Monday, October 5, 2015

The God of the Gun

Well, here we are, looking at yet another gun massacre committed by some disturbed young man who thinks that fame awaits his memory if he just kills people.

President Obama asked people to consider what we fear from terrorism, versus what we fear from guns.  CNN put this together to show the relative risk:

We apparently have no qualms about giving up our freedom and civil liberties to respond to terrorist threats.  But guns?  All we hear is SECOND AMENDMENT!!! SQUAWK!

Imagine you’re at a gun show, standing in line behind four guys: a recently released felon, a terrorist on the FBI’s terrorism watch list, a man convicted of beating his wife unconscious, and a guy muttering about “hearing voices” who has been legally designated mentally ill. 
Right now in many states, all four men could take their pick of sophisticated weapons, plunk down their cash, and stride out the door without looking back. 
Would that freak you out? Yeah, me, too. And we’re not alone: Ninety-two percent of Americans, including 85 percent of NRA members, agree that every gun sale should require a universal background check, no matter where you buy it.
Sure, some bad guys will still get guns.  But you know what?  It's generally not the bad guys walking into the university classrooms and slaughtering people.  And the fact that we can't fix all gun crimes with a modest policy doesn't mean we shouldn't fix what we can.

As one who makes a living in a university classroom, frankly the idea that a disturbed student or outsider could get a gun and "solve" his problem that way, is terrifying.

American exceptionalism isn't just because of guns, but a perfect storm of lax gun laws and other ills.  So we murder far more people than nearly any other country, and certainly far more than other developed western democracies.  From the WaPo:

There is far more to both gun violence in general andmass shootings in particular than just guns. The absence of a universal healthcare has made the prison system the principal provider of mental healthcare in America. The mentally ill in the US are less likely to diagnosed, less likely to be treated and more likely to be criminalised than anywhere else in the western world. The presence of mass poverty, significant economic inequality and widespread racial segregation combine to produce desperation, resentment and fear.
Other countries have these problems to lesser or greater degrees. The difference is that no other country has these problems and then a huge stockpile of easily available weapons to virtually anybody who wants them. 
And so the requiem continues. A painful elegy for a nation careless enough to lose its innocence on a weekly basis, one which can expend extraordinary resources looking for water on Mars yet is apparently incapable of finding a way to keep its people safe in cinemas, colleges and churches.
There are sensible ways to restrict some access to guns without infringing on the rights of otherwise normal people who want have machines meant for killing:  limiting high-capacity magazines, for example, and more rigorous background checks.

But the conservative gun advocates are afraid that any sensible control of guns is the start of a slippery slope of gun confiscation.
How can it be that vast majorities of Americans, including gun owners, favor stricter background checks, and yet there’s not the political will to pass them?
Fear of government, apparently. And paranoia, if you think of it, is not a good fit with guns to begin with.
...focusing exclusively on the lobbying angle overlooks the very real fear and distrust with which many gun owners regard the government that drives much of the opposition to gun laws. Many of them simply don’t believe that enhanced background checks—or whatever other modest changes are proposed—are what they appear to be.
I have friends who are smart and sensible, but who are ardently opposed to any change in gun laws.  They seem to offer no solution to the massacres.  They don't like the solutions others offer, however modest, but they offer nothing themselves except more guns.

 I can only think that to them, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and Umpqua Community College are simply collateral damage, as they touch a handkerchief to their eye, and thank these children and young adults for their sacrifice to the God of the Gun.


JCF said...

Hearing Mercer's mother, in (pre-Umpqua shooting) online discussions decry "lame states" w/ gun laws, and boasting on how her arsenal was going to protect them from bad guys "dropping by unannounced", she sounded EXACTLY like Any Another 2nd Amendment Fanatic. [And then there's the Douglas Co Sherriff: he signed one of those Sovereign Citizen-type promises to not enforce any of "Obama's" gun laws! Maybe he won't say Christopher Harper Mercer's name, because that family is SO like himself???]

JCF said...

It IS a genuine conundrum: those who MOST insist on totally unfettered access to (any kind of) guns (and ammo), are among those LEAST mentally-balanced enough to possess guns. [Leading the Ruby Ridge/Waco type scenario: keeping an arsenal of guns leads to a shootout w/ (overmatched?) police trying to lawfully take away the guns.]

...and then the paranoid just go and get more guns. I don't have an answer. I'd say "at least, work on educating future generations" . . . but then 2nd Amendment Fanatics (aka "gun nuts") are also among those most likely to homeschool. Oy vey...

Kevin K said...

I don't think Ruby Ridge and Waco are examples that would encourage people who fear government overreaching to turn in their firearms.

JCF said...

Yes, KevinK, that's the problem: the people who ID more w/ the gun-obsessive cultists, than their democratically-elected government. Short of (or perhaps including!) putting Thorazine in their water supply, got any ideas?

Kevin K said...

I think the reason some gun obsessive cultists are identified with more than their democratically elected government results from shooting the cultists' toddlers in the head.

Kevin K said...

JCF, I think people may have some empathy for gun obsessive cultists whose children are shot by FBI snipers. Its a bit like saying why should people ID more with a very large young man who had robbed a convenience store and was subsequently shot after being stopped by the police. After all the police are representatives of a democratically elected government.

JCF said...

So you're endorsing using toddlers (or other innocents) as human shields? I suspect not, but that's how that comes across.

Kevin K said...

In this case, if the accounts are correct, the ten month old baby (so I was wrong when I said toddler) was being held by his mother who was in the doorway when shot. I haven't heard anything that suggest his or her use as a human shield or that she, or anyone else, were even returning fire. Are you aware of any thing supporting this. I could say, so you're endorsing militarized policing and shooting an uncharged woman holding her baby but I think that would be too harsh and unfair.

I can not help but note that people tend to be upset about things like abuse of police power and militarization of the police when violence strikes persons whose humanity they recognize. These legitimate concerns were raised after Ferguson. When people are dehumanized, say as right wing gun nuts, our empathy tends to slip away and it is easier to see killing them as alright. Of course, this cuts both ways as many people justify police violence when it is directed at racial minorities.

Kevin K said...

Testing...did my reply get deleted?

IT said...

Sorry, Kevin K, we have a filter set after about a week or so, otherwise we get spammed. I got a little behind approving comments!

Kevin K said...

I understand. Its not your day job. I just wanted to make sure I hadn't violated any rules.