Thursday, December 3, 2015

San Bernadino: This is the new normal

My wife and I exchanged emails early last Wednesday afternoon. At one point I could practically hear the anguish in her voice: “When will it stop!?”

It won’t, of course. Ever. San Bernadino is just another in a long line of multi-death shootings that stretches interminably into the future. This time it wasn’t terrorists or a deranged loner; this one seemed like the garden variety disgruntled fellow employee; more Post Office and Columbine than Century 16 or Sandy Hook.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Welcome to the new normal. Politicians will grimly swear we’re not going to take this any more, and gun sales will spike again (because that somehow makes us feel safer, buying a handgun and then locking it in a safe in the closet) but everyone knows, deep inside, this is the new normal.

And, really, it’s not that bad. Certainly not as bad as the carnage on America’s highways. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some statistics.

First, from the Mass Shooting Tracker, an online tracker that claims to have accurate statistics.  As of Oct. 1, there had been 294 mass shootings, in which 379 people were killed. That’s about 1.3 deaths per shooting, or about 47.375 deaths per month. When you break it down, it’s not so bad! And considering that some of those shootings involved a lot more than 1.3 deaths, that means there are a bunch of them that didn’t kill anybody. In fact, according to the MST, about 42 percent of all mass shootings don’t result in any fatalities at all. That’s Charlie Sheen-style winning!

And the fatality rate for mass shootings is nothing compared the fatality rate of auto accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 30,057 fatal highway crashes in America in 2014, which killed 32,719 people. And I think we’ll agree that seems to be a perfectly acceptable level of tragedy, considering that nobody’s proposing the banning of auto driving. That works out to about 2,726 deaths a month. Compared to that, 47 deaths per month from mass shootings seems like not much to even talk about. Move along, nothing to see here.

Besides, mass shootings, like auto accidents, create jobs for people like helicopter pilots, first responders, and news reporters. And don’t forget all those people employed in the manufacture and sale of guns and ammunition.

So why are we getting so worked up about mass shootings? Oh, I know, it’s tragic when a small life gets snuffed out before it learns to tie its shoes, or when a community is robbed of a brilliant leader, or when just plain people who are loved are suddenly taken from those who rely on them for affection, protection, and guidance. But hey, it happens all the time. Does it matter whether it happens amid the rattle of small arms fire or in the rending of sheet metal? Not really. Certainly not to the people who die.

So keep calm and carry on. People live, people get hurt, people die. It happens. Sometimes it happens to someone you love. Or to you. But nobody really cares enough to do anything because, well 47 deaths a month is pretty much the acceptable body count in America these days.

Remember, this is the new normal.

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