The real tragedy of yesterday’s senseless massacre by a 19 year-old at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska, is that it is no longer news. Incidents of mindless mayhem by young people in the US have been occurring with despairing regularity this year. I am aware that this latest atrocity will have absolutely no influence on America’s champions of the right to bear arms; so I am not even going to go there.
In a suicide note left behind by the shooter, Robert Hawkins – who, almost inevitably, turned his gun on himself after the carnage was over – indicated that he wanted to go out in style. It is truly frightening that, in the twisted mind of this tortured young man, going out in a blaze of glory literally meant going out with guns blazing. Perhaps he pictured himself as the lead character in Halo 3. Who knows? Randomly gunning down innocent bystanders was his idea of making a statement. Horrifically, he is part of a growing group.
Disturbed youngsters are not restricted to America, of course. They exist all over the world – India sure has its fair share of them. The difference is that, outside the US, they can go only so far to express their rage and frustration. I’m sure some of them would love to shoot down a few of their perceived tormentors, but they cannot for the simple reason that they cannot lay their hands on a handgun or rifle. Surprising as it may seem to many Americans, guns in private homes are a rarity in most countries outside their borders. I know some would argue that a young man intent on violence could attack and kill innocents with a knife or a metal bar but, let’s face it; he probably would not get past the first victim before he was overpowered.
In America, however, guns are almost part of the furniture in many households. It has always seemed slightly weird to me that parents are very strict about their teenage kids drinking alcohol, but have no compunction about them having access to a firearm. I believe some even take pride in teaching young Bobby to shoot, and brag about his prowess with a rifle. Some parents would disclaim that they keep their guns securely locked away but, realistically, a young man desperate enough to contemplate murder will somehow find a way to get hold of his dad’s rifle or handgun. A home is not Fort Knox, after all.
And so it goes on. Hopefully, this massacre will be the last one of 2007, but it is quite probable that there will be many more in 2008 and in the years to come. As I’ve been told ad nauseum by my American friends; guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That thought should provide them cold comfort if, God forbid, one of their loved ones ever gets caught in the crossfire.