I used to oppose gun control.
I used to spout all the philosophical arguments and say how wrong things were and so on. But two things happened that shoved me out of that camp. The first was Sandy Hook. One of my best friends knew people there, people who had lost their children. This wasn't a news report. I saw the emotional trauma. I heard the cries of pain. Between that and how easy it was for the shooter to get his guns because the original owner couldn't be bothered to act responsible and at least try to secure them, I started questioning if people could be trusted with firearms in this modern age.
But what cemented it for me, what made my cynicism transcend from a point of view to an absolute on the human condition, was a night at the movies. A theater was showing Taxi Driver. Classic of American cinema. As a movie geek, I couldn't resist going. And as I watched the movie, I was struck by a very uncomfortable reaslization. What made the movie work was the lack of identification with Travis Bickle. Bickle was a psycho. And that created a wall between him and the audience. The audience was watching someone they could never understand from a safe vantage point. Bickle was presented as a danger, someone to fear, someone to keep away from. Bickel simply wasn't an average, everyday person. Nowadays? Bad behaviour is celebrated. People doing anti-social or horrible things are simply living out loud and without the chains of society influencing their behaviors. Tony Montana in Scarface. Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. These were people being shown as the worst of humanity, and instead, people started celebrating them. Despite their horrible endings, their lifestyles and philosophies (such as people saying "Greed is good," despite the movie's message being the exact opposite of that) were something people wanted to do. Wanted to be.
People wanted to be bad.
While watching the story of Travis Bickle unspool that night, I couldn't focus on the movie. Instead, I became acutely aware that we no longer knew who the Travis Bickles were. They used to be identifiable. They were separated from us. They were not us. But now? People want to be that. People that I had known for years were turning out to have dark sides that I never expected or looked for. And yet, there they were. I saw people who were only being good because of circumstance or convenience. If the opportunity arose, they would gladly take advantage of or hurt their fellow man, just because they thought other people didn't deserve anything in life. Not love. Not mercy. Not their accomplishments. Nothing.
And so, in the days after Sandy Hook, I wrote about how maybe we can't be trusted with weapons. Things like lawn darts are banned all the time because people prove they are too stupid to use them correctly and must have their toys taken away from them. I mused that maybe we need to view guns the same way -- sure, there are responsible people out there, but there are just too many idiots out there. And as you might expect, this got me some negative feedback. Some politely disagreed. Some went psychotic, calling me a traitor to the Constitution. Usually, I just dismiss differing opinion because everyone has a right to believe what they want. But reading some of these messages, all I could hear was Travis Bickle and screaming parents and I just became enraged. My silence had nothing to do with respecting other's opinoins. It was about not saying something really horrible I would regret, because those thoughts and comments were coming remarkably easy to my furious mind.
And now, here we go. A horrible tragedy was possibly just moments away from happening. And this wasn't some radical terrorist looking to make a statement like what happened in Manchester. This was just another American who woke up hating the world and decided to do something about it. Something terrible.
The man in question is one Matthew Sterling. Sterling has some...unidentified problems with the world. For example, he has beef with what he terms "Aphrodite police officers". These are supposed to be bad cops, but what qualifies them as bad, as well as why they are termed "Aphrodite" police officers, is presently unknown. He also has some sort of problem with Jason David Frank, the former Green Ranger on Power Rangers. Sterling decided he was going to do some killing -- he even had a reminder set on his phone to kill Frank on Thursday, May 25, the first day of the Phoenix Comic Con.
Thursday rolls around, and a heavily armed (you'll see how heavily in a minute) Sterling somehow got past all the security checkpoints with his weapons and made it to an upper floor of the building. He then begins wandering the floor, wasting time until he was ready to light up the place.
So how did he get caught? Well, Sterling, in the middle of his ego trip, was taking pictures of various police officers and posting them to social media, along with messages that he was going to shoot and kill them. Someone spotted the messages and told the police, who shifted into overdrive and took him down. In other words, if it weren't for some random person who stumbled across his writings and took them seriously instead of someone being an Internet Tough Guy, blood would be spilt.
Remember what I said about him being heavily armed? Among the things found on him, according to the police filing, were a 12 guage shotgun, two .45's, one .454 handgun, a combat knife, pepper spray, and throwing stars. He was also wearing body armor.
This is the second time in as many years that someone has targeted a major social gathering and was only stopped by their inability to keep their mouths shut. You will recall my writings about the Pokemon nationals a couple of years ago. For all the talk of Big Brother watching us and the new police state and the lack of privacy of our electronic devices, these things were still about to happen and were only foiled by the perpetrators themselves.
Enough is enough. I don't care about an all or nothing philosophy of ban all guns or arm all citizens. We have a societal problem. More and more people are thinking that outright violence, including murder, are perfectly acceptable ways of expressing themselves. It's a pattern that has been building for years. We've seen it, with violence being acted out more and more frrequently for more and more arbitrary reasons. I don't care about, "Those who trade liberty for security deserve neither." Something has to be done, and prattly about the superiority of your political beliefs is not going to work.
We need to get our heads together. We need to face this. We need to get over these bullshit ideological camps social and political leaders have divided us into and solve this.
Because if we don't, we're only proving we don't deserve the freedoms we claim we do.