painted it flat black. It now had the look and
dimensions of a real weapon. Brandished in public, the prop gun could easily be
taken for real and could thus invoke a tragedy.
And that’s something of a summation of where we’re at
right now with guns in America; the stasis of guns bringing on more guns to
answer guns. Of course, unlike props or realistic toys, real guns consistently
and efficiently invoke tragedy. And as you would with dynamite or other
explosives obviously attempt to keep guns under some measure of control and
oversight, instead our nation appears to be having a dialogue about maintaining
our easy access to them.
A reader of The
Mirror wrote to the paper, specifically to me, wanting to add to the
dialogue regarding that recent column. I was most engaged when the reader took
issue with my closing statement: That creative types writing scripts or making
films or television – many of them having homes in our city – could take “one
simple first step: We could decide to never represent the deployment of guns as
being cool, sexy, ‘hot’… or in any way good.”
The letter to The
Mirror at one point reads as follows: “Only the liberal mind can arrive at
the idea that no use of a gun can be good. You have to be drenched in the
illogic that intentions are more important than results, that emotions are
superior to logic.”
That gave me pause, and I reviewed the entire column and
in particular that closing statement.
In the broadest strokes, the reader is correct. United
States soldiers do not defeat enemies in combat by deploying clubs or archery.
Osama bin Laden was shot dead, not pummeled with a stick. Sportsmen enjoying
the hunt for a deer or a duck do not throw stones at their targets. And so on.
Now, one at a time, we could debate the “good” in war, assassination of
enemies, and hunting.
But I believe the reader, who made several references to
movies and movie-like action scenarios in dangerous real life situations, meant
a more narrow focus regarding my statement and his reaction. I hope I
accurately represent this view as being that, in certain scenarios, only a gun
can bring a good outcome. So let me respond by looking at a real-life gun event
that just took place in Santa Monica.
Summarizing reporting from The Mirror: On Wednesday, Feb 27 in the 2900 block of Delaware
Avenue in Santa Monica, John Carroll Lowery shot himself in the head after
hours of holding his 86-year-old mother-in-law hostage in the home they
shared. Lowery’s son escaped from the
house and dialed 911 just before 5 pm Tuesday, telling the operator he and his
grandmother had been tied up and taken hostage by his father. Officers responded in large numbers, setting
up a perimeter around the house. Negotiators communicated with Lowery, and they stated that Lowery was
depressed and despondent over his relationship and issues with his wife.
Eventually Lowery untied his mother-in-law, she came out of the house, and
Lowery went quiet. The police deployed gas to get Lowery outside, but he was
eventually found dead in the house with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A gun shot. From a gun event, here in our city, that
would not have had the same dimensions had Lowery not been able to obtain a
gun. But the despondent gun user was able to get a gun, creating a situation
that threatened the safety of an entire neighborhood and put police in danger.
He might have killed his own son and mother-in-law, and then taken his own
life. That sequence would have been arguably more difficult without a gun. Still, a man who might be alive today is
dead. By gun shot.
So it is about this kind of contemporary event that
repeats with soul-numbing regularity that I ask, “Where is the good provided by
the guns?” It is good that the police have guns. But the police have guns because the citizens
can get guns. And citizens do get guns, and then they deploy guns. Law
enforcement is constantly embracing more and better technology for defusing
situations like the Lowery shooting without loss of life or gunfire. But right
now, we have guns vs. guns. Ultimately, where is the good in that? Does maintaining that stasis feel to anyone
like society is moving forward and away from violence as the only means of
resolving conflict? To the reader who wrote me at The Mirror I would say that my intention is to wonder aloud, with
emotion, about the logic of that.
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