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POLITICS, US

Teen shoots family because it’s too early

Seriously? This story from The Washington Post is about a teenage boy who was so angry about being told to get ready for school he decided to get his handgun and shoot them. Fortunately, none of the injuries are reported as being fatal.

I am not quite sure where to start with this story, and ‘no’ I am not going to go the rolling-my-eyes route of it is just those crazy Americans with their guns. Personally, I always enjoyed shooting guns with my father in the country – generally at inanimate objects like tins of soda or milk jugs. We used to go hunting as well and I did manage to shoot a horny turkey once – dirty bastard!

Yet the first rule you learn is to treat every firearm as though it was loaded. The second rule is to never point at anything unless you have identified what the target is. The third rule is to only shoot if you know what the target is (and if it is an animal you intend to kill it quickly and cleanly). The vast majority of American gun owners I have known are responsible and safe when it comes to the use of firearms.

In this case, the family was apparently unaware the teenager even owned a weapon. It should also be noted ammunition and firearms are always supposed to be separate and secured (i.e., locked) whereas this teenager seemed to have it ready to go. Of course, someone who uses firearms in this manner is not terribly concerned with firearm safety.

“The theme in American politics is to blame an inanimate object which facilitated the violent act – never the individual.”

The problem I always come back to in these cases is this: what mindset is a person in to think THIS is the best way to respond to this situation? I get upset a lot of times in my life, and I would like to think if I had access to a firearm it would not be my go to for resolving such disputes. Yet this teenager decided shooting family members was the best way to deal with anger issues. Seriously kid? I know teenagers can be messed up by hormones and general teenager problems but you have some other far more serious issues if this is how you respond to things which do not go your way.

Yet the theme in American politics when these stories happen is to blame the inanimate object which facilitated the violent act. Time and again it always leads to more laws on guns or doing something to stop guns. I almost imagine police interrogating a firearm in the holding room to get answers from it. Inanimate objects – as the name suggests – do not move on their own; it requires some outside force. If a gun is sitting on its own and blows up sending its bullets in every which direction, then by all means the gun is responsible (well, the manufacturer I would say).

But no, we cannot actually blame the individual who decided to commit these acts of violence. Individual responsibility was once the cornerstone of Western philosophy, now there is always some other reason we can point to for claiming innocence.

Even if we blame the gun culture in America, or analyse the idea of what a gun is (i.e., a weapon of power or strength), it still comes down to the individual person making a choice. Assuming such people are rational and capable of such thought, then using a weapon this way should not ever occur. Sadly, this is often not the case in these stories.

“Individual responsibility was once the cornerstone of Western philosophy, now there is always some other reason we can point to for claiming innocence.”

One further note on this story: the journalist spends most of the article talking about how early schools start in the US and how this interferes with teenagers sleeping patterns. While these are interesting points, I do not think it belongs in this story. It comes off as a rationalisation for what this teenager did. Oh, he was just tired because schools start too early in the US. Tough! I woke up at 6am for four years in high school. Never once did I want to shoot my family for it.

There always is some other reason for why these things happen, but never because the individual clearly has something else wrong with them.

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