This will be a difficult post for me. I simply cannot stop thinking about the children and the families in Newtown, Connecticut. I can’t stop envisioning the parents walking past their child’s empty bedroom, filled with stuffed animals and probably a pair of tiny socks that didn’t make it into the hamper, and knowing that that bedroom will remain empty. I can’t stop imagining how these parents are stumbling across the Christmas presents hidden in that secret hiding place. Everywhere they turn they will see the evidence of their child’s existence. The Cap’n Crunch cereal. The juice boxes. The Legos. The Barbies. The candy wrapper under the bed.
My heart is breaking. And all I can think is This Has Got To Stop. What The Hell Is Wrong With Us? Because this is bigger than Adam Lanza and Jared Loughner and James Holmes. This is about how we’ve come to accept these events; how we almost take them in stride, because, you know… Freedom.
I’m so sick of that lame response. I’m sick of hearing about the freedom to arm yourself to the teeth because, you know… Government. I’m sick of hearing about how someone needs to 30 rounds per second because someone is trying to get you. I’m sick of responsible gun owners being in bed with with these paranoid, fantasy driven freaks who need to live, and act out, their delusions. And I’m sick of the body count.
We are about to bury 20 children and the NRA and pro-gun politicians have gone into hiding. They’ll hide behind their standard line, “How dare people politicize this tragedy!” But what they’re really saying is, “We don’t want to talk about this because then we’d have to change our ways. Let everything calm down and then we’ll go back to business as usual.” That’s the script, and it’s disgusting that a script actually exists for mass shootings.
The night before the Newtown massacre, Michigan moved on a law that would allow guns in schools, day care centers, churches and stadiums. Florida, as well as other states, has Stand Your Ground Laws. Why? The answer: Fear.
Actually, irrational fear. Irrational fear that is fed by the NRA, gun manufacturers (see ad below) and our legislature.
Take a look at some of these new laws. (Mother Jones has an interactive map.)
Bullets and booze: In Missouri, law-abiding citizens can carry a gun while intoxicated and even fire it if “acting in self-defense.”
Child-safety lock off: In Kansas, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools and at school-sponsored activities.
Short arm of the law: In Utah, a person under felony indictment can buy a gun, and a person charged with a violent crime may be able to retain a concealed weapon permit. Nebraskans who’ve pled guilty to a violent crime can get a permit to carry a gun.
Sweet Jesus! In Louisiana, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside houses of worship.
Without a trace: Virginia not only repealed a law requiring handgun vendors to submit sales records, but the state also ordered the destruction of all such previous records.
These laws are about putting more guns into the hands of more people in more places. If you feel the need to carry a gun in a bar, or while intoxicated, or in a school or church, then you aren’t a “responsible” gun owner. But the responsible gun owner is a dying breed.
As most of you know, as a cop’s kid I grew up with guns. I have family and friends who own guns and who hunt and some who like to go to the shooting range. Most of the gun owners I know are responsible, and most are not defined by their guns. But there’s a new breed of gun owner out there – a breed that wallows in tactical lingo and lives in a fantasy world where they’re the last defense against the loss of freedom. Let’s just start saying it: They are a paranoid group who shouldn’t own guns.
A writer at TPM says it best:
The gun culture that we have today in the U.S. is not the gun culture, so to speak, that I remember from my youth. It’s too simple to say that it’s “sick;” it’s more accurately an absurd fetishization. I suppose that the American Gunfighter, in all of his avatars, is inescapably fetishistic, but (to my point) somewhere along the way – maybe in, uh, 1994? – we crossed over into Something Else: let’s call it Gonzo Fetishization. The American Gunfighter as caricature.
The folks I interacted with as a pre-adolescent and – less so – as a teen owned guns because their fathers had owned guns before them; because they’d grown up hunting and shooting; and because – for most of them – it was an experience (and a connection) that they wanted to pass on to their sons and daughters.
And that’s my point: I can’t remember seeing a semi-automatic weapon of any kind at a shooting range until the mid-1980’s. Even through the early-1990’s, I don’t remember the idea of “personal defense” being a decisive factor in gun ownership. The reverse is true today: I have college-educated friends – all of whom, interestingly, came to guns in their adult lives – for whom gun ownership is unquestionably (and irreducibly) an issue of personal defense. For whom the semi-automatic rifle or pistol – with its matte-black finish, laser site, flashlight mount, and other “tactical” accoutrements – effectively circumscribe what’s meant by the word “gun.” At least one of these friends has what some folks – e.g., my fiancee, along with most of my non-gun-owning friends – might regard as an obsessive fixation on guns; a kind of paraphilia that (in its appetite for all things tactical) seems not a little bit creepy. Not “creepy” in the sense that he’s a ticking time bomb; “creepy” in the sense of…alternate reality. Let’s call it “tactical reality.”
The “tactical” turn is what I want to flag here. It has what I take to be a very specific use-case, but it’s used – liberally – by gun owners outside of the military, outside of law enforcement, outside (if you’ll indulge me) of any conceivable reality-based community: these folks talk in terms of “tactical” weapons, “tactical” scenarios, “tactical applications,” and so on. It’s the lingua franca of gun shops, gun ranges, gun forums, and gun-oriented Youtube videos. (My god, you should see what’s out there on You Tube!) Which begs my question: in precisely which “tactical” scenarios do all of these lunatics imagine that they’re going to use their matte-black, suppressor-fitted, flashlight-ready tactical weapons? They tend to speak of the “tactical” as if it were a fait accompli; as a kind of apodeictic fact: as something that everyone – their customers, interlocutors, fellow forum members, or YouTube viewers – experiences on a regular basis, in everyday life. They tend to speak of the tactical as reality.
And I think there’s a sense in which they’ve constructured their own (batshit insane) reality.
One in which we have to live.
And gun manufacturers feed into this.
And there you go. We are at war, so you better buy your gun – actually, you’ll need guns, plural, because one ain’t enough. Oh yeah, the gun manufacturers are feeding delusions for profits.
Yes, there are other circumstances that feed into these nightmares, but the new breed of gun owner has not only stocked up on guns, they’ve stocked up on tin foil. And it’s past time for truly responsible gun owners to stand up against this group hiding among them.
And no, I’m not claiming we’ll be able to stop all violence. I am asking that we stop romanticizing violence across the board. I’m asking that we stop acting as if all we can do is shrug when these events happen.
Twenty children and six adults will be buried this week. Surely we can manage more than a shrug? Surely we can manage more than cowardly hiding behind the word Freedom. Surely we can live in a world where those 26 dead children and adults’ rights are equal to Adam Lanza’s and his mother’s – who I am beyond furious with. Because she helped create this monster:
She wasn’t just into guns. She was apparently stocked up for when the economy collapses and when everyone’s on their own with their guns.
I have no sympathy for Adam Lanza, but looking at his mother’s paranoid mindset explains a lot. So while I don’t like violent video games, movies or music the answer to this massacre lies closer to home.