Another week, another mass shooting. The biggest one in recent history, the headlines tell us. And while it’s awfully, tragically familiar, I draw some small portion of comfort from the fact that I’m not so numb that I don’t feel angry and disgusted.
In the TV series American Gods, there’s a scene where a faulty railing at a weapons factory gives way, a middle manager falls into the molten metal below, and eventually the insurance company settles with the victim’s family. All of this is because there’s a god of guns, and he needs the occasional human sacrifice. When it aired, some people lost their shit over it, because rawr rawr rawr Holy Second Amendment and how dare you bad-mouth guns, which have never done anything bad?
And then another shooting happens, in Las Vegas or Orlando or Blacksburg and you realize that the authors’ error lay in him only demanding one sacrifice, not twenty or fifty or a hundred.
I got into a discussion about this today. I say “a discussion” and not “an argument” because I did try to remain civil, to listen to the pro-gun side, and see what they had to say. I didn’t want to stereotype gun advocates, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised before, so who knows?
Unfortunately, what I got was long on rhetoric and short on facts. My interlocutor was apparently quite willing to have shooting after shooting after bloody shooting in order to preserve his right to have whatever kind of gun he deemed fit.
He kept bringing up self-defense, which is fair. But surely you don’t need a semi-automatic to defend yourself against muggers, rapists, and burglars, do you? So he pointed me at an article about why yes, you do.
The post starts out laying out some basics, including the fact that in the case of a burglary or home invasion, the main thing is to stop the intruder from intruding, and whether that involves him being shot or killed, well, that’s a secondary issue. But the point of the article is to explain why a handgun isn’t sufficient:
Now you can shoot somebody once with a feeble handgun round, and instantly incapacitate them. Great. You won. But on the same token, we’ve got people that have been shot a dozen times with duty ammo who walk under their own power into the ambulance. Humans are amazing.
So if people can be so amazing, and I want to stop them right now, then I want to maximize the amount of trauma I inflict on them. This is where rifle caliber carbines and shotguns rule.
This is where I call bullshit. This is an action movie plot, not a real-life category of crime that we should be worried about. This isn’t a thing. If it is, show me the stats. Show me the stats on burglars who take two or five or ten bullets and keep coming. From the FBI or CDC, not your Walking Dead fanfic.
Which leads me to my gun debate challenge: If you’re going to argue for gun rights, do it in the form of a letter to the parent of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook. Begin with “Your child died because …”, and make your case for who should be able to own which weapons, and how you propose to prevent abuse, and deal with the inevitable mistakes. And if you’re not a garbage human, you’ll at least try to end with “… so that fewer parents have to endure the heartbreak that you did.”
I also got the inevitable “guns are for shooting at government representatives in case of “tyranny” line. But while I’m not unsympathetic to this line of reasoning, the fact is, that ship sailed long ago. It may have been possible, in the XVIII c., to envision a citizen militia posing a serious threat to the federal government, in the 21st century, the idea is laughable.
Look at Ruby Ridge. At the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. At Afghanistan. At Iraq. At Cliven Bundy, and at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. As much as people complain about needless violence and death, and rightly so, still, in every case, the US government is holding back.
I think the closest analogy to what the people arguing “tyranny” have in mind is Afghanistan: loosely-organized, highly-motivated coalitions of citizen fighters waging a guerrilla war against the US military. And yet, the US does not engage in Dresden-style carpet bombing. It uses memes (what used to be called propaganda) to try to win hearts ad mind. It uses satellites and reconnaissance to try to distinguish friend from foe, and limit civilian casualties. But all that is thousands of miles away from the average mainland American, who hasn’t been asked to help the war effort by planting a victory garden or collecting scrap iron, as in World War II.
Now, imagine that, by some miracle, the rebels grow stronger, and the “tyrannical” Government decides that its very survival is at stake so it stops holding back, stops trying to take them alive. The rebels hold Fort Knox, and have all of the Uzis and Kalashikovs they think Obama confiscated, and who knows how many buildings full of bullets?
Against that, the US military has several thousand Tomahawk cruise missiles, just to name one off the top of my head. And bombers, and drones, and nukes. What I’m getting at is that the US military is very very powerful, and very very good at its job when it wants to be, and its job is to ruin your day in the worst possible way.
So yeah, I’m not buying your argument of shooting at federal employees because of “tyranny”. Power fantasies are not a solid basis for public policy. You’d think that would be obvious, but apparently it needs to be repeated:
Power fantasies are not a solid basis for public policy
, you fuckers.
I get standing for principle. I do it all the time. I even agree with Ben Franklin’s dictum that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. But note that he didn’t say, “don’t give up an inch of Liberty”. It doesn’t even say, “don’t trade Liberty for Safety”. What it does say is, if you’re giving up some measure of liberty, make sure it’s worth it.
Yeah, I get that you want to protect yourself and your family. I also get that it’s fun to shoot guns. But if that Liberty means a permanent loss of Safety such that we have to endure one mass shooting after another, until the pictures of dead children all run together, then the price is too damn high.
To quote The Onion
, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”. Literally every other first world nation on the globe has figured this out.
So that’s where I now stand: if you’re going to argue for gun rights, you have to explain yourself to the parents of a dead child. Have at it.