When a patient shows up with an ailment, a doctor is sometimes able to cure the ailment. At other times, the doctor is limited to treating the symptoms resulting from the ailment. Doctors know the difference.
Take a broken arm as an example. A doctor can reposition the bones in proper alignment and let nature take its healing course. That fixes the ailment.
Take the common cold as a different example. A doctor’s attention will be on treating the fever, aches and congestion that are consequences of the infection rather than the infection itself.
As it happens, America, as a whole, has a festering ailment. It’s called mass murder.
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From a tiny house of worship in small-town Texas to an outdoor concert near the heart of one of America’s busiest cities, people are being mowed down for absolutely no reason.
People tsk-tsk inner-city murder rates in Jackson, New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago. People are alarmed at the shooting of black motorists and pedestrians by law enforcement officers. But in both situations, there is at least some causal factor, real or perceived. “He was selling drugs in my territory.” “I thought he was armed and was going to shoot me.”
But what did a pig-tailed 10-year-old scribbling on her church bulletin do to merit a bullet through the head? Same for a college kid listening to a popular performer at the close of a music festival.
As with the victims of terrorist attacks: Absolutely nothing.
It’s a horror beyond horrors.
After more memorial services, more prayers, more vigils, more official delegations from the White House, more hugs and more tears, the hearses pull away and quietness returns to cemeteries. Fresh graves interspersed among the old.
Mass murder is a patient presenting itself for attention. Our nation is the physician who wants to provide relief.
So far, it seems, proposed remedies address symptoms.
Pleas for more gun control are the weakest response.
Yes, it’s despicable how politicians kowtow to the weapons lobby. Yes, it’s sad that the National Rifle Association, created to promote safe use of guns, has taken such an absolute stand. Their minions in Congress don’t dare talk about common sense updates, lest the checks stop flowing.
The Second Amendment says what it says, but it has never been interpreted to mean private ownership of any weapon by anyone is protected at any time. Don’t believe it? Try to buy a single stick of dynamite without a license. But an AK-47 with a steady stand is OK?
In any event, Pew Research says there are between 270 million and 310 million guns of all types in civilian hands in America (more than twice as many as in 1968). The NRA is absolutely correct when it says a ban and/or confiscation would not have the desired result.
Pleas for more and better mental health care are almost as weak.
Yes, services to those who have been diagnosed with an impairment could be better. Yes, there could be more and better efforts to keep firearms out of their reach. And what about the imprecision? It’s impossible to diagnose whether an impairment will lead to a shooting spree.
The First Amendment protects those who produce violent movies, television shows and video games, and properly so. The public is still the best arbiter of “entertainment,” and even if that’s not true there’s no indication government could do any better. At one time, the industry restrained itself. Perhaps it will again.
Heightened security? Have we really come to a time when it’s wise to avoid festivals and/or have armed guards in church services? If we have, it may make inflicting horror more challenging, but it won’t make it stop.
Back to the world of medicine. It’s a fact there are ailments that have no cure, but you won’t hear many medical professionals say that. Listen carefully. They say, “No known cure.” That’s because regardless of the disease, they have confidence and continue their research on the firm belief there is no challenge that cannot be overcome.
Society must muster the same confidence and pursue a true remedy for mass murder. Along the way, well-meaning people will keep tossing up ideas to treat the symptoms, just as doctors help us through colds and the flu. That’s fine.
As a people, though, we need to be aware of the difference between addressing symptoms and finding cures. Everybody wants something done about mass murder. We can’t make it stop, however, until the cause is identified and eliminated.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist.