Originally posted December 12th, 2012. One day after the Clackamas Mall shooting, two days before Sandy Hook.
Gun control arguments are maddening, both for their perceived uselessness in the face of continued violence, and the disingenuousness often contained within. Statements like “Now is not the time” and “Let’s not politicize this” acting as speed-bumps, slowing down forward momentum on engagement with the issues at a time in which the issues are screaming to be discussed.
If I was a victim of gun violence, I don’t think I’d be selfish enough to believe your pertinent discussions on the matter need to be shelved until I “feel better,” whenever such a time might actually occur. In fact, I’d likely be too busy dealing with the trauma to pay attention to your discourse. So me and my feelings are off the table anyway. Your silence sure as shit isn’t actually helping me, and since I’m likely not paying attention to your discussions, you might as well have them, because at least from those discussions, a measure of prevention might be put in place. I’d think it’d be much more disrespectful if you clapped a hand over your mouth and held your feelings in (artificially) for my benefit, when it’s not even my benefit you’re concerned with: It’s the appearance of piety while others might be looking. You being quiet in a time of crisis doesn’t help me, and is not helpful overall, so stop acting like you’re doing something useful by shutting up.
Let’s stop using analogies that bring up the fact cars and baseball bats kill more people than guns do. Let’s stop reducing the gun to the level of “tool,” all while removing the context of what that tool does. It doesn’t join boards together. It doesn’t level bookshelves. It doesn’t ferry you from one destination to another, nor does it help turn double plays on the sandlot.
Guns are a tool for putting projectiles into another human being’s body at a high rate of speed.
When you purchase a gun, you are purchasing a potential murder. Maybe it’s a justifiable homicide. Maybe it’s a self-defense so by the book they will rewrite that book to include your example. But it’s still a murder. And you bought it. You knew that. You can’t divorce the tool from its intended use. Yeah, you can kill someone with a hammer. Yeah, you can run someone over with a car. Yeah, you can put someone’s head in an oven, or feed them Windex, but that’s not what those tools are meant for. Guns are meant for shooting people.
(Yes, some guns are meant for hunting animals, and the number of you still hunting your own meals is sufficiently small enough that to even bring up this example is to slather yourself in the disingenuousness that makes these discussions maddening. This isn’t about hunters, or hunting. This is about people purchasing weapons created for the sole intent of firing them at other humans)
I don’t doubt the belief some have that their gun is meant for self-protection. I’m sure that part of the power-fantasy that goes into choosing to purchase a future murder at the store involves at least one night spent drifting to sleep and imagining the miniature action movie that occurs when a home-invasion is stopped by your quick wits, your alertness, your agile reflexes, and the bark and flash of a tool properly used. You don’t want it to happen. It rightfully scares you, enough to have caused you to purchase a potential murder. But you bought that murder because you, at some point, imagined yourself carrying it out successfully.
Let’s not be disingenuous about the fact purchasing guns is largely keyed-in to the idea that you can purchase safety. That you can purchase power. And maybe you can convince yourself that at some point, you’ll take all the necessary classes, you’ll develop all the necessary skills, you’ll obtain the necessary mindset to make yourself a responsible gun owner that uses their tool properly, for the sake of protection, for the sake of keeping the people you care for safe. Maybe you’ll do just enough to get a paper from someone with an official stamp and a seal that says “Good job, you get it” but are those bars set high enough? Are the hoops they’re asking you to jump through tight enough? Much like people who purchase exercise equipment convince themselves they’ll use it for longer than a month, that they’ll use it correctly, that their purchase wasn’t in and of itself a shortcut to make themselves feel better, feel more empowered, more in control of their destiny.
They didn’t buy exercise equipment. They bought themselves momentary absolution from their guilt over becoming physically unattractive. And a lot of gun owners don’t buy protection. They buy themselves a false sense of security that can put 15 rounds of death into the air at a mile a minute in less than 3 seconds.
So if we’re going to honestly discuss gun control, we need to quit bullshitting each other about what these tools are meant for, what they do, and why we’re buying them. Because it’s not about actually protecting each other. If it was, there’d be a lot more volunteers for the police departments in your town/city/county. There’d be a lot more volunteers for the armed forces, for reasons beyond scholarships and government pensions.
You want to talk about tools? Politics is the tool we as a citizenry use to affect social reforms. Asking people to not politicize the issue of gun control is asking that we don’t use the tools available to us to attempt even a mild suppression of the alarming trends in gun violence over the last few decades. Why would you possibly advocate that people don’t use the tools they have at hand to put a dent in the growing number of neighbors, friends, children using the tools put in their hands by messrs. Smith, Wesson, Walther, and their friends at the NRA?
The Second Amendment is fundamentally broken. It has been for a long time. Anyone actually arguing for the idea that we all need guns in case the president decides to hit us with drone strikes needs to consider that we, as taxpayers and voters, are the only ones to blame for continually electing people who, over the past century, have built up such an astounding amount of firepower they can napalm whatever tattered shreds of security blanket the Second Amendment could possibly still provide us. In fact, many of the people advocating we all keep tools of homicide in our homes are people who approve of the military-industrial complex’s insane growth over the past century. If you’re worried about our government turning on its people, then maybe you should pay more attention to the people you elect, and less attention to the stockpile of murder weapons you’re keeping in the closet.
So if we’re going to have these gun control discussions – and we’re going to have them – let’s all have the common courtesy to cut the shit and be honest about where we’re coming from:
In a large majority of examples, when you buy a gun, you are buying a murder to be committed at an unnamed date. Let’s cease using terminology to make that endeavor sound a lot less mean. You’re buying someone else’s death, at your hands. And the majority of you owning those potential murders have never undergone the level of training, physically and mentally, to prepare yourself for what that means. You’re not ready, and you’ve never been ready, and you will likely never be ready. You’ve got to be a very mentally healthy person to withstand the weight of those actions, and their consequences, and that’s not a place a lot of America is at, nor will they be with the current health-care infrastructure in place.
We figure out how to change that? We figure out how to start heading towards a future in which gun control becomes effective. It’s not as simple as melting guns, seizing them, halting production. That’s just as ridiculous a daydream as those who argue the way-too-frequent mass shootings could all be nullified if more people had their John McClane permits tucked next to the holster under their jacket. For as long as we are a civilization, we will have tools of murder available for use. We need to start honestly talking with each other about how we’re going to ensure those tools get used as little as possible.
And that’s the last bit of disingenuousness I want to address: The idea that this discussion is useless if it can’t be reduced to zero sum game. If gun control measures are implemented, murders will still be committed, so there’s no reason to pursue gun control. That’s the same sort of bullshit logic you used to flick at your mom when she asked you to clean your room. “But Mom, why should I clean my room? It’s just gonna get dirty again. Why should I make my bed? I’m just gonna sleep in it. Why should I attempt to make things even a little bit better when things are just going to get messy again?”
If it didn’t hold water when you were whining about picking up your goddamned socks, what makes you think it’s going to hold water when we’re talking about picking up guns?
If you want to argue for this status quo, you better have a damn good explanation as to why those people in that mall in Clackamas, or that theater in Colorado, had to pay that price so you can feel better about buying your own future murders.
Because I would argue that’s a fundamentally unfair exchange.