Will We Ever Have The Answer?

love prompt

© 2016 – Elaine Farrington Johnson

It was the worst mass murder in U.S. history. The President and First Lady attended the memorial service. Too many of these events had occurred over the years.

The murderer had a history of mental illness. The nation’s strict gun control laws were useless. Improvised bombs planted all over Chicago’s commuter corridors had been timed to explode at the height of the morning rush hour. Hundreds died in less than a minute.

President Larson addressed the vast assembly at the candlelight memorial.

“It is with a humble heart that I address you tonight. Everything we’ve tried to prevent these atrocities has failed. It is not enough to control how one person kills another, we must understand why they kill. The majority are not because of a religious or political agenda, but rather being disenfranchised from society, isolated, and ostracized seems the chief cause.

“As a nation, we must come together to bring belonging and hope to these people. Only when we show them love will they know love, for only love will stop these tragedies.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of October 3, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

Given the image, it’s impossible for me not to write about events such as the Las Vegas mass shootings that occurred last Sunday evening. 58 people died and over 500 were wounded. We all ask ourselves the same questions after one of these tragedies but we don’t seem to be any closer to an answer.

I chose not to take the obvious route, but unlike how I’ve woven my wee tale, the National Center for Biotechnology Information doesn’t agree that there’s a clear connection between mental illness and gun violence (and I eliminated guns in my story).Newsweek seems to believe that since statistically, white males commit the majority of these shootings (54 percent since 1982), something akin to a sense of entitlement might be involved.

Neither of these explanations is particularly satisfying nor to they point to a solution.

I deliberately used bombs rather than guns in my story because if guns aren’t available and someone is intent on violence, they will find a way. Consider the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the scores and scores of middle eastern terrorist bombings.

I don’t know if there’s a universal method of preventing these tragedies. Maybe outlawing guns is part of the solution, but while that might prevent some of these incidents, criminals will still buy guns illegally, and as we’ve seen in other societies (Israel has one of the toughest gun control laws in the world), people will still find a way to hurt one another.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com

37 thoughts on “Will We Ever Have The Answer?

  1. I like that you took a different angle James. I agree that, to stop these atrocities, we need to tackle the root causes, but wiping out inequality, racial and religious hatred etc etc, is too big a challenge for most of us to contemplate, let alone set out a plan for. In the meantime, we make piecemeal efforts to reduce opportunities and, with the massive amount of murders that are gun related, tighter controls have to be part of the answer, don’t they?


    • No, the route of tighter controls has been tried, and it leads only to a totalitarian regime that is an impossible place for humans to live. The only solution is to change hearts and minds. That may require everyone in a given society to pay closer attention to his or her friends and neighbors, to identify and evaluate degrees of dissatisfaction, and to aid them to seek and find resolution of it. If legal and moral resolution cannot be found, sterner measures may be required that impinge on a given individual’s freedom rather than that of an entire society.


      • PL, since you live in Israel, what is your opinion on Israeli gun control? I looked up the laws once and they are much more strict than here in the U.S.


      • In some ways they are more strict, since, on a private level, one must obtain a license and pass a training course, and one must have some justification for doing so such as living or working in the disputed territories or very nearby them, or in some other high-risk environment. However, I have no direct experience with this aspect of the licensing process, because I have always carried a weapon issued by the IDF or the Police in the performance of my duties and limited to the duration thereof. That has always meant for me an M-16 rather than a pistol. The result, then, is that such weapons are a normal feature of everyday life, and those carrying them may be expected to be trustworthy. There are procedures for locked storage of private weapons upon entry to certain public places, such as shopping malls, though it’s still common to see long rifles on uniformed personnel. The overall cultural environment is, however, one of responsibility to protect the lives of one’s fellow man in the face of continual threats of terroristic attack. One does not just go around waving a gun like a maniac unless one wishes to be shot (though efforts would be made to neutralize such a nutcase manually before any shooting would start). Nonetheless, there generally should be enough weapons available in a given public venue, and reliable personnel to wield them, in the event of any trouble. School field trips, for example, are often accompanied by an armed security guard (or several). Sometimes these are private contractors and at other times they are police like myself, depending, I suppose, on the projected level of threat expected in a given venue. Because this is so normal, there is no feeling of living in an armed camp. Rather, the weapons are taken more or less for granted, as a sort of fashion statement or expected costume. I suppose you could say that the real essence of gun control in Israel is the cultural imperative that underlies a sense of public responsibility, rather than a set of legal constraints (though the constraints do exist).


      • We have tight controls here in the UK, and most of Europe. There are very few totalitarian regimes, and we generally live pretty happily together. The argument that it is a mark of freedom to be allowed to own weapons is a nonsense that bewilders Europeans looking at the situation in America. Americans seem blissfully unaware, whenever they appear on news interviews defending their gun laws after events like this, how ludicrous their arguments appear to the rest of the world. It is not an impingement on someone’s freedom to remove weapons that can kill and harm others from them when a country is at peace and is generally law abiding. However, I agree with your general point that it is the hearts, minds and society that must win this argument.


      • We agree on at least one thing – maybe everything would be fine if we could change hearts and minds, but that there are plenty of minds that are not amenable to change (some would say we’ve no right to try changing them anyway) and lots of people who only have hearts in the strictly physical sense.


    • At this point, we don’t know Mr. Paddock’s motives although a rather well-to-do older white male shooting at country and western music fans may not have a lot to do with inequality, racial, or religious issues. I think it goes much deeper.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A lot of interesting things to debate James, as always at these times. Looking from outside in the UK, the gun laws in America seem ridiculous. I agree that the root causes have to be addressed, but it seems an obvious thing that making it harder to get your hands on weapons is a strong first step to stopping some of these events. How can a retired accountant with a possible history of mental problems be allowed to legally buy so many weapons and ammunition? I’m not sure Israel is a comparable country given the circumstances and the long running conflict that exists there. Instead the crime stats from European countries seem more relevant. While we have our share of tragedy, there are far less crimes involving guns and mass killings on this scale carried out by seemingly ‘ordinary’ citizens. We can all agree though, that ultimately it is love and kindness and society that will save us from these tragedies.


    • I think the U.S. has a unique history relative to firearms that’s so ingrained in our national psyche, we have a tough time letting go. We were a nation formed by violent revolution, so somewhere in our thoughts, that still exists for many of us.

      Although I never picked up the interest personally, my Dad was an avid gun enthusiast. My brother shared more of that with him than I did, but at Dad’s death, we found quite a few firearms still in the house, even though he’d given most of them to my brother years before. He also had enough ammunition to stave off the zombie apocalypse.

      All that and he’d never shot anything other than game animals and paper targets. There’s got to be something else in operation besides simply owning firearms that turns one into a killer. I am following the investigation of this latest shooting (partly because I grew up in Las Vegas) and this fellow, who had absolutely no criminal or mental health history, plus was not known to be a firearms enthusiast, owned a tremendous amount of firearms, ammo, and explosives, all purchased over a matter of years.

      Whatever happened to him wasn’t sudden.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The idea of owning so many weapons and guns is so foreign to us over here. Your first line here sums it up, James, and is what makes it very difficult for anyone outside America to understand the argument for not having stricter gun controls. It is extraordinary that he should have amassed so many weapons- seemingly legally from what I can gather from the news -without any authorities taking note.


    • It does seem that the weapons of choice in Europe for mass murder have of late been limited to trucks, bombs, sarin gas, and perhaps some good old-fashioned knives and the like. I’m not sure that is really an improvement over guns. What may be overlooked in Europe, regarding the “right to bear arms”, is something that is often overlooked in the US as well. The US has a revolutionary element in its national psyche, which recognizes that liberty may require keeping government at bay, even by force if needed. Hence an armed citizenry is not merely a right, but a necessity. The underside of such a right is the need to emphasize also its responsibilities as an intrinsic part of the common civic educational environment. I believe this has been lacking from the training of at least the past two generations of Americans during the past half century. If I can guess at all about shortcomings in the comparable European environment, I would have to suggest the lessons of the Holocaust in particular, the first and second world wars more generally, and the battle of Tours/Poitiers that halted the advance of Islam into Europe. But I’m certain that other lists could be compiled.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is why I, and many non-Americans cannot enter into a debate about gun control in America with Americans, because we are left shaking our heads in disbelief. The US was revolutionary 200 years ago. It isn’t now. In a modern, civilised society


      • Living in Idaho and being at least somewhat familiar with our rural population and the mentality of firearm ownership, people don’t always trust the government, nor does life always look very civilized (such as last Sunday evening in Las Vegas). There is a sharp divide between many urban and suburban dwellers, especially those in very large population centers and the southern, Midwestern, and western states regarding government and rights. There is also an expectation among at least some of that latter population, that the next big economic collapse will lead to some form of anarchy in which they will have to either defend themselves from the lawless or the government.

        In Europe, I don’t doubt those are absolutely alien thoughts, but there is such a thing as cultural memory and as the sons of a warrior (my Dad served in the military for 20 years and did the same job for the next 20 as a civilian), my brother and I were raised to understand that, whether we currently hold those values or not. It’s something that’s almost impossible to explain to someone raised with a very different cultural experience.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’d like to invoke a saying whose history may be viewed at the following link: [http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/01/eternal-vigilance-is-price-of-liberty.html]. Thus there is no time limit on the revolutionary element I cited as intrinsic to the liberty upon which the US was founded. Without it, one may argue that a society is not truly civilized. However, it is not the only characteristic required of a civilized society — and even the US has not always applied its civilizing principles uniformly or at all. Perhaps a parallel example in history is the failure of ancient Israel to apply the enlightened Torah as it should have done. I’ll venture that the jury must be deemed as still in deliberation regarding modern Israel, because it has been under such pressures as to prevent its free exercise and development.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Quoting from the link you provided:
        “What he actually said, in a speech in Dublin on July 10, 1790, was:

        “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

        Vigilance does not imply the right to legally buy guns. There is no correlation. A society can be vigilant without being armed. The quote is also flawed, and apologies if I offend here, in that it assumes there is a God. As with the example of religion in ancient Israel. There is no God. It is a made up fiction and should not be brought into factual discussions on the pros and cons of gun ownership.


      • There were several variants of the saying in my link, Iain — and perhaps I should have emphasized another segment of it regarding the tendency of power to migrate from the many to the few. The issue of popular armament is a direct address to the matter of power that is not readily relinquished by despots. However, we digress from the matter of how to prevent insane misuse of the personal power that armaments can provide. To that point I directed a previous post.

        As for your assertion about God as fiction, history is rather unambiguous about the very real influence of various ephemeralities. Some of them we might dismiss merely as ideas or ideals in the imaginations of one or more individuals. But is the human imagination the only source of ephemeral realities? Who can say for certain, given that the human imagination is the only medium in which we may perceive them? I can tell you of my own experience, and you may call me deluded or simply mistaken. However, when a purportedly external reality addresses one with ideas that are entirely novel and uncharacteristic of oneself, one must consider that it must have its own independent existence. When miracles occur, such as a bush that burns without becoming consumed, or tablets of stone are inscribed without the aid of human hands, one must risk being called deluded or mendacious if there are no other witnesses of the acts themselves. Even when acts are witnessed by thousands, the surviving report may be deemed the fiction of one writer. When an entire people are preserved consistently for thousands of years, against all odds and forces arrayed against them, as the Jews have been, one must consider the agency of an external influencer. Blaise Pascal suggested that particular philosophic evidence. I must invoke against your assertion William Shakespeare’s words in the mouth of his character Hamlet, that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Consequently, I must assert that your assertion is in error and dismissive of much evidence.


      • … In a modern, civilised society, government can be held to account without taking up arms. I’m not sure what to make of the European examples. The Holocaust was 80 years ago and Tours/Poitiers was 1300 years ago. We’ve moved on since both of those events, perhaps America is ready to move on from the Revolution. With regards trucks, bombs, sarin gas – predominantly they have been terrorist attacks as opposed to the events seen in Las Vegas. And the fact that guns are not on the list makes me feel that little bit safer.


  3. A great blend of fact and imagination in this great story . Though it’s uncertain if we will ever have the answer, the exploration and search for a possible solution is our only hope. I liked how you ended the story, not with frustrated rage but with calm reasoning.


    • Unfortunately, in these situation, there’s a lot of frustrated rage going around which usually promotes an “us vs. them” dynamic. As we read in the prophet Isaiah, “let us reason together.”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The problem is deeper. We, human beings are flawed at the DNA level. That is why there is no permanent solution for the havoc we cause. We have tried Monarchy, Dictatorship, Democracy, Communism but we are nowhere near finding the one system or a combination of systems that would help us all just live our lives. Human beings are innately selfish and that is the root cause of everything. Me, my likes, my passion, my dislikes, my ambition, my family, my kids, my grandkids… we tend to place all these before every other thing in the world. BTW, Anarchy is not the solution either. We can huddle together and talk about love and respect, but in our heart of hearts, we know that we are not capable of letting go our selfishness, greed, and apathy. Maybe we need a DNA rejigging. Try to isolate the weird proteins that trigger all these emotions and neuter them. But who knows what that might mutate us into?


    • Actually Varad, the counterbalance is the number of acts of heroism shown by the victims and the first responders. Yes, humans can be pretty miserable as a species, but we can rise above it.


    • Greetings, Malcolm. Long time, no hear from.

      Actually, the Newsweek article which cited that statistic did happen to mention that the majority of Americans are white, so the 54% figure might not mean as much as what some folks would want it to mean.


    • That’s an interesting statistic, because it appears that “whites” (whomever *they* may be) have been under-represented in this matter of mass shootings. Obviously, if they are ever to catch up with the remainder of the population, they will have to commit more of them. I wonder, are they also falling behind in individual shootings? I remember the “space race” of the 1960s, and the “anti-missile-missile race” not long before that, with each side trying to catch up with and surpass the other. Likewise, there was the socio-economic notion of “keeping up with the Jones-es”. Now it appears that it is “the Jones-es” who are not “keeping up”, proportionately with their representation in general population statistics. [Now, if someone would only show me the appropriate emoticon for tongue-in-cheek commentary, I should put it just about *here*.]


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