Stoneman Douglas High School. Another disgusting attack on defenseless people, children. Another deranged individual living in a reality he felt compelled to share with the rest of us. It’s a shameful waste. The victims of these crimes inhabit my thoughts. I sympathize with them, empathize with them… I all the –ize with them but no more than I do with the thousands of people who die annually by handguns in this country. Over 2,000 children under the age of 12 died by guns, in general, between 2014 and 2017, according to The Week. All of it is tragic and horrifying and senseless and nearly unforgivable.
We have allowed this to continue far too long without addressing the actual problem. I am sorry to report to some of you that an “assault rifle” is not the actual problem. School shootings are not the actual problem. Delusional individuals are not the actual problem. Delusional political organizations are not the actual problem. I argue that the weapon—the GUN—is not quite the actual problem. These are miniscule strata compared to the actual problem. The bullets. The bullet is the physical menace and the only challenger up to the task (now that “thoughts and prayers” has finally suffered what I hope is the end of its fifteen minutes) is science.
Laws—legislation, decrees, commandments—are in fact overrated deterrents. No law ever stopped murder. No law ever stopped rape. No law ever stopped thievery or swindling. As much as I love and trust Steven Pinker, laws bully the stats but they never summon enough strength to stop any crime of any kind. Maybe if legislators gave the innate futility of law a little more thought, they could use a little more common sense—but that’s neither here nor there. Within the borders of the USA, we have passed the event horizon with the amount of weapons and munitions. There is no legislating them out of public existence. They are here to stay and we ignore their ubiquity at our peril. This is an arms race the bullet has been winning for hundreds of years. Our creeping retreat to acquiescence is almost complete.
One wonders if by some whipcrack in the fabric of time my grandfather’s generation—the Greatest Generation (minus all the steady-as-she-goes racism and misogyny)—faced this particular shift in American culture instead of us, could things be different? Raised amidst the demands of the Great Depression, they seemed capable of thinking through the most difficult problems with subdued glee. They won WWII by splitting an atom. They kick started NASA and the moon shots of the 60’s and 70’s. All of it by either outwitting their opponent or embracing some angular ingenuity. I suspect the folks of that generation would see the actual problem, weaponize the available technology, and find a way to beat the bullet.
Maybe… I don’t know…
What I do know is we should be thinking our way out of the problem. We have young, innovative tech available to us that if given the proper focus could make the bullet’s job exponentially more difficult. Graphene is shows promise. Engineered graphene could easily become a part of every article of clothing on the planet. There are other technologies. There are out of the box ideas yet to come. Comics and science fiction have been dreaming of ways to stop bullets since the first ball shot from a blunderbuss. There are ideas and technology out there ripe for weaponization. I find ultra-rich weirdoes like Elon Musk fascinating but compared to the bullet problem commercializing space travel is a piece of piss. Save some lives. Change this world before we go find another one.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.