Count David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” killer from New York City, among those whose words of wisdom aren’t worth much. But in an interview last week with the New York Post, Berkowitz made several compelling statements about the recurrent incidences of gun violence this year in the United States.
“Society has to take the glory out of guns,” said Berkowitz, who is serving six consecutive 25 years-to-life sentences at a maximum-security facility in upstate New York for his crimes. “Young people have no business carrying a gun. I would love to speak bluntly to those gangbanging teens and wanna-bes and tell them prison is nothing like what you think. If you’re packing a gun, you’re making a big mistake, and you’ll regret it.”
Berkowitz was responding to the two most-recent headlines: the movie-theater shootings in Aurora, Colo., where 12 died and 58 were wounded during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, and the Sikh temple shootings outside Milwaukee, where six people died last Sunday.
Only the Son of Sam killer knows if he’s sincere. We wouldn’t hazard a guess.
But on face value, his statement — that “society has to take the glory out of guns” — is altogether correct.
This isn’t about daddy’s shotgun or your deer rifle. There’s no problem there. It’s about the glorification of gun violence that’s been portrayed through movies, television, video games and music. It’s about a culture in some neighborhoods that it’s manly to carry a Glock. It’s about a nation in which gun violence is too ingrained, thanks in part to lax gun-control laws and politicians of both parties who are too weak or beholden to the National Rifle Association to do anything about it.
As horrible as they were, the Aurora and Milwaukee shootings presented Washington with an invitation for substantive discussions about two things critical to this nation: a continued reduction in violent crime and the need to limit access to semiautomatic, assault-type weapons, especially for the mentally unstable. It didn’t happen.
Instead, election-year politics and a lack of interest from either the White House or Congress ended that hope before it began. That fact wasn’t lost on Berkowitz.
Yet, “I’m looking beyond gun control,” he said. “That’s for the legislators to wrangle with. My hope is just that young people would understand just how terrible this violence is. When they use a gun against someone else, they ruin their lives, too. It’s not worth it.”
On that, we should all agree.