It’s been a bad year for gun massacres in America. A lot of crazies have been melting down, raiding the nearest arsenal, and randomly killing innocent folks. Three in particular have grabbed my attention: The Cafe Racer shooting in Seattle a few months back (which touched some people close to me); the Aurora, Colorado “Batman” blast up; and last Saturday’s awful bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which tops all others in its mind-numbing savagery.
Each of these terrible events has sickened me and fanned my fire of rage. Like most of us, I shake my head, sigh, shout, and wonder how such things can happen. I question aloud what drives these broken people commit such acts and how we can spot them before they explode. For a short time I try to understand their madness, but soon realize this is a futile exercise. Sometimes crazy is just crazy. And then I think about guns.
Though I’ve felt tempted to rant on America’s gun culture after each of these travesties, I’ve bit my tongue and held my fingers away from the keyboard. Sure, I threw up a few anti-gun memes on Facebook and practiced some sloganeering via my status updates, but I have refrained from ranting here. Why? Because the gun debate in America is much like the controversy over abortion: It consists of two entrenched sides who just scream and chant worn-out mantras at each other that lost their meaning a long time ago. This is especially true for the pro-gun side, but this is a debate where people stopped listening to each other a long time ago. It’s really hard to add anything new to the dung pile. But I’ve thought hard on this and here it goes, as messy and repetitive it as it may be.
I grew up in the American sticks around a lot of guns. Near my house were the hinterlands of a sprawling military base where the sound of artillery and machine-gun fire served as the soundtrack to my childhood. Many of my friends had fathers who hunted or kept guns for target shooting and self-defense. My father wasn’t a gun guy, but my grandfather kept a few firearms, as did my older brother. I learned to shoot at a young age and even did a bit of pheasant and grouse hunting (with the aforementioned grandpa), along with recreational blasting with a couple of buddies. Even today, when I visit home, I sometimes go shooting with some friends. I enjoy the hell out of it and have no personal aversion to guns. I think I understand their place in American culture as well as anybody, because I’ve lived it.
However, we Americans are insular people, and often have absolutely no clue as to how the rest of the world views us. As an American, in America, I never really questioned our gun culture, because I grew up in it and it was really all I knew. Sure, sometimes people cracked a nut and took out some bystanders, but that was just normal, I thought. Like many Americans, I cherished the right to bear arms and considered rampant gun violence an unfortunate but necessary side effect.
I’ve lived abroad for over eight years now, and one thing I can tell you is that it’s given me some perspective on my home country. Over this time I’ve traveled to over twelve different countries and talked to people of all nationalities, and guess what? Most all of them are absolutely perplexed by American gun culture. They ask me all the time:
“Is it true so many of your countrymen are armed?” “Why do people need so many guns?” and most importantly, “Why do Americans put up with so much gun killing?”
At first I’d try to engaged these people, explaining our history as a frontier nation with man-eating bears, hostile Indians and big game; I’d tell them about the revolution and how American citizens consider an armed populace some kind of check against an abusive government; I’d attempt to enlighten them about the role guns have played in the making of the country–how they’ve become an institution–a religion almost. But these lame sputterings only served to further confuse. After a while, I realize that had I had no good answer. I couldn’t adequately explain any of it, because after living in a gun-free country for many years and looking back at my own culture from the outside, I realized that there was no good answer. Yes, there are historical reasons for American gun culture, but what it had metastasized into could only be described as a kind of collective insanity.
So now, when confronted with the same questions, I just throw up my hands and tell these perplexed foreigners, “Look, I don’t know.” Just as I can’t explain what goes on in the head of the guys who commit these massacres, I can’t explain why so many millions of Americans are obsessed with guns, and why they refuse to do anything to limit their proliferation. Sure, there’s the gun lobby and the NRA, which basically pay off the politicians, but why do so many people, in the face of massacre after massacre, dig in their heals and refuse to take ANY ACTION? Sure, some measures may not work, but are they content to do nothing in the face of continual slaughter? Didn’t Einstein say that doing the same thing again and again yet expecting different results is the very definition of insanity???
What is frustrating is that the gun lobby has boiled their interests down to a collection of weak-ass talking points that every yahoo and bozo spouts at you when you deign to argue for greater regulation of guns.
“Guns don’t kill people! People kill people!”
This is gas-huffingly retarded. Pro-gun folks have been babbling this one for years and at this point it’s like a piece of bubble gum that has been chewed on for forty years. Anyone who doesn’t see that guns make it EXPONENTIALLY EASIER for anyone to kill is either blind, deaf, or so stupid that they shouldn’t breed, yet alone own firearms. Sometimes these guys say, “You could kill people with spoons if ya wanted!” or but out the old “How about knife control!” argument.
Well, if you compare a spoon to a gun during a debate, I’ll defriend you on Facebook and avoid you at bars, restaurants, and shopping malls for the rest of your sad days. And there actually is a thing called “knife control”. There are laws governing which kinds of knives are legal and illegal to own. Look ’em up.
A few real boneheads linked the knife attack in a Chinese school that happened on the same day as the Sandy Point killing spree. “See?” They said, with dopey grins and vacant stares. “Take away guns and people will just use knives.” That may be, but let’s look at the scorecard from both events. Sandy Point had 26 dead with ZERO survivors. The Chinese attack had 22 stabbed with 22 survivors. If I’m a six year old faced off against a murderous schizo, I’ll take the one armed with a knife, m’kay? And thanks for totally undermining your non-argument.
“Cars kill people. Why don’t we just ban cars?”
Now that’s a good idea! I don’t own a car and I think they pretty much ruin everything and make people fat selfish assholes, so I may agree with you on this one… but cars are NOT guns, and to say so is tired, old hat shit. People use guns to kill other people. That is the only reason they exist. People use cars for transportation and are sadly sometimes killed in accidental collisions. So what do we do? We have CAR CONTROL.
Yes, cars are held to rigorous safety standards. There are also traffic laws. Most importantly, you must BE LICENSED to legally drive a car. Last time I checked, no license was needed to purchase most guns in the USA. Still the same? And don’t bring up swimming pools either, you NRA hoopleheads. Swimming pools, like cars, are also subject to intense and detailed regulation.
“But we NEED guns! They are our only line of defense against a repressive government! A government will think twice about taking liberties against an armed populace?”
Oh, will they? It hasn’t really stopped them up to now…
Okay, I will confess to the allure of this argument. After all, who doesn’t want to bravely take up arms against tyranny? It all sounds so romantic! To the barricades, comrades!
Unfortunately, armed uprisings in the United States have a worse track record than the Washington Generals. Every single one has been brutally and violently put down by a much, much better-armed federal government: Shays, Bacons, Harper’s Ferry, THE SECESSION OF THE CONFEDERACY, Pine Ridge, Ruby Ridge, The Branch Davidians…. and these are just the appetizers. I’m sorry, but as stirring as it sounds, armed civilians will never be a match against federal military power. Horde all the guns you want, but in the face of machine guns, fighter jets, and Blackhawk helicopters, you don’t stand a chance and never will.
People love to trumpet the 2nd Amendment as some kind of firewall against tyranny, but in giving birth to this awful, violent gun culture, hasn’t the 2nd Amendment created a “tyranny” of its own? It makes people live in fear. And some of us rightly ask:
“What about my right to walk down the street without getting caught in a gang crossfire?”
“What about MY right to drink a coffee or watch a movie without having my brains spattered on the ceiling by some crackpot with a grudge against society!”
The 2nd Amendment was written well over 200 years ago, and guess what? Things have changed. It was penned during the age of muskets, and I know that this argument is repeated time and time again, but it’s correct: The Founders had no idea of where technology would take us. Knowledge of modern handguns and semi-automatic, military-grade rifles would have made them seriously reconsider the vague wording. And let’s face it: The 2nd Amendment is just badly written. It seems to mainly endorse the idea of the right to form a “well-regulated militia” while also hinting at unrestricted private ownership of “arms”.
But “arms” are never defined, are they?
Again. Currently it’s acceptable to own shotguns, handguns, and rifles–both single-shot and semi-automatic. But automatics are verboten. (Oh noes! Gun control!) So are grenades and grenade launchers. But aren’t these “arms” as well? What about mortars and cannons? Tanks? Missiles? Nerve gas? ATOMIC BOMBS???
It’s clear that we have made some kind of “arms control” totally acceptable. So why is the line of general legal ownership so firmly drawn between semi-automatic and automatic weapons?
“Well go ahead and restrict guns, but if you ban certain types, then only criminals will own them!”
Okay, Bubba… but isn’t that the definition of a criminal? Anyone who breaks that law? After all, C-4 plastic explosive is illegal to own, but some people choose to circumvent that law? And guess what, it they get caught, they are arrested and imprisoned. Why? Because they’re CRIMINALS. Is the reality that some people will break a law reason enough not to enact it? That’s why we have enforcement.
But… don’t get me wrong. Despite this lengthy screed, I am not calling for an end to gun ownership in America. This just ain’t gonna happen. We must be realistic. There are over 270 million guns in our country and they’re not just going to disappear by federal or state decree. A lot of people would straight up refuse to surrender their firearms even if hell froze over and a law banning them was enacted. From my cold, dead fingers!
But is it unreasonable to suggest that guns can be, as the 2nd Amendment itself suggests, “well-regulated?” Shouldn’t we at least require licensing and training like we do with people who wish to fly planes, drive cars, or professionally cut hair? And what about banning certain military style rifles? Or even handguns? At least ban further sales… the old ones will eventually break down, over time. Surely there must be SOME steps we can take to reign ’em in.
And yes, gun laws are not a one country/one fit deal. A few countries have heavily armed populations yet low gun crime (Switzerland, Israel). These are the exceptions to the rule, though. Generally speaking, more guns = more gun crime, and the countries with few guns have drastically fewer deaths by bullets. This is a fact and can be backed up with hard data. I’m sure anyone who has read this has seen the U.S. compared to other industrialized nations as far as gun crime goes. The numbers speak for themselves.
But at the end of the day, it’s the American people who will have to make the decision. If we choose to just endure a massacre every few weeks and do nothing to address the availability of guns in our nation, then we get the country we deserve. That’s just the premium we pay for tyranny insurance. Many on the pro-gun side say that the answer is MORE GUNS, that more armed people would create a more peaceful nation, where there exists a kind of mutually-assured destruction. In such a society, an armed barista would have taken out the maniac at Cafe Racer; several audience members would have blown out the back of James Holmes cackling, flame-haired head; and the teacher at Sandy Hook who saved those little kids with her body would have done so with a Glock instead. But these are just visions of fantasy. Yes, carrying citizens do, from time to time, stop murderers before they can cut down innocents, but this will never be the norm. To believe so is simply folly and self-delusion. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the rest of the world. But when have we, as Americans, ever tried listening to them?