The purpose of tragedy in drama is to encourage introspection. The same is true for those not directly impacted by tragedy in real life.
Those who lost a parent, a friend or a child in Tucson on Saturday morning will forever carry a wound that few of us can imagine and none, even in our harshest moments, would wish upon another. The rest of us need to use that tragic event for the opportunity for soul searching that it offers.
While politicians and the media debate whether this horror was ignited by uncontrolled partisan rhetoric or is the work of a madman being tastelessly politicized, the rest of us need to look deeper.
Whatever conclusion the media firestorm reaches, it will be one which primarily benefits the media itself and the political class. Maybe liberal or conservative or both have gotten carried away. Maybe they've been encouraged or enabled by the corporate entities who profit from reporting their conflicts.
Certainly it wouldn't hurt anybody to dial things back a notch.
What the hell. If the need arises, it's just as easy to dial it back up again. Isn't it?
But then, we're right back where we started, aren't we?
What does any of all that mean to those walking a darkened street late at night, looking up from the cash register of an empty liquor store or pulling over a car with tinted windows on a lonely road?
Whether events like these are perpetrated by madmen who think they serve the Right, the Left or the Grand Council of Elders on the Third Moon of Jupiter, they only achieve their body count by getting their hands on a gun.
I'm not opposed to the private ownership of firearms. I'm licensed myself -- and unlike most in Canada -- also permitted to own and operate hand guns.
I've been around guns all my life, probably pulled the first trigger on one somewhere around First Grade. Irresponsible of my parents? On the contrary.
Guns were part of their lives and their work. They both hunted. We lived an hour from the nearest policeman. My father packed a sidearm when he transported significant amounts of cash or other valuable commodities for the railroad.
Those guns weren't fitted with combination trigger guards and locked away in one hidden safe while the ammunition was stored in another locked location elsewhere. They hung over the fireplace, perched in the back window of a pick-up truck, were tucked in an easy to reach holster.
For my own safety, I needed to be educated in their power and their danger. They were a necessary tool and one I was no more allowed get my fingers into than the power saw in the garage or the fan on the dining room sideboard.
I got my first Red Ryder BB Gun when I was the same age as Ralphie in "A Christmas Story". My first .22 rifle turned up for my 13th Birthday. My first shotgun a couple of years later. With each arrived another level of instruction, another set of rules that could not be modified or ignored under any circumstances.
I got that training from Scout Masters and Cadet Sergeants and small town cops on a Saturday morning. None of them taught me to fear the weapon. Every single one insisted that I respect it.
In my teen years, I hunted ducks and geese, prairie chickens, deer and antelope. Somewhere around the age of 18 I knew that personally taking the lives of those I still enjoyed eating was not something I wished to continue.
But I still target shot because that was challenging and fun. And my awareness and comfort in handling weapons probably landed me more than a couple of acting roles.
I've also been on film sets when gun accidents have happened. I've seen stunt men hit by the wadding from a blank, been next to actors badly hurt by a malfunctioning prop.
You are forever reminded of that word -- "respect".
And I've been on police ride-a-longs as undercover officers purchased automatic weapons at swap meets and State fairs, where no paper other than currency was required as proof of the buyer's legitimacy or legal intent.
I once had a guy throw open the doors of a VW van in an Eastern European farmer's market to offer me brand new AK-47's and pearl handled Glocks and even land mines for less money than it would cost to buy breakfast back at my hotel.
Those experiences taught me that, for many, guns aren't something to be respected -- they're merely another commodity.
A means to an end.
When you apply for a Firearms license in Canada, you have to pass a written and practical exam. You go through an extensive background check including providing contact information on ex-wives, recent girlfriends and past employers. A lot of that is standard procedure in the United States as well.
But Canada does one thing more.
After those references are checked, a law enforcement officer calls you into his office for a chat. Whether or not it's called a psychological examination, that's what it is. Undeniably an imperfect one that somebody determined to get a license can beat. But still, someone with some experience takes a read on how responsible, reliable and rational you really are.
It's a test that Jared lee Loughner, Mark David Chapman, the Virginia Tech Killer and dozens of others who have forever inscribed their names in shame and blood would never have passed. Indeed, it might have set them on the path to getting the help they needed and spared countless innocent lives.
Yes, there are all kinds of rules preventing people with documented mental illnesses from getting a gun license in the USA. But there seems to be nothing stopping those who have slipped through the cracks, individuals who could easily be flagged by a trained police officer.
I've never understood why such a simple thing seems so unattainable in America. If the 2nd Amendment grants you the right to bear arms, so be it. But I doubt the Founding Fathers nor anyone else ever believed you have the right to be completely bat-shit crazy and bear arms.
Is there really a constituency out there who can logically argue that the rights of the mentally deranged are endangered if they aren't packin'?
It's no doubt true that someone bent on destruction will find some way to get their hands on a gun. And there may be a completely logical reason why a 30 round clip useful for nothing much but wholesale slaughter needs to be available over the counter at Walmart.
There's no argument our governments could all be doing more to tag ammunition, share information and otherwise more easily trace who perpetrated a gun crime. But putting a deadly weapon in the hands of someone incapable of respecting its power and finality is the definition of criminal behavior itself.
If this one small amendment were made to the second amendment, the politicians and pundits could stay up as late as they want playing Grammar Lady. Meanwhile, the rest of us would sleep better knowing there were fewer weapons in the hands of madmen.