HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN

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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???

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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?

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24 thoughts on “HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN

  1. Just to start. I hate Mayo and her sister sauces as well (so we agree on lots of things already). That said, I simply don’t think gun control can ever be effective in the USA. In order for people to obey laws, they usually have to understand and agree with them up to a point. Roughly half of the country does not fit this description, and a good portion of the rest take a mild (but more open) view of gun control. I am not making a value judgement here, just a practical one. Guns are simple, prevalent, and now there is a perception by the right that they are a civil right. Your point about the sides of the discussion being polarized is accurate, but since the discussion is at this point, it is now a zero sum game. One side loses if the other wins. You can’t make an effective law without more support than that. Advocating for a law that won’t work is an exercise in futility (people ignore laws they disagree with, and you can’t lock up even twenty percent of your population because you disagree with them). As you mentioned there are more heavily armed countries with lower gun violence rates than the USA. We know we can’t get consensus on gun control (if we even wanted it), why don’t we focus on the less polarizing and totally possible other areas where we can make progress? There is very little controversy when someone says they want to improve mental health, or school security, but as you said, mentioning gun control burns all of the bridges to progress that we have. Technology is making guns easier and easier to manufacture, up to the point now where it is possible to download an electronic file for your $300 3d printer or CNC and hit the “go” button to create many gun parts. With guns being this simple to create, we need to focus on the issues where we can actually be effective. All of that said, while I don’t think any of it would be effective, I would not be opposed personally to gun control at a certain level if I thought it could be effective, but I don’t think it can be. As a fellow traveler, I have been exposed to more guns illegally held in Latin America than I was to guns in general back home.

  2. @elanengel:

    I agree that a total gun ban will never work in America, but I think more gun regulation can help things. But at the end of the day we gotta be practical and agree on solutions that help to alleviate, rather than exacerbate the problem.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. I respect your views completely, but all to common to focus on the instrument that caused the death and not enough on why people in our country kill so frequently. I suggest that the problem lies in the desensitizing of and down right glorification of killing through mass media and entertainment industries that too many kids learn how to love, live and act from… I would argue, and would love to hear your perspective on, the results of horrible and absent parenting, degrading of morality and how it contributes to a culture that lacks compassion and is ill prepared for conflict resolution.
    Because quite frankly, a pipe packed full of gun powder and nails, a gas can and lighter, an improvised explosive, a hammer… You name it… Will be the new instrument of death unless people stop breeding violence.
    Major problem is legislating morality. Hard to do since any A-hole can have and raise shitty kids… Who not surprisingly grow up to add to the A-hole population.

  4. Hey Remy,

    You went to Timberline, right?

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. And while I do agree that there are many social conditions in our country that breed the kind of people who commit such acts, I don’t think we can downplay the effect that guns have. I just don’t buy the argument that guns bear no responsibility, that people will kill no matter what. Actually, guns make it much much easier to carry out such attacks. Just point and pull the trigger. ANYONE can do it, and the result is death. Sure, a very determined person can build a pipe bomb or an explosive, but that requires effort and skill and still won’t kill as many people as a semi-automatic weapon at close range. Same goes for a hammer or a knife. It’s funny, a Korean friend related a story to me the day of the shooting about a Korean psycho who wanted to kill rich children. He had no access to a gun, so he brought a shovel to an elementary school, went into a classroom, and attacked. He hit one kid on the face and partially severed the boy’s jaw before being wrestled to the ground. That poor kid was traumatized and hurt and needed surgery, but that was it. No one died. In fact, only one person was hurt. If this unbalanced individual would have had access to firearms, the outcome would have been tragically different, I’m sure. So yeah, GUNS themselves do make a difference, but it seems to me most Americans are content to keep their guns and just put up with these periodic massacres. So be it.

    1. Hey Chris, Pleasantly small world! Representing the Blazers well, I see.
      There is no disagreement that it is easier to carry out mass murders with access to more efficient implements, but what has me curious is from your experience abroad. Do you feel that the culture of other countries is what makes them a generally more peaceful environment? Is it a better deterrent to crime to have peaceful people than (another) law that would have a questionable impact on the millions on guns already in circulation?
      This isn’t a trap of a question… more of a dig deeper question to see what is really eating people in the US to make them so damn violent as to scare people like me into owning guns. Seems to me that every time I visit my Mexican side of the family that I notice a much tighter family culture and I have seen glimpses of that in many other nationalities – just not so much in what has become the “traditional” American family. Is South Korea immersed in the same culture of Jersey Shore, Jason Bourne and wanna be thugs?

  5. Its essentially down to individuals to wise up and destroy all the guns … globally. Unfortunately, its in the interest of the powers that be to have everyone scared, paranoid and hateful. Untill, people liberate themselves unto a better headspace these massacres will happen…in schools, on streets, and in 3rd world villages.

  6. Scouser- I agree. Getting people to liberate themselves to a better headspace. That should be everyone’s goal. There is no questioning the logic that if there were no guns there would be no shootings. That is amazingly simple and frustrating at the same time. However the fundamental problem of why people want to kill is what I am exploring. That I believe is the first step. Because before the gun it was the bow and arrow, the battle axe, sticks and stones, etc.
    I question how I raise my kid and am I part of the problem? What are the best ways to teach love and respect for others before it is too late… Those are the questions that have.

  7. Im no spiritual guru (hic) but I reckon all the answers ARE simple and dwell in each of our hearts. But we tend to follow our minds too much.

    People should question those who are selling the weapon, regardless of its nature.

    1. Hopefully I’m not boring anyone, because I am sincere in trying to believe in what you believe because it is so tragic. At the same time giving others a chance to understand where a simple guy like me comes from. (I own guns, believe in Jesus Christ, I’m a Capitalist – yet it is operating an environmental protection business and love my uncle and cousin who are both gay…) A walking contradiction in many ways.
      Scouser, I am right there with you on the good things dwelling inside of all of us and getting everyone kind of in tune understanding we don’t need to kill each other. But there is also inherently a raw, scrappy side to all of us to if we’re provoked enough.
      So my mind is not made up yet, but I go back to my original point that if we want everyone to get along, starting with training our kids, where does Hollywood, the music industry and gaming industry play a part in all of that?
      Pay attention to each movie that has come out or is coming out in the next month or so and tell me that the content of these shows don’t play a role.
      But infringing on the 1st Amendment is a pretty big deal. Just like the 2nd.

    1. Then you are quite probably equally as insane as thet Remy Cano cat. Get yer own fucking opinions ye bad bellend. Jesus…some people. Whats the point in them?

  8. This was an opportunity to go beyond regurgitating talking points. It was to explore the possibility that what people do is a result of what people think. My point is that we are missing a huge opportunity to change what goes into the heads of our children and young adults by paying attention to what occupies their heads. As of November 2011 over 100 million copies of call of duty has sold and I’m sure many more since then.
    You get a chance to see the video from all the Hollywood actors decrying the violence playing out with guns, yet they glorify it in their characters? Do you at the very least recognize that this may play a part in the violence that fills the heads of some of our youths?
    For the record, my declaration of being a christian is an admission of being imperfect, not a judging asshole, of which you must have had experience with.

    Lastly, we are more alike than different and I carry a gun for the same reason President Obama’s handlers carry a gun: to protect me from the crazy bastards that this society is producing.

  9. President Obama and his ‘handlers’ (jesus is this real) are all insane. They create what you call ‘crazy bastards’ in fact they encourage them. Your government wants you to be a fearfull gun toting cartoon character.

    Untill you accept that fact then you can be happy that you are a complete idiot.

  10. Scouser- I see your mind is made up and closed as well.
    Very well, I am a proud insane idiot and all should see you as the example of logical thinking.
    Best of luck in your black and white world.

  11. Arms has a definition and essentially includes man portable things other than explosives. Explosives fall under the category of ordnance. The whole muskets thing is a shitty argument as it would imply that the first amendment wouldn’t apply to TV, radio or the internet.

  12. I would also like to point out that the violent crime rate in the UK is ~1,700 per 100,000 and in the US it is closer to 450 per 100,000. I don’t think it is honest to only look at the gun murder rate while ignoring the bigger picture.

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