The problem is that we're a nation of barbarians. We think violence can solve our problems. And eye for an eye. Or maybe two eyes for an eye. Somebody pisses you off, you have the God-given right to smack him. Or key his car. Or burn his house down. Or shoot him. Or shoot up a school or a mall or a temple. "We" call ourselves a nation of Christians but that's situational at best. We don't forgive. We want revenge. And in the extreme, we use guns to extract that revenge.The particular tragedy that struck Florida on Wednesday was likely the product of myriad social pathologies. It is possible that in a country with just as many guns as ours – but with better systems of education and mental health; or a less cutthroat economic system and more generous welfare state; or a less troubled racial history and stronger sense of social solidarity; or a less toxic ideal of masculinity and more women in positions of power, Nikolas Cruz wouldn’t have turned Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School into a warzone this week.
But it is a certainty that if our gun ownership rate was comparable to that of our peers in the developed world, we could remain every bit as messed up as we are today, and still witness far fewer atrocities like the one Cruz perpetrated. Human beings are, ultimately, just highly intelligent apes. We’re all subject to fleeting impulses and patterns of thought that are unwise and uncontrollable. Surround enough of us with tools that can turn temporary moods into irrevocable violence, and you’re going to get a lot of irrevocable violence. In most cases, that violence will take the form of suicide; in a few, it will take the form of mass murder.
Yes, we have far too many guns in this country. But the problem isn't so much the guns as it is the people who own them and their reasons for owning them. Deal with our national barbarism and we'll be on our way to solving the problem.