We have become the culture of the gun. Violence is an acceptable solution to our problems.
It’s difficult for me to write about this since I am a gun owner. Most of my guns are inherited. My handgun was purchased intentionally after a robbery in the nineties. It felt like I needed protection. My 30.06 was a result of backlash from 9/11. I figured I needed to be ready to go all Rambo, claim some public lands, and get self-sufficient just in case the world fell apart. I’ve never actually used the guns for any specific purpose. I don’t hunt and no one has ever threatened me directly. I’m such a wuss that I’m not even sure I cold gut a deer or clean a fish. I guess I keep guns around as an insurance policy.
But other people actually use guns. Mostly for law enforcement but usually for much more nefarious purposes.
I was surprised last year when no action was taken after the tragic shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords occurred. The shooter used an extended clip designed for the sole purpose of inflicting as much damage as possible on as many targets that were available. It was only after he expended his ammunition clip that he was able to be subdued. Let’s not candy-coat this: he wanted to kill as many people as possible. And he succeeded. Could we have avoided this?
Representative Giffords is making a miraculous recovery for which, I’m sure, there is national thankfulness. But why isn’t there a national outrage? Who needs clips that hold thirty rounds? Why hasn’t there been an effort to outlaw those types of accouterments? At the very least, the NRA could police themselves and ban thirty round clips. But no, they think any restriction is a an abrogation of second amendment rights and they vehemently oppose all opposition to the second amendment. The NRA believes that any restriction is tantamount to tyranny. It’s better that Gabrielle Giffords is brain damaged and others are dead including a nine year old girl rather than change gun laws. Does that make sense?
The second amendment has been usurped. It was designed to instill a militia against the British (who are now our allies). Gun ownership is no longer an imperative; it’s a luxury. Yes, yes, hunting. I was raised in that culture and know the argument. But let’s move beyond that excuse. It does not take thirty rounds in a handgun to bring down a deer (unless you really suck at hunting).
And it doesn’t just begin with Gabby Giffords. A young seventeen year old boy was gunned down in Florida a few weeks ago. He was being stalked by a self-appointed neighbourhood watchman who eventually shot and killed him based upon a rationale that the young man, who was talking on a cell phone to his girlfriend at the time, was some sort of threat.
There’s a whole host of racial stuff involved there but for the sake of this argument, let’s focus on the gun aspect. Florida law says you have the right to kill someone that you perceive is an eminent threat to you. The problem then becomes just how you define who is threatening you.
Gun ownership in the south is ubiquitous. It’s almost mandatory. It’s a sort of right of passage.
And then there is our foreign policy. Last week Sargeant Bales left his post and murdered 17 Afghanistan citizens. You can make all manner of excuses for those actions. Perhaps it was a result of post traumatic stress disorder. Maybe it was a pre-meditated means to bring about the close to a long running war in a country where other nations have been bankrupted. Maybe Bales just snapped.
Or maybe, we have become such a culture of the gun that Bales’ actions were inevitable. We’ve been at war for most of my adult lifetime. Because we can. Because it’s profitable. Because we like to police the world. Sure, we do it under the auspices of freedom; the protection of liberty, God, and whatever other bullshit we self-righteously project upon the world.
It’s as though our liberties have superseded the ethics that are the foundation of our moral code. Making war on other counties has become our business. Profits and protecting our righteousness justify killing others. As a consequence, we’ve created a society that makes Sergeant Bales possible. We’ve created a society that wants to punish Bradley Manning with death because he tries to alert us to the wrongful deeds of our military. We’ve embraced a society that allows crazy people to gun down as many individuals as possible in a town square meeting and yet we take no action to stop future occurrences because of some archaic need to defend ourselves from an ancient foe. We’ve accepted that profiling a black kid in a hoodie talking to his girlfriend on a cellphone as a threat is okay. You can kill such a person even if you’re wrong. It’s okay because we’ve become the culture of the gun.
Here’s the rub; what if we didn’t have guns? We haven’t even tried envisioning that. Yes, we’ve evolved from a history of protecting ourselves from others with guns by using guns but what if we moved past that? What if that was something we could envision? I’ve lived nearly half a century without needing a gun (yet believing I needed one because I was told it was necessary). Let’s continue that argument; what if we stopped waging wars? What would that be like?
Those are rhetorical, utopian questions of course but why not entertain them? I’m not advocating undoing the second amendment but I am calling into question the fact that we don’t restrict gun use in this country. State Representatives and their constituents are targets. Teenagers are fair game because of their race. We push people to the breaking point to where they kill innocent citizens in another country while simultaneously demanding that we kill people who warn us about such occurrences. We’re number five on the list of countries that executes its people, right behind China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.
And yet, we do nothing about it. I’m not sure what that says about us as a society. But I am sure that we cannot continue to claim that we are a civilized culture without addressing it.