It’s been exactly one year since Dylann Roof decided to make himself infamous by walking into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church—less than five minutes from where I’m sitting now—to, according to prosecutors, commit murder, get his racist merit badge and join the ranks of the worst people from South Carolina ever.
He accepted the kindness of people attending Bible study and prayed with them before, authorities charge, he killed nine of them and ran away like a coward. All for some misbegotten plan that he cooked up in his head to start a race war.
Roof seems to have inhabited some dark corner of the world where hate-filled little men go to stew in their own vitriol and ass-backward beliefs about whatever specific groups they either distrust, flat out hate or blame for making their world such a horrible place. Whether I like it or not, it’s their right to go online, to a bar, to a shack in the woods or any other place to do so, but unfortunately, every now and then, the Dylann Roofs of the world decide to put words into action, and now nine families, a church, a town, a state and a nation have had to deal with the fallout.
Almost a year before Roof’s alleged actions at Mother Emanuel, another angry young man, Elliot Rodger, shot and stabbed his way through an area near the University of California, Santa Barbara, killing six and injuring 14. Rodger left behind YouTube videos and manifestos to illustrate his motives in the most frightening ways possible. Unlike Roof’s, Rodger’s hatred was mostly focused on women and his lack of success with them. To wage this “war on women,” little Elliot Rodgers went out and purchased a Glock 34 and a pair of Sig Sauer P226 pistols, then took out his rage on a group of innocent people. All before killing himself like a coward.
That brings us to Omar Mateen, whose deeds are fresh in our minds. In what seems be a strange mix of self-hatred, religion-based homophobia and extremist Islamic beliefs, Mateen killed 49 patrons of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. He started shooting people simply because they were either homosexual, allied with the LGBT community or just dancing before last call.
The really messed-up part is that mass shootings will happen again. I don’t know when or how soon, but something akin to this will occur at some point. The same questions will be asked. The same expressions of sorrow and concern will be made. The nation’s leaders will opine on the state of things and what can be done to prevent this from happening again, and the public will forget about it all within a few months.
One of the few certainties about these incidents is that they have two frightening commonalities: an angry young man and guns. No matter where you are, a young man who feels wronged and possesses a gun is a recipe for disaster. The stamped metal of a Kalashnikov, the plastic polymer of an AR-15 and the 2 pounds’ worth of steel that make up most handguns have forever made small, angry men feel big.
Sadly, in the United States, which fancies itself a “developed” nation, these angry little men have utilized their Second Amendment rights to wage an assault on those who have drawn their ire. And the next mass shooting will be another reminder that, while we will never run out of angry young men, we have failed in preventing them from arming themselves.
As a gun owner, I find myself running through various scenarios on how to regulate an industry with constitutional protection and tons of money to lobby politicians to limit gun control. I’m honestly fresh out of ideas on how to force the government and the gun industry into supporting stricter gun measures. What would it take to scare America into saying, “OK, we need to seriously rethink the kind of guns we allow on the streets”?
Last November, actor Wendell Pierce tweeted, “If every Black male 18-35 applied for a conceal & carry permit, and then joined NRA in one day; there would be gun control laws in a second.”
Sure, it sounds insane, but I bet it would work. Although I would never join the National Rifle Association, I wonder if gun regulations would change. I can’t help pondering how those who are staunchly opposed to gun control would spin their new views given the NRA’s history with the Black Panther Party.
Whether or not we pass stricter gun control, America has a serious problem, and on any given day, we could find ourselves trapped in a nightmare like the folks at Mother Emanuel, Pulse or UC Santa Barbara just because some angry little man got a gun and decided to make some twisted statement.
Keith Young lives in Charleston, S.C. He has a hot wife, an accent and a beard and wants his daddy’s records. He’s the lone Oakland Raiders fan without a felony. If given time, he can make a comic book or World War II analogy work in any situation. He writes once a year at Up Here on Cloud 9.