I’ve been trying to get my head around mass shootings for a long time. With more than 100 gun-related deaths every day in this country, and even when our children are being shot in their classrooms, we are still a country divided over the majority of gun laws.
In spite of the fact that 33% of mass shooters were individuals who were legally prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, many of us remain steadfastly resolved that no gun law is a good gun law. Some believe politicians want to take away all of their guns and restricting gun rights in any way is not only unacceptable, it is un-American.
Well, guess what? I have no plans to say anything about the increased numbers of deaths that have occurred since military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines were legalized, and I’m not going to talk about the fact that 54% of mass shooting incidents were domestically related. I’m also going to carefully avoid the data point that a large of number of the shooters are mentally ill young, white men.
Why? You might ask. Well, it’s because I have a bigger fish to fry. Actually, it’s not even a fish. It’s a freakin’ whale. We’re going once again to discuss masks. I know. Not again.
In my research I came across the description of the mindset of those individuals who seek personal autonomy at all costs, those people who argue in favor of total civil liberties and a reduction or elimination of the power of the state. The magic phrase that seems to have recently been cut out of their philosophical conviction is a restricting clause that says, “Unless it damages or interferes with the public good, or the benefit or well-being of the public.”
That’s the whale, the elephant in the middle of the room, or the Babe Ruth candy bar in the swimming pool. “Unless it interferes with the public good.”
Here’s a question for you. Why is it a problem to drive impaired? Why is it illegal to yell fire in an auditorium where there is no fire? I think I know. It’s because it interferes with the public good. Any one of those things could result in someone else being negatively impacted because of a decision to drive drunk or cause a panic in a crowded room.
If you live in Pennsylvania and want to ride your motorcycle without a helmet, the state says that’s OK, but if you are severely injured and live, there’s a chance the state might have to provide medical care, financial support, and public assistance for you for the rest of your life. In other words, if you do it only to you, the state will pay for that, but don’t do it to other people, the public good.
Back to the whale. So, when did it become acceptable to defy “the public well-being” by refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic? When HIV/AIDS was first recognized, people were arrested for spitting on other people and charged with attempted murder, but if you don’t wear a mask, that’s somehow supposed to express your independence, your freedom, your libertarianism? Instead, it allows COVID and now its mutations to spread. And guess what? That spread has killed nearly 514,000 Americans and continues to kill every day. What? Is it machismo? Or machisma?
When did knowingly potentially infecting someone that results in their illness or death become acceptable? When did freedom to maim or kill become part of the public good? What if we just called it what it is, not selfishness or stubbornness, or independence, but attempted murder?
Only about 33,000 people die from guns in the U.S. in a year. That’s 6% of those killed by COVID this year. I’m sorry. Logic is not part of either equation, but not wearing masks might be called attempted murder.
Nick Jacobs of Pittsburgh is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and author of the book, “Taking the Hell Out of Healthcare.”