I understand there was shooting in Colorado last week, some dozen people killed in a theater. That's all I know, and all I intend to know. I am not going to read about it. I'm not going to click links to it. I'm not going to learn the shooter's name. He wanted real estate in my mind, and I'm not going to give it to him, not for this. You want real estate in my mind, write a poem. Of course I have flickers of curiosity about it, but when I do, I deliberately turn my attention to something I feel deserves the reward of my attention. I respond the same way to terrorism. It's just not a game I'm willing to play. I recognize that I am as vulnerable as anyone else. These unhappy people might well kill me or my loved ones, eventually. But they can't make me act as though they merit my attention. I very deliberately pull up Via Negativa and read the latest incredibly beautiful poem Luisa Igloria has written. That's what deserves my attention. That's what's going to get it.
As far as actual personal risk goes, it's miniscule: we're all far more likely to be killed by a flood, or by lightning, than by such a shooter. For me, it goes into the large bin of “risks not worth worrying about.” It's both extremely unlikely and extremely difficult to fend off. Everything of that sort goes in the bin, along with West-Nile-bearing mosquitoes and mad cow and rabid bats and meteorites. Who cares? No one who does level-headed risk analysis. The death with my name on it is cardiovascular disease, cancer, car accident, stroke, or plain old traditional infection, our age-old enemies that cut us down with tuberculosis or pneumonia. If you're going to fuss about something, fuss about those.
I'm unimpressed by both sides of the gun control controversy. I'd like to see guns go away: I have zero interest in them, but I just don't care much either way. On the one hand, the military conditions of the Second Amendment have long since vanished. Credible military power is no longer within reach of civilians, in industrialized nations, whether they can buy submachine guns or not. On the other hand, I'm just as unimpressed by many of the arguments of gun-control advocates: they fail to explain why some very heavily armed civilian populations, such as those of Canada and Switzerland, very rarely experience these psychotic shooting episodes. To me, the obvious question these things bring up is not “why are guns not harder to obtain?” but “why is the mental health of our young men so bad?”
For every young man who breaks this way, there must be hundreds teetering on the brink, in similar misery, who just barely don't break. Now that, that is really disturbing. That is something that needs to be addressed. By all means, pass gun control laws, if you like: I'll vote for them. But don't think you've solved the problem if you do.