Let's take a break from our various cultural, literary and underground obsessions to turn to something a bit more topical and important, OK? Like everyone, I'm of course horrified by Friday's hideous, sickening mass murder in Connecticut. This morning, I read four brief stories - news from just yesterday - that underscore the United States' orgiastic obsession with guns and the tipping point that's been reached in our ability to tolerate that obsession in a healthy society:
- "...An Oklahoma high school student was in custody on Saturday on charges that he plotted to shoot students at Bartlesville High School on the same day 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School..."
- "...A man opened fire Saturday at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, wounding a police officer and two employees...."
- "...A man fatally shot a woman and then killed himself at the Excalibur hotel-casino on the Las Vegas strip, sending many patrons fleeing in fear...."
- "...Alabama police shot and killed an assailant armed with an AK-47 assault rifle at the end of a pursuit Saturday that began after three males were fatally shot at a trailer home...."
I keep hearing commentators who are nominally in favor of gun control doing their mealy-mouthed equivocal best to kowtow to the middle ground by saying things like, "Oh no no no, no one is advocating taking away Americans' right to own a gun". You know what? I actually do want to take away your right to own a gun. I'd like to take it away tomorrow if I could. I don't believe I'm alone by any means. I want everyone to wake up from our centuries-long stupor to ask themselves what sort of society they want to live in, and what sort of "rights" you want to demand as an individual: the right to own more guns that were manufactured with the express purpose of killing human beings? Or the right to be protected from them, and to live your life more free from worry that you'll be mass-executed at the movies, at school or at the mall?
Just as the founders and builders of this country believed at various times that women weren't truly citizens and that non-whites were virtually subhuman, they also believed that the right to own a gun was sacrosanct in the nascent, oppressor-fighting United States of the late 1700s. We shake our heads a how unevolved we were then with regard to human rights, but guns? We really still believe, with the history of this country's violence unspooled before us over the past 200+ years (to say nothing of 2012's many atrocities), that we're better off as a people with guns everywhere rather than nowhere?
My libertarian philosophies say, and have always said: Your freedoms end where mine begin, and vice versa. I have the right to live my life in peace and without fear, and so do you. Our communities and children are not better off with legal guns than they'd be without them. I'm firmly convinced that we as a people could survive the transition to a gun-free society quite easily, even if it happened tomorrow morning, and only the intellectually stunted would wring their hands and gnash their teeth over the loss of the hot steel that boosts their testosterone and bolsters their fragile egos.
When people say that guns are necessary to protect themselves in the event of an intruder, I say bullshit. Your gun may in theory protect you from being shot and killed when each and every circumstance aligns in perfect harmony, and no doubt that even happens from time to time. Yet it has been proven time and again, and makes absolute logical sense, that a house with a gun in it is a more dangerous household than one without one. I recommend that you read this short article. Money quote: "Most gun murders at home are perpetrated not by an intruder but by a member of the family or an acquaintance. One only has to ponder for a minute to realize that a squabble is more likely to be resolved by discussion and compromise if there is no gun available to end it quickly."
There's also the mental health fallacy. While I absolutely support rapid breakthroughs and discoveries in the science and practice of treating mental health issues, I reject the "early intervention" red herring that's getting so much play by people desperately looking to change the subject. It doesn't take much to imagine how this desired "early intervention" in the lives of the depressed or troubled plays out in practice, vis-a-vis preventing the next massacre. It's too easy for overzealous mental health professionals, backed by the power of the state, to label a sullen teen or a quiet loner a menace to society, and to curtail their freedom of movement accordingly. Better science and non-coercive treatment, yes. More aggressive labeling and ostracism, no. Is it really too much to ask to simply make it impossible for them to buy a gun? And while we're at it, not let you or me buy one either?
Americans have proven by our recent history that we cannot, by and large, be trusted with easily-available firearms that were manufactured with the express purpose of maiming and killing other human beings - as opposed to, say, deer hunting rifles. Because politics is the art of the possible, and no one will let me ban all guns from the United States tomorrow morning (the way I'd like to), we'll have to focus on expending energies on everything we can possibly get away with. Ban assault rifles. Ban and enforce unlicensed dealers. Ban open market-bazaar gun shows. Shame and humiliate NRA-sucking political toadies. Embrace and encourage politicians willing to be brave enough to effect change (even if you disagree with them on other things). Mount every possible legal and political challenge to the absurd "strict-constitutionalist" 1700s reading of the Second Amendment. Mock and humiliate gun lovers in Freudian terms and tell 'em that their guns are substitute phalluses (just for fun).
And please - don't let Friday's atrocity fade from consciousness. There will be more, maybe even this week at the rate we're on - and just as America evolved and strengthened (or is working on evolving) around civil rights, gay rights and so on, so we can evolve around the right to not be violently murdered in first grade or at the midnight showing of Batman.