Other countries have toxic masculinity, George Pyle writes, but only the U.S. pairs it with gun culture

Efforts to protect women fall short if we won’t address guns.

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one, it should be fired. Otherwise, don’t put it there.”

Anton Chekhov, Russian playwright, 1860-1904

Recent tragedies in Utah have demonstrated, again, that the uniquely American worship of firearms does more to kill innocent people than anything else.

Unless, that is, we would find that the United States is the only nation on earth that has people with mental health issues. The only culture where toxic masculinity leaves jilted males full of rage toward the women who defy them.

In August, a woman by the name of Mandy Mayne was murdered by her ex-husband while she was waiting for a bus in Taylorsville. The killer, Taylor Ray Martin, died by his own gun-holding hand shortly afterward.

Mayne’s grieving family has enlisted the help of some influential Utah politicians in a campaign to better keep track of people (mostly men) who have demonstrated violent tendencies toward others (usually women). The hope is that by mandating all Utah law enforcement agencies to launch something called a Lethality Assessment Program, women in a dangerous situation can get protection before it is too late.

It’s a good idea that the Legislature should approve.

It’s just too bad that the sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Todd Weiler, and others who mourn the loss of Mandy — including Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, a cousin — are not even going to mention something else that might have saved Mayne’s life, and the life of the next woman to die in a domestic violence situation. And the next one. And the one after that.

Make it more difficult for people to get guns.

Even raising the issue of firearms, Weiler told The Salt Lake Tribune’s Editorial Board last month, would doom any chance his proposal might have in the Legislature. He’s right about that.

Last week, America’s gun culture had an outsized role in wiping out an entire family in the little Utah town of Enoch.

Local officials say 42-year-old Michael Haight shot and killed his wife, mother-in-law and five children, ranging in age from 4 to 17, before killing himself. The massacre was apparently the husband’s reaction to the divorce petition his wife filed the month before.

Public officials from the Enoch city manager to Utah Gov. Spencer Cox to the White House press secretary expressed their shock and sadness, with lots of the normal expressions of “thoughts and prayers.”

But the best way to have this happen less often - limiting the number of guns in circulation - eludes our political leadership.

The Enoch murders were followed by a statement from the family of the murdered wife that astoundingly seemed to say that the problem is not too many guns, but too few.

The family tells us that the wife and her mother were both trained in self-defense and kept an unspecified number of “protective arms” in the house. Those guns were removed from the home, we don’t know by whom, sometime before the shootings.

“This is the type of loss that will continue to occur in families, communities and this nation when protective arms are no longer accessible,” the family’s statement said. It also called on the media to resist any urge to use the events “for any advocacy of political agendas.”

Any political agenda other than their own, that is.

One could imagine a scenario where the victims could have warded off this heinous attack by wielding firearms of their own. If those guns were kept readily at hand in a home full of children. And if the training the women received had been on the order of that provided to agents of MI6.

It would also be useful to consider whether the family’s active membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — though it could have been any of a number of religious organizations — created a situation where the man of the house thought himself an unquestionable authority who snapped when his power was challenged.

More mental health services? Yes, please.

But, right at this very moment, there is a man in Helsinki who is consumed by anger at a former girlfriend. In Glasgow, there is a man whose entire self-concept has been wrecked by the divorce petition he just received. In Auckland, there is a man who is coming completely unhinged for reasons that nobody else may ever understand. In Venice, there is a man whose religious beliefs cannot abide the idea that he is not the master of is family.

Each of these poor souls may or may not seek, or be ordered to receive, mental health treatment.

But the possibility that any of them will murder one or more people is a fraction of that found in the United States, where guns rule and people are statistics.

George Pyle, reading The New York Times at The Rose Establishment.

George Pyle, opinion editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, covered one murder trial during his years as a reporter. A woman killed her 10-year-old son after being told her husband wanted a divorce. So it does happen the other way.


Twitter, @debatestate