Friday, December 14, 2012

OUR SELF-RIGHTEOUS DISGUST IS NOT HELPING, EITHER

As I'm sure you know, there's been another mass shooting today -- one of the worst we've had in a while, with at least 26 dead, including 18 elementary-school children. It's horrible.

But we know, of course, what follows mass shootings, because it's so predictable. I don't think the usual NRA folks have started telling us that the death toll would have been lowered if Connecticut had less strict gun control, or allowed teachers and school administrators to carry concealed weapons in the elementary school, but you know that's coming. (Coincidentally, just last night the Republican-dominated Michigan state legislature passed a bill allowing trained gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools, churches, day care centers, and stadiums.)

Accompanying that will be pro-gun outrage at anyone who tries to (in the gunners' words) "politicize" the shooting by demanding more gun control. (White House spokesman Jay Carney has already tried to preempt that message by conceding the gunners' point: in his news conference today, he refused to entertain questions about gun control, saying "today is not the day" to have such discussions.)

So we'll get a chest-thumping defense of the Second Amendment from one side, and craven surrender from politicians on the other side -- as usual. But we also have a third ritualized response: many of the rest of us are going to stamp our feet and ask when the politicians are going to do something -- anything! -- about all this violence. Dammit, when is it "the day" to talk about gun violence?

Which doesn't help, either. These pronouncements are now just part of the ritual response to every school shooting. And the gun status quo never changes.

I don't know what needs to happen, but our standard conservation isn't getting it done.

We have some laws that are presumably keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, but some of our most notorious shooters (James Holmes, Jovan Belcher) didn't have criminal records. We have strict gun laws in a number of states, but as long as we have interstate highways and we don't post armed guards at every stare border, guns will get into states with strict gun laws. So who's got an answer?

We may need to change our gun culture. Guns are tools -- but much of the country doesn't see them that way. Much of the country sees a gun as both a religious object and a really awesome adult toy -- a combination Holy Grail and red Corvette. Read anything written by pro-gun types and you see this alternation between piety and toy-lust. To me, a gun is like a chainsaw or an acetylene torch. It's useful for certain things. It has a place in society if the owner handles it extremely carefully. Otherwise, it has the potential to be a menace to society.

I'm writing about the "respectable" gun culture, but there's also the badass (and badass-wannabe) gun culture. That consists of criminals and people who aren't criminals but romanticize violence and crime. But the "respectable" gun culture makes sure there's an overabundance of weaponry available to that culture.

And the "respectable" gun culture makes sure that plenty of weapons are available to anyone who's decided that his days of living a law-abiding life are coming to an end today, or tomorrow, or at some point in the near future. The mass shooters usually seem to fall into that category.

I've seen it said that what we need to do is stop giving media attention to mass shooters. Maybe there's something to that -- don't reveal their names, don't do feature stories on them, don't show their faces, as a voluntary way of depriving them of the ubermensch oxygen they crave. I'm not recommending censorship -- I'm just saying that maybe if we have a cultural consensus that we won't give them media face time, the way baseball broadcasters no longer show idiots who run onto the field, maybe they won't see this sort of thing as a quick ticket to a blaze of glory.

Apart from that, and apart from all the standard-issue pro-gun-control hand-wringing I've done on this blog over the years, I'm fresh out of ideas. Anybody?

12 comments:

tony in san diego said...

If shooting a Congresswoman didn't do it, do you think a bunch on little non-voters is going make a difference?

Lex Alexander said...

LaPierre suggested that Kasandra Perkins might still be alive if she'd owned a gun. As it happens, she and Jovan Belcher, gun hobbyists, owned eight between them.

No larger point here, except that maybe LaPierre is a bigger robot than Mitt Romney ever was.

Lit3Bolt said...

Sorry to see you turning into a cheese-eating surrender monkey on this issue.

Besides, mass shootings are just BORING now in America, aren't they? They're dull and predictable, and nothing will change, so it's time to turn the page, and heal. As much as the sores and scar tissue will allow.

The media is a much easier and much softer target, but on this issue, asking them not to sensationalize mass shootings is like asking them not to sensationalize a US or Israeli war. Not gonna happen.

Steve M. said...

No, it's not "time to turn the page, and heal." It's time to accept the painful reality that we as a society will never do a goddamn thing about gun violence, so we might as well just get used to the culture of violence we've inflicted on ourselves.

Victor said...

If we can't outlaw guns, why don't we outlaw bullets?

There is NO Constitutional right to bear/have bullets.

If bullets are outlawed, only outlaws would have bullets.

Either that, or, since the Bill of Rights was written in 1787, why not limit, for average citizens, replica's of guns available back then?
Everyone can have as many flint-lock pistols, muzzlebusters, and long-rifles, that have to have a ball put in, after having put in the gunpowder, and then tamping it down, and pulling the trigger.

That would work for me.
Try hiding a muzzlebuster in your pocket.

The New York Crank said...

What it takes is a long, intense, unrelenting campaign not only to change the gun laws, but to brand every lawmaker and lobbyist who supports the current insanity as an enabler, a political prostitute, and a murderer who is as guilty of the crime as Adolph Eichmann was of genocide, even though he personally never gassed anybody (to the best of my knowledge.)

Name name. Repeat the names of those who facilitate murder. Early and often. Label the legislators for what they are: gun lobby whores.

More about this on my own blog, after you finish reading this one.

Righteously cranky,
The New York Crank

Lit3Bolt said...

Here's an idea.

We don't sensationalize mass shootings enough.

No one sees the room full of bodies.

No one sees the blank eyes of a child with a hole in her head.

No one sees the murderer who killed himself to escape justice.

No one is traumatized, but instead it's treated as exciting and fun with big police officers in super neat SWAT gear to...clean up the bodies.

In my mind, there's not enough pictures of dead children. America is treated to all of the excitement of gun violence but none of the responsibility.

I mean, if you're liberal, and you've given up on gun control, you might as well delete your blog.

Gun ownership is declining, and gun violence is declining. No one is saying ban guns. What we are saying is mandatory psych evals. Age limits. Gun training and tests. Ban ammunition sales online and higher magazines.

These are specific, concrete goals and should be advocated for. But you refuse because you're tired and frustrated and want to have a sad about how useless this fight is.

So forgive me as not seeing that as a appropriate public response to yet another gun tragedy.

Steve M. said...

These are specific, concrete goals and should be advocated for.

They are advocated for. None of them pass. None of them, on the present trajectory, will ever pass. Come back to me with a plan for getting these ideas past legislators who are scared shitless of the NRA, and I'm all ears. Spare me the righteous indignation. I want a plan. A concrete plan -- I'd love to learn about one.

The New York Crank said...

I beg to differ Steve — and to repeat myself here — but this *is* a plan:

."..a long, intense, unrelenting campaign not only to change the gun laws, but to brand every lawmaker and lobbyist who supports the current insanity as an enabler, a political prostitute, and a murderer who is as guilty of the crime as Adolph Eichmann was of genocide, even though he personally never gassed anybody (to the best of my knowledge.)"

Name names. Repeat the names of those in Congress and local legislatures who facilitate gun murder. Early and often. Label the legislators for what they are: gun lobby whores.

In short, Steve, you can't change laws until you change the legislators' perceptions of how they will be viewed and what effect that will have on voters if the laws don't get changed.

Repeat after me — preferably in the headlines of No More Mr. Nice Blog – Eric Cantor is a gun lobby whore and a murderer and a gun pervert. Say it out loud. Then write it down. Try it, you'll like it.

By the way, never say "gun owner," says, "gun pervert." Early and often. Rinse and repeat. Day after day.

Get it?

Very crankily yours,
The New York Crank

Steve M. said...

Calling people Nazis doesn't strike me as a plan that's likely to be effective. No, let me qualify that: Calling people Nazis doesn't strike me as a plan that's likely to be effective for liberals and moderates. It worked just fine for the tea party in the 2010 midterms. But it would never work for the rest of us.

On the other hand, getting off the defensive might work. It might be happening. We'll see, and we'll see if it upsets the current status quo.

Mike said...

Three concrete suggestions, based on one idea: Civilization is not a place where you feel the need to carry deadly force on your person at all times. It's a place where you feel free from that need.

1) Require every gun owner to carry liability insurance to cover anyone killed or injured by their gun.

2) Break the back of the NRA as a political organization. Call or write your representatives. Ask if they accept NRA money. Don't ask them to give it back. Do tell them that if they accept more in the future, you will not support them and will organize against them. Make it clear that this is not a Second Amendment issue, but an NRA issue and that the NRA is abusing the Second Amendment in the same way that someone making a *lot* of money by publicly posting child pornography would be abusing the First Amendment.

3) Repeal the Second Amendment. No, I'm not kidding. Make the case that there is no "human rights" issue about guns; if there were, we'd issue them to everyone. It's fundamentally unlike the right to freedom of speech or religion. If it's about "protecting yourself from tyranny", then you'd have to support personal ownership of everything right up through drones and nukes, because you're not going to defend yourself against a tiny fraction of the military of *any* modern nation without that. Also, it's not 1776 any more. Then, you could have a group of colonists who could reasonably have an arsenal that was both useful to them in everyday life and provide rough parity or force with a bunch of Redcoats who would come marching down the lane. Let's get over that particular bit of mythology and start talking about the issue like grown ups.

Oh, and a bonus, though much less actionable: push back against the gun mythology. Point out, over and over again, that even in Dodge City people didn't walk around the streets carrying guns. When they came in off the trail, they checked their guns with the sheriff before heading off to the saloon, because it was pretty obvious to everybody that a bunch of guys who just came in off the trail drunk might be a handful, but a bunch of guys who just came in off the trail drunk and armed was a massacre in waiting. Our legislators today are not so bright; Ohio recently passed a law saying that someone with a concealed carry permit can legally take their gun into a bar as long as they don't drink. How the bartender is supposed to know not to serve them is a question left for the reader, or perhaps the coroner.

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