The Chattanooga Shooting Is Actually the Bigger Problem
Small disagreements turning into life-changing events, because of guns.
On Sunday night in downtown Chattanooga, six people were shot, with two of them in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. The incident, according to the Chattanooga police chief (and there’s every reason to double-check everything any police chief says these days, I’m sad to say), happened when “two individuals from one group started firing upon the other group,” with all six of the injured being “unintended” targets. This was at roughly 11 p.m. on a Sunday night on a holiday weekend in a heavily populated downtown area, which is to say, it was just a bunch of people out partying on an evening when most of them don’t have to go to work the next day. I love the city of Chattanooga: I’m going to be there in exactly two weeks, on those same streets, maybe at those same bars. It’s a wonderful city. It deserves better. But then again: We all do.
The incident was not pre-planned or thought out. It was simply a bunch of guys, on a night out, getting in a fight. This happens all the time — I’d argue it happens nightly. This has been happening forever, since men have been gathering, from the beginning of time. This does not make it OK, necessarily, but it is certainly not unusual and certainly not inherently against human nature. Guys out on a weekend night are often young and stupid and drunk, and a lot of the time that ends in a fight. Fights happen. They have been happening forever.
But what’s different now — what turns an ordinary fight among dipshits into something that’s everyone’s problem — is the guns. In a piece about the gun issue and what we can do about it (one I find myself half agreeing with and half not, which is a sign it’s a well-constructed argument) for his newsletter, Jeff Maurer points that the problem with guns isn’t just all the mass shootings. It’s the pointless, dumb incidents like the one in Chattanooga that get turned into something horrific because everyone’s carrying a gun.
The most common ways of being killed by a gun don’t make national news; the situation is often “two guys got into a fight and one of them had a gun”. Gang violence is part of the story. Unintentional shootings are about 13 percent of…