Another mass shooting in America — Eight murdered at a Fed Ex facility in Indianapolis — and the news media needs to know: “What’s the motive?” As if the gunman’s particular issue with the world would explain why he reacted exactly as he did. Our news media is good at wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth at these moments. But they’re guilty of giving credence to bullshit arguments. I’m old enough to remember when they’d regularly give climate science deniers equal time because, hey — they have a “point of view” so therefore because they have it, it must be valid. Here, as always, on one side is a majority of Americans who do not own guns and resent the fact that gun owners can’t keep their damned killing machines to themselves. On the other side are gun owners whose hair catches fire immediately because, damn it, as former NRA president Chuck Heston put it, we can try and pry their guns from their cold, dead fingers.
What is this mania to have guns in the first place? Yeah, sure — out in rural America, something or other. That seems to be the argument’s meat: we’re different. We’re threatened by neighbors who live miles away and by strangers we’ve never met. In case those zombie-people come, swarming by the dozens, those guns will be all that stands between us and the zombie apocalypse.
America’s gun problem is borderline intractable in large part because we’ve spent so long giving credence to bullshit arguments about guns. Rather than dismiss fears of marauders out of hand, we indulge this nonsense. We nod along to their white terror: “Oh, yes, of course it could happen — Black or brown people are probably plotting right this second to break into your house and eat your children for lunch. Have all the weaponry you want!” The data says that won’t happen. But — the data again — it could happen that one of those guns ends up killing someone who live in the house — by way of an accident or suicide or a moment of intra-familial rage.
That’s the other lie about guns that our news media happily propagates — that “responsible gun owners” don’t have these problems. There is no such thing as “responsible gun ownership”. Nancy Lanza thought she was a responsible gun owner until her son Adam shot her with her own legally purchased Bushmaster XM15 semi-automatic rifle before taking that weapon — and ten magazines with 30 rounds each to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Adam Lanza used a gun to resolve his emotional problems. Whatever was bothering him, he became convinced that the solution to it would spit from the muzzle of that Bushmaster.
Nobody turns a gun on other people — on strangers or on people they know — because they’re happy with them. You point a death machine — that’s what a gun is by design — at someone in order to threaten them. Do what they say or they’ll kill you with that gun. Gun violence killed 20,000 Americans last year. That’s a lot of anger. Another 24,000 Americans used guns to commit suicide. If the guns that were used to end those 44,000 lives hadn’t been available, how many of those people would still be here today? Most of them, that’s who — if not all of them.
Our gun laws all flow directly from our racism. If white people thought for two seconds that, say, Black people were arming themselves to the teeth the way white people already have? They’d re-write the gun laws just like that. Here’s my “let’s make a deal” to gun world: I’ll be honest if you will. Yes, in a perfect world, I admit it: I would insist that we carry out the Second Amendment to the letter. We’d arrange for a “well regulated militia” to formally take over the job of deciding who among the citizenry will be permitted to “keep” or “bear” the militia’s arms. The arms, you see, would BELONG to the militia; the word “own” doesn’t appear in the Second Amendment. Do you suppose that’s an accident? I don’t. The word “own” was perfectly good back then. Yet, strangely, they didn’t use that word to describe anyone’s relationship with a gun — as its “owner”.
Maybe the Constitution’s framers understood that some people couldn’t be trusted to have a gun in their hands. They might want to be in the militia but the militia wouldn’t want them; they’re nuts.
The whole tone of the gun rights argument smacks of emotional neediness. Virtually none of these people need their guns for “protection”. C’mon — I was honest — I said I’d take most guns. The other side needs to be honest, too: they need to confess why they REALLY feel threatened enough to “keep” a death machine within reach. What do they REALLY feel threatened by?
I write this as a suicide survivor. I tried to step in front of a bus. It seemed, in the moment, a sure thing. It wasn’t. Ah, but if I’d had a gun — I’d have been 2020’s suicide gun death number 24,001.