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The Seven Stages of Gun Violence

It is easier for a crazy person to get an automatic weapon than healthcare in America.
– Shannyn Moore

So, America, here we are yet again.

Another mass killing.

Another hellish scene of smoke and blood and murder.

Another day of death and pain, panic and terror.

Another dozen people shot dead. Children. Young people. Sixty more wounded, gut shot, shot in the head, shot through the lungs, bones shattered, flesh torn. Bleeding, hurting, crying, some will die, some will live. People we knew gone in a second, torn apart, destroyed, changed forever.

Another hundred American families grieving with loss and concern, a nation left shaking with fear, left wondering why? How?

Another murderous bastard with a bag full of semi-automatic weapons and a score to settle.

Yet another bloody horror.

It’s a horror that has become all too common here in America.

It’s a horror that while it still shocks and appalls us, it is no longer a surprise.

What’s that? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a stupid haircut and a personal arsenal of automatic weapons killed some people? Tsk tsk terrible isn’t it? Oh and they caught him? People say he was a nice guy, quiet, kept to himself, kind of odd but, man, didn’t see this coming, no Sir. Here’s a picture of him smiling like a crazy guy, look at those eyes, they’re crazy eyes, anybody could tell he was going to snap. He probably tortured small animals and has his grandmother’s head in the freezer. It’s the parents’ fault you know, for not raising him right, for taking Jesus out of the schools. It’s the doctors, why don’t they get crazy people off the street? It’s the goddamned police, they’re never around when you need them. It’s the government. He’s probably a veteran, you know, those guys are all on the edge. Oops, gotta go, Dancing with the Stars is on…

Day before yesterday, James Holmes walked into to a packed Colorado theater, apparently through an unlocked emergency entrance, and started shooting. Reportedly he was dressed in ballistic armor and carried several weapons, including a semi-automatic pistol (or maybe two), a rifle, and a shotgun. He apparently set off a smoke or gas bomb and then got down to the grisly business of killing random strangers. He was caught a couple minutes later in the parking lot behind the theater and surrendered without a struggle to the police.

And now? Well, now we Americans will go through the same old oh so utterly predictable dance.

Stage One, Confusion:

Mass killings are still big news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans quickly grow bored with sequels. Unless the next act of mass murder is done by a guy in a Bruce Willis costume shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square, I suspect that eventually we’ll just stop watching. Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse. That’s just so suicide bomber. Ho hum.

However, for now, mass murder is still the number one news show money maker, guaranteed to pull in a Forty-share.

Problem is, there’s just not enough actual information about the event to fill up the airwaves.

Nobody really knows anything.

But Americans aren’t interested in facts and they’re for damned sure not interested in waiting. So, over the next few days, until America loses interest, the news outlets will each issue at least three versions of the story, all different, all mutually contradictory. Accuracy doesn’t matter, being first is what matters.

You’ll get interviews with at least four witnesses who didn’t actually see anything, including at least one middle-aged hypochondriac who wasn’t actually there that night but saw a movie in the same theater two days before and had to be hospitalized because she was traumatized by the close call.

You’ll get interviews with at last three former victims who weren’t there but were near similar events and whose stories are now somehow relevant.

You’ll get earnest opinions from two experts in fields completely unrelated to anything that transpired in Colorado, and CNN will interview at least one former Air Force Major who was stationed in Qatar during the Iraq invasion and now teaches law at a small Woman’s college on the East Coast.

Eventually, each news outlet will trot out their one remaining gray haired genuine distinguished Newsman, and he’ll opine on the miserable state of journalism in this modern age – then he’ll condemn all the other stations for getting it wrong.

Stage Two, Speculation:

Since there isn’t any real information and by the time there actually is America will have completely lost interest, the important thing is to fill up the media channels with something. News anchors, talk shows, bloggers, pundits, and the endless ill-informed mouth-breathing Yahoo commenter will each and all put forward their opinion:

The shooter is a liberal. It’s all part of a plot by the America-hating tree-hugging, New World Order to make peaceful, patriotic gun owners look bad, then Obama will send Interpol in their sissy blue UN uniforms to take away our guns. Oh noes! To the bunkers!

The shooter is a Muslim. Of course he is. You just can’t trust those people. They hate America. He probably thinks he’ll get forty virgins in Paradise for every American he killed. We should kill all the Muslims.

The shooter is a member of the NRA. He’s a gun nut. Those guys are all crazy with their gun shows and gun magazines and gun clubs and guns. We should outlaw the NRA.

The shooter is a member of the Tea Party. Sure. They hate anybody having fun. They hate young people. He probably figured the theater was packed with liberals.

The shooter was just fed up. He was an Illegal alien. Probably Eric Holder’s brother in law. He was probably abused as a child, born again, a member of the Occupy movement, gay.

By the time the sad truth comes out, if it ever does, that he was just another nut listening to the voices only he could hear, nobody will care. The only thing Americans will remember, is that James Holmes is yet another sterling example of whatever political point they’re trying to make at that particular moment.

Stage Three, Comparison:

Speaking of using this sorry event to further particular agendas:

The conservative channels will start running footage of Columbine, Fort Hood, and Waco. The liberal channels will start running footage of the Giffords shooting. None of those things really has much to do with the current horror, but they are images of bodies and blood and bullets and that’s what counts when you’re explaining how this event is what happens when the End Times are nigh or civilization is on the brink of collapse. It’s important to associate this mass murder with other horrible events in order to shape public perception in the proper manner.

All channels will talk about Bath Salts and Reefer Madness and that face-eater guy. There’s no indication as yet that Holmes was high, but then again there isn’t any indication that he wasn’teither.

And, of course, there’s the PTSD and, you know, we should expect more of this kind of thing as veterans start to come unscrewed. Especially if they were bullied as children. Or abused. Or into comic books. or Video games or Porn.

The simple truth of the matter is that you don’t walk into a theater and start shooting people unless you’re, at least to some degree, nuts. But that’s just not enough for us, is it?

Homes can’t just be nuts, it has to mean something. Somehow.

However, all of this, Steps One through Three are just the warm up act. Next we get to the main event:

Stage Four, Blame:

It’s Batman. Violent movies and violent video games and rock and roll music. That’s what it is.

It’s bad parenting, this guy’s folks should have their asses kicked for raising a psychopath. But since we can’t do that, we’ll punish his family by having every single news agency in the world camp out on his mother’s front porch, and we’ll ask her important questions such as “what are you feeling right now?”

It’s the Liberals with their liberalism, their political correctness, their socialist agenda, their coddling of criminals. Sure.

It’s the Conservatives with their conservatism, their guns and their bibles and their callous disregard of the human condition. Of course it is.

It’s the Me Generation, these selfish little bastards, always with their hands out, me me me. It’s social media, it’s Twitter and Facebook and those self centered bloggers looking for attention. It’s the video games and the Atheists and Fast & Furious and bad teachers and Obama.

The politicians and their supporters will all, each and every one, gleefully make hay. Oh they’ll all, each and every one, wax poetic over the dead (with the exception of certain predictable pundits who’ll insinuate that the dead had it coming for being unprepared and unarmed and ungodly), and they’ll even wipe away sorrowful bitter tears and pause for a moment in patriotic remembrance with the flags waving and crackling the cold breeze at just the right camera angle, and they’ll condemn the other guy for politicizing the tragedy, and then they will make just as much political hay out of this as they can because somebody is damned well to blame for this mess. And it sure isn’t going to be them, no sir, it’s the other guy and his un-American agenda.

Somebody is responsible.

Oh sure, James Holmes might have pulled the trigger, he might have planned it all and bought the guns and built the bombs and put on the body armor, but somebody else is to blame.

Stage Five, Bang Bang Crazy:

And so we’re finally down to the perennial American argument:

Guns don’t kill people, crazy people with guns kill people who don’t have guns.

So, we should ban all guns!

No, wait, if we ban all guns then only people with guns will have guns so they’ll kill the people who don’t have the guns and then there will only be people with guns left and then they’ll kill each other because if you ban guns only people with guns will be criminals and when the government comes to get our guns only the criminals will be free because liberty equals guns. Also what about bears?

OK, then we should give everybody guns!

But if everybody has guns then even criminals will have guns and brown people and yellow people and illegal people and people who don’t love Jesus will have guns and they will break into our houses to steal our guns and rape our women and eat our babies and take our liberty so then police and the military will need bigger guns to keep us safe from those people but then we’ll need even bigger guns because otherwise we won’t be safe from the cops who will use their guns to take our freedom.

OK, well then how about a reasonable common sense compromise?

We all agree that as Americans it’s our basic right to keep and own firearms. But also, some people really, really shouldn’t be allowed to own even a Nerf slingshot, let alone a machine that can punch five hundred fist sized holes in a room full of people in under a minute. How about some background checks, waiting periods, and some kind of reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and crazy people?

What! Communist! Nazi! How dare you? Second Amendment! Second Amendment! Every red-bloodied true blue American has the God given right to own a fully automatic meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high capacity killing machine if they want to, the Founding Fathers said so! USA! USA! Dead kids? Mass murder? That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeedom! Besides if there had only been one, just one, god fearing patriot with his own concealed meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high-capacity peacemaker in that theater, why he’d have stood up and donned his genuine American made night vision goggles and fired up his laser-sight and he would have put that animal down right goddarned there! To Hell with Batman, give me a Glock Nine and an extended mag any day.

Also, we need more Jesus.

Stage Six, Acceptance:

By the time it’s determined that the shooter was just plain nuts, most Americans will have long since changed the channel and forgotten about it.

Meanwhile Congress, ever eager to do something, will ban super-hero masks and squirt guns in movie theaters and require Marvel to put warning labels on comic books.

Nothing will be done about the real problem because nothing can be done.

But the Second Amendment will be safe and that’s what counts! That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeeeedom: crazy people with guns.

If the Government comes to shoot you down in a movie theater, well, boy, you’ll be ready.

Besides, it probably won’t happen again.

Stage Seven: Déjà Vu:

And so it goes.


Jim Wright is a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer. He lives in Alaska and occasionally consults for the Military. He also spends time in his wood shop, fishing, and writing the blog Stonekettle Station. He is a regular contributor to




20 Responses to “The Seven Stages of Gun Violence”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Fake Noise had a report today-I don’t have the link right now-that says Obama is the gun owner’s worst Potus ever. They said to read about UN gun control to know what Obama really thinks about guns. According to some commenters today-6000 rounds of ammo won’t last long at a shooting range so it is not a big deal. Then come the the ones that claim if only they had been at the theater and armed they could have stopped this guy in full body armor with a single,well aimed round. They didn’t specify how they were going to avoid the smoke or tear gas,but that is another fable for another day,I guess. Excellent article,should be required reading if I thought most nutters could read.

    • Lacy Lady says:

      If people have to start carrying a gun for protection, when going to a movie, this country is in one hell of a mess.

    • John says:

      I like that. Read what some other person has said about gun control to find out what Obama thinks. And of course no one will read the UN document to see if it is anti gun ownership.

  2. John says:

    I enjoyed reading this, but I’m not sure we know enough to say that he was mentally ill. Most people with mental illness do not harm others, just as most people without mental illness don’t blow up federal office buildings in Salt Lake City. Although, I suppose it is how you define mental illness. You could say that anyone who would do either of those things is, by definition, mentally ill in some way if we say that total disregard of social norms is a mental illness.

  3. ibwilliamsi says:

    Gun sales will go through the roof. There’s a gun show in town, one of the vendors was interviewed on the news. He said “This is going to really hurt business. There’s going to be tighter gun control.”

    Buh-loney! This is going to be great for this guy’s business and he’s only fanning the flames.

  4. zyxomma says:

    Thank you, Jim. I love Stonekettle Station, and I love it when you post here at the ‘flats.

  5. Lacy Lady says:

    I don’t understand how this idiot bought all these items on the internet. I thought there were laws requiring background checks— Also laws shipping this stuff.
    It seems to me there were a lot of red flags, but people looked the other way.

    • leenie17 says:

      From the news stories I’ve heard, the guns were purchased at sporting goods stores but the ammunition, protective gear and high capacity magazines were purchased online. I assume that someone doesn’t need anything beyond a credit card number to purchase those items and there doesn’t appear to be any kind of database tracking purchases of these things either.

      One would wonder why, if purchases of certain kind of chemicals (like those used for making bombs or chemical weapons), and certain kinds of drugs (like those used to make meth) are tracked to prevent using them for illegal means, why someone purchasing that kind of ballistic gear or 6,000 rounds of ammunition should not also be flagged as suspicious.

      Then again, fertilizers and cold medications don’t have lobbyists as powerful and as careless about innocent human life as the NRA.

  6. beth. says:

    Thank you, Jim. I dare say you’ve captured perfectly our individual (and collective) stages in processing an event of such status-quo-disrupting magnitude. I know for sure that you’ve captured perfectly my personal frustration and impotence to ensure the maintenance of that status-quo. Again, thank you. beth.

  7. Buffalogal says:

    “We just love our violence—so how surprising is it that violence for fun begets the real thing? ”

  8. boodog says:

    Humans are supposedly capable of introspection, reasoning and solving, and compassion. Why can’t they overcome Stage Seven?

  9. COalmostNative says:

    I live in Colorado, and I lived through Columbine- there will be no Stage Six: Acceptance for many in my state.

    We need to approach massacres like this (and we have had 3) as public safety and health issues. It is a public safety risk when a 24 year old college student stores more than 6,000 rounds of ammo in his apartment, let alone an assault rifle. Add in the 30 explosive devices he used to booby trap his apartment and he had enough to wipe out a small town. Most was legally purchased, and no agency keeps track of these kinds of buys.

    It is a public safety and health issue when an industry that manufactures assault weapons, ammo, and body armor readily available on the Internet is mostly unregulated.

  10. Alaska Pi says:

    Found myself reading a line and nodding and saying “check” over and over again.
    Predictable and pitiful.
    We can’t wait for information,we can’t wait to settle this somehow, we can’t question the way we do things, we can’t do anything except beat our chests and howl.
    Humans adaptive? Prolly.
    Usefully adaptive? Not without more work than the hide your head in a snowbank crowd wants to put into things.

    Getting old and cynical? Check.

  11. juneaudream says:

    Any 12 months..standing upon ridgelines, castle-mounts or stone temples..and the sounds..of the humans..flowing around, over and about..could be scanned..and show such weaknesses, such..fraying of the mental threads. The percentage of the weakened- population..remains the same. The reasons will differ..from culture to culture..from 1,500 2,000..and more..back in time. The answers the personal space..of each of us. How much time..have I spent upon the extensions of this? Basic info..came in. The threads..processed..and then..come Kesa..the deer munch the blueberries..we must..scoot them along. NPR..and before that BBC..flowed through my sm. $10.00 pocket radio. The wounds..upon the global, human family..are scattered..and are even now..the granulations of the bloody edges..and dry, crystalise……we live, we live…

  12. lilli says:

    I posted this at Hp..lots of positive comments on it. Please send this excellent article to them..more people need to read it.

  13. Ripley in CT says:

    Thanks Jim.

  14. Ivan says:

    i feel the emotion you poured into that eloquent expression.
    wow .
    it is nice when someone puts into words what you feel.


  15. pomama says:

    Awesome how you channelled my sister in law.

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