Midwest Voices

Liz Cook: Take shelter from gun violence in the U.S.

Umpqua Community College interim president Rita Cavin hugged a student on campus after the school reopened Oct. 12.
Umpqua Community College interim president Rita Cavin hugged a student on campus after the school reopened Oct. 12. The Associated Press

It has been more than two weeks since a gunman killed 10 people and injured seven more at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, which means it’s time for us to stop talking about gun control.

Our hearts were never really in it, anyway.

As President Barack Obama remarked in the tragedy’s immediate aftermath, the frequency of these incidents has left us “numb,” our refractory period dwindling with each new shooting.

Those still sifting for lessons often come up short. Some have drawn connections between the profiles of mass shooters (often white, young and male).

Others have leaned on accounts of the shooters’ troubled natures, asking us to shift our focus from guns to mental health care.

But no one has yet pinpointed the glaring commonality among the worst of these tragedies: the victims had the bad sense to leave their homes. They had the audacity to go to school (Roseburg), church (Charleston), work (Roanoke), or the movies (Lafayette).

They heard gunfire and rushed toward it, seeking to help those in distress (Inglis).

The lesson? Don’t be a hero. Don’t try to go about your business or complete basic tasks.

If you’re tempted to suggest gun control, forget it. Guns, like NCIS spinoffs and the Emerald Ash Borer, are here to stay. No, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is for us all to camp out in our bathtubs with economy cases of canned beans and pray fervently that no one comes to the door.

I suspect many of you will find this histrionic. Some gun advocates have argued that mass shootings are overstated in the media, remarkable in visibility but not in scale.

Mass shootings indeed comprise a tiny sliver of gun violence as a whole. This should ostensibly bathe us in a sense of perspective and calm as we contemplate the 300 incidents so far this year in which four or more people were injured or killed by gunfire.

Experts confirm the only way to prevent this from happening again is for us to hide under our beds with the curtains drawn and wait for everything to seem less awful. A man’s home is his castle.

Reinforce your castle with bulletproof fiberglass sheeting (also a great insulator!). Replace cumbersome windows with arrow slits. Then brick up those arrow slits because you don’t have a death wish.

If they can let out arrows, they can let in bullets. Remember that scene in The Lord of the Rings where the Uruk-Hai breach Helm’s Deep through a storm drain?

This could happen to you. Board up cellars, porches and crawl spaces. Import a small herd of perpetually hungry alligators to populate your new moat.

You know what they say: the best defense is a buttload of alligators.

If this seems excessive or inconvenient, console yourself with the fact that we’ve exhausted every other possibility. There’s simply nothing we can do, collectively, to protect ourselves from random gun violence.

So dive into the coat closet, lean your cheek against the cool wooden door and hope that our lawmakers have something to offer next time (and there will be a next time) besides their “thoughts and prayers.”

Because until they find the courage to endorse concrete solutions — instead of numbly repeating, in the face of each new tragedy, that nebulous something must be done — there’s only one common-sense solution for people of goodwill: stay home.

Liz Cook lives in Kansas City, where she is a freelance writer and economic research editor. Reach her at oped@kcstar.com.

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