Ever had bullets whizzing through your personal space?
I bolted out of a Tulsa movie theatre in July of '91 surrounded by the sound of guns a blazing -- it was all "very loud & very close." I had gone to see the Tulsa premier of Boys in the Hood -- a film about youth culture, gangs and the life trajectories of black and Hispanic kids in south central L.A. I went to a south side Tulsa theatre to watch the film. The movie is a surprising warm, almost poetic meditation. Directed by then baby-genius John Singleton, the film was getting good reviews for its grim, intimate look at LA's badlands. But "Boys" showings had sparked fights and a little bit of light gun play in some of the East and West Coast venues where it had been running days before.
While in the movie house, my Tulsa "Boys" showing was unremarkable. It was the immediate post movie thing -- a short ride in hell -- that was unforgettable. My buddy and I walked out to the theatre parking lot and heard gunfire, dozens of people running in every direction and hysterical screaming that I have not witnessed since. My own reaction: a conflation of bemusement and irritation topped off with a little bit of fear.
I'd never been in a setting where gunshots rang out at random. And weirdly, it wasn't possible to see the shooters, so you didn't know where they were -- you didn't know how close you might be to the fools doing the firing. My "event" doesn't remotely compare to the nightmare that the Batman audience experienced in Aurora -- but, my friends, believe me, you wouldn't have wanted to experience it.
I don't think anyone was injured -- but I never saw, read or heard anything about what happened that day in Tulsa in the summer of '91. I wasn't a media guy in those days -- was running a struggling consulting biz. And the woman of my life was in a death bed at St. Francis. So I never wrote it up or reported it. Maybe someone reading these words did?
Tulsa's Daily Show
Unfortunately, several thousand people in Tulsa experience the optics and audio miasma of gun play several times a month. There are spots west, east, and in north T-Town and along the 61st-71st & south Peoria corridor where the grinding machinery of drug cult logistics and shadowy gang warfare are always in play.
And, as attentive UTW readers surely know, this monstrous game produces a killing or two during most weeks in Tulsa. None of this has the crystalline theatrics, YouTube kinetics or panoramic news coverage of Virginia Tech, Arizona, Columbine, Aurora or a typical day in Detroit, but this "one or two" deathly duet is just as real, just as disturbing.
And folks, it's not just the dead, their loved ones and the physically injured who take the hit. The renowned social/child psychologist and writer Robert Coles has documented the outsized health and mental damage that children who live in trauma "precincts" take in books like the five-volume Children of Crisis series and his three-volume The Inner Lives of Children.
According to Coles, ambient violence/gun theatrics may also be drivers of lower cognitive achievement, heart ailments and a proclivity to obesity in the luckless children who populate these killing zones -- here and elsewhere.
My Man Mr. Zorg and The Coming of the
There's a gun like no other in the great 1997 science-fiction/fantasy film The Fifth Element. Directed by the French auteur Luc Besson, the film is a visually striking, but campy adventure set in the 24th century and a vehicle for Bruce Willis and the alluring Milla Jovovich.
The often very evil Gary Oldman plays Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg: a fulsom multi-planetary crook/ruthless pirate. Zorg demonstrates the new weapon during a "work" session with his henchmen, who are trying to recover an exotic object -- the Fifth Element, which is simultaneously wanted by Oldman's evil customer and Willis/company. The gizmo is needed to save planet Earth from certain destruction. Oldman's super gun fires hundreds of smart bullets every minute -- bullets that actively track victims.
You might think Oldman's shooter is just a fantasy. Don't. Imagine a gun with an extremely powerful "scene" processor and bullets that are essentially tiny, highly agile drones guided by infrared sensors and AI software -- sensors that can guide each and every bullet to a live target -- that is, to anything that has a permissible temperature and a pulse. I'll bet anyone that technology of this kind is hanging out, in prototype form, in a DARPA lab or elsewhere.
When this stuff tops past the prototype stage, should non-military folks -- especially run-of-the-mill crazy people -- be able to order one up from Amazon?
Wouldn't it be a damn awful day indeed if super guns became widely available to whacked-out people like Jared Loughner, John Muhammad, Seung-Hui Cho, Anders Behring, Timothy McVeigh or Mr. Holmes, the suspected perpetrator of the Aurora/Batman killings?
After Aurora, What To Do
I know we're all supposed to just "buck up," understand that nothing can or will be done, and creep back to our lives. I haven't wanted to do that these last few days, and I'm imagining I'm not alone.
Say this with me: Freedom to own a gun doesn't mean you can also have a tactical nuclear device, a scud missile, an assault weapon or biological toxins;
Tell the damn NRA and their apologists that gun policy and gun violence is too damn important to be the sole province of their membership and fellow travelers;
Join in calling for a society-wide debate on ending our monstrously dysfunctional war on drugs with its peerless connection to gun violence and horror;
Send word to the President and to Olympic wiz Mitt Romney that curtailing ownership of monster guns and mitigating gun violence are back on the table;
Petition Congress to look at a new ban on assault weapons, high capacity ammunition drums and accessory devices -- and prohibit, in advance, consumer access to super guns, weaponized drones, "do your own" bio weapons and other Frankenstein fright-ware;
Call for a full embrace of community policing in Tulsa -- a return to neighborhood beats, slow-go cops, bike patrol and wider TPD use of on-the-ground tools like the two-wheeler Segways -- already in restricted use in T-Town;
Push for a fevered look at the intense neighborhood engagement and confidence-building approaches championed by people like former Tulsa Police Chief Drew Diamond and writer/policing scholar David Kennedy in his highly imaginative 2011 book Don't Shoot: A Journey To End Violence in Inner City America.
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