restricted access Gun Control in America: An Autopsy Report

Last year came news about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, at the hands of a nervous neighborhood vigilante. More recently, a graduate student in neuroscience named James Holmes opened fire in a Colorado theater with an array of advanced weaponry, killing twelve and wounding fifty-eight. And on a cold and clear December morning in Connecticut, a former high school honors student methodically executed twenty unsuspecting schoolchildren and seven adults with "a semiautomatic rifle that is similar to weapons used by troops in Afghanistan." These events have been described as "tragic"—and so they are, though not in the sense usually meant. The tragedy is not that something awful and terrible happened that should never have happened. The tragedy is that something awful and terrible happened that was, and is, supposed to happen. This is in keeping with the original Greek meaning; in Whitehead's gloss, "the essence of dramatic tragedy . . . resides in . . . the remorseless working of things . . .[the] inevitableness of destiny." Usually, this tragedy goes unremarked until it is too late; so in this essay I try to render it blindingly salient.