Gun Control

So there was another mass shooting. Well, actually there have been six of them in the last week, but we’re still talking about the big one. In Vegas. You remember. An act of violence on that scale has the unique ability to galvanize the public, to bring us together and offer a moment of clarity. In this case it seems we might see eye-to-eye on a piece of gun control legislation. Even the NRA is willing to listen*. Wow.

Of course the idea that restricting access to bump stocks constitutes meaningful gun control (or, really, gun control at all) is laughable. It reeks of the aftermath of the Charleston massacre, when right wing politicians in the employ of the gun lobby rushed for any scapegoat that might be accepted by the left, and settled on removing Confederate flags from state buildings. It is certainly a good idea, and certainly not a real response to either a specific act of violent white supremacy or gun violence in general.

But even when our consensus on what to do is wan and fragile, large scale shooting attacks captivate us. We remain fixated on the 24 hour news cycle as the perpetrator’s third grade girlfriend says in an interview that she never saw it coming and false flag conspiracy theories crop up before the barrels or the bodies have cooled. Ending mass shootings by military weapons is as easy as restricting civilian access to military calibers, but ignores a few grim realities (not the least of which is that we simply don’t care to act).

Banning guns relegates violence to the domain of the state, and ours is a nation where still, in 2017, a person’s skin color is as dangerous in the eyes of the police as a weapon. We elected an autocratic, Nazi sympathizing president who promises to parade our military through the streets as a show of force. Call me a gun nut. Call me paranoid. I’m uncomfortable with a state monopoly on death.

And then of course there is the reality that the dramatic, galvanizing shooting incidents happen only a few times a year**, and that the overwhelming majority of gun violence occurs at an upbeat cadence of ones and twos until we see tens of thousands of Americans fall each year at the hands of their countrymen. This truth yields cries of “black on black” murder from right wing racists who are bad at statistics, but the fact remains that most people are killed by someone they know.

Any earnest discussion of solutions requires acknowledging the scale of the challenge. Guns outnumber people in the US, and are firmly entrenched in our national identity. Any effort to confiscate these weapons will play into the narrative of the militant right and probably catalyze a civil war (we’ve seen armed insurrection for far less go unpunished). Tempering the manufacturing and sale of new weapons will take decades or generations to have a palpable effect on firearm ownership. Even passive regulation curtailing new sales would require legislation dramatically more profound than we could muster after 20 children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The simple fact is that for the foreseeable future***, the NRA has won. Guns are here to stay; what’s left is how we use them.

America’s culture of violence is bred in the disparity between our national premise that hard work will yield success and the reality that for most of us it simply isn’t true. Murder is the tool of kings and desperate men, and our social and economic policies of the last 80 years have sown large swaths of desperation across our city centers and rural communities.

Violence in America is about much more than access to guns. It’s about access to healthcare. Access to education. Access to real jobs and an answer to the promise of the American Dream. If we’re serious about addressing gun violence in a meaningful way the conversation cannot begin with esoteric modifications or the vague, cowardly scapegoat of “mental health,” whatever that means from the lips of a politician.

To address gun violence in America we need to address America’s culture of violence, and to address that culture we need to confront the atmosphere of hopeless resignation that afflicts the disenfranchised. This begins by recognizing that our democracy is broken, that what we have for government looks much more like a plutocratic monarchy, ruling on behalf of the rich. We will not see an end to gun violence until class mobility becomes a reality for all Americans and healthcare is, if not a human right, an essential pillar of our social contract. The end to gun violence lies in┬ádemonstrating that we truly are created equal, and a government that protects egalitarian ideals.

Gun violence is impossible without guns, but violence itself is born from scarcity and desperation. These are the most productive, prolific years of human history, and there is no excuse for either.

 

 

 

 

*Nevermind.

**That’s it! Why is everyone so worked up?

***One thing we actually can do is to pressure the news media to publish crime scene photographs and video. We live in an insulated fantasy world shaped by John Wayne and Michael Bay. The reality of gun violence is easily lost on those who it doesn’t touch in a personal way. Let’s change that.

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5 thoughts on “Gun Control

  1. Sorry, but this is weak shit. Evidence shows that after limiting access to guns, you see a dramatically decrease in the rate of homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths. “Banning guns relegates violence to the domain of the state” may as well be the NRA slogan. It’s a myth clung to by so-called “libertarian” who forget that 25% of American women are survivors of violence, not by the state, but by the men in their lives.

    1. That’s fair. But I also think that you’re clinging to an aside. Especially after Sandy Hook, and also after this most recent shooting (not to mention the shooting death every 15 seconds in this country), we have collectively made it clear that we’re unwilling to act on meaningful firearms legislation. “Limiting access to guns” sounds great, but without truly dramatic shift in public tolerance for violence it’s not happening. Publishing graphic content of crime scenes is a good start (embedded journalists arguably turned the tides of public opinion on the Vietnam War, for instance), or else waiting around for a majority of Americans to be touched by violence in a personal way. Short of that, recognizing that violence of any stripe is a symptom of greater societal ills and taking strides to actually remedy the underlying disenfranchisement is the only way to make meaningful inroads to curbing that violence. Universal healthcare, universal higher education, and a universal living wage will go a long way.

        1. Violence will diminish when large swaths of our population are no longer subjected to artificial scarcity. I also agree with you that meaningful gun control legislation would probably reduce gun violence, the thesis of the piece was not that gun control is ineffective. The thesis was that we, collectively, don’t care to pass meaningful reform; prohibition on bump stocks is a joke, and inaction after Sandy Hook affirms the suspicion that the NRA has effectively monopolized the conversation. As far as publishing crime scene media goes, the war in Vietnam is a great place to look at the causal effect that clear, negative news coverage can have on the hearts and minds of the voting public. A strong argument can be made that critical coverage and uncensored reporting eroded public support of the war effort there in a relatively short amount of time.

  2. I fully agree with your stance here Gentleman. Your absolutely right. How do we make it happen? Yours truly has a dream / nascent action plan to fix it all but lacks the balls to quit his job and make it happen. I’m scared of the doubters and the difficulty and failure. Terrified to live my dream and terrified to make a difference. Scared that I’m wrong and its a stupid plan (it’s not). Terrified that I am not the right person.

    Statistics would have me believe someone else has the same plan and they should quit their job to risk everything and save the country.

    I’m to damn scared even to put it out there. Hmmm. I feel like crap.

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