Like many Americans, I have been following closely the discussion surrounding guns and gun rights that has been underway in the US since the massacre at Newtown. Few conversations taking place right now are more important, regardless of the outcome, and the limited number of role players taking place in the “national debate” makes it easy, and depressing, to follow.
The results of gun-violence in America are obvious. Every day people are killing others with guns. People purchase guns to protect themselves, but those guns are far more likely to be used in domestic violence than in self-defense. Every gun purchaser is responsible and could never have a gun used accidentally, or stolen, though such occurrences happen much more frequently than self-defense. Meanwhile, we carry bigger guns into more places with more bravado. This is not a conversation about hunting, about sportsmen, about recreational gun use, or the rights to protect our loved ones. We’re talking about being ready to kill at any moment.
Yesterday in Oakdale, MN (a St. Paul suburb) a man decided to walk out of this house with his gun, 200 rounds of ammo and some knives in a backpack, and start shooting at cars. He killed a 9 year-old boy. The police captured him, and he has given no evidence about why he did so. Has gun-violence simply become an option? This story is not unique. Not nationally, not even in the Twin Cities. Maybe this has always been so. But more and more does violence seem to be one of the choices being offered to American males. Why do we need these guns outside the home? Really?
Why are we so terrified that we need the metal against our skin? In the past, adults just complained about teenagers playing loud music. Now, they murder the teenagers over loud music. We called the cops on suspicious youths. Now, when told to stay put, we chase them down, engage them, shoot them dead. Maybe we’ve always done this. But it doesn’t seem like it.
Too many citizens in our nation seem like a bunch of terrified kids, some of whom have efficiently designed tools for killing. We are terrified, and if you are not terrified, well gun advocates are shouting as loud as they can: you should be. Take a look at this editorial by the gun salesman, Wayne LaPierre (via Think Progress). His advice is simple: Fear everything, all the time. Be scared of Latin drug-dealing kidnappers living in every city in America, and blame the President for not protecting you from them. Buy a gun. Al-Qaeda is coming through our Southern border, side by side with those drug lords. Get yourself a gun. The chaos of an un-policed world approaches; storms ravage and looters run wild. Get yourself a gun, people, because Obama’s taking cops off the street by bankrupting our country. Who will protect you from a world that only wants to see you dead? Only you, only with a gun.
This is the insanity. There’s no other word for it. Insanity drives the gun debate in the US. Recreational gun use, home protection, hunting, these subjects have no place in this conversation; the only purpose is driving fear to sell more guns. The gun lobby will do anything to get you to buy a weapon. They are re-drawing the world into a hell-scape reminiscent not of American life but of warfare waged by violent men lusting to take action against a world they believe wants them dead. But here’s a note worth taking: for the most part, nobody really cares what you’re up to, until you start brandishing your guns.
President Obama is not to blame for all the gun-violence taking place in the US. Neither, for that matter, is Wayne LaPierre. He’s just a gun salesman. Perpetrators of violence are to blame for their own actions. But the NRA, Wayne the Gun Salesman, the congressman and women and television pundits they pay, they are all partially responsible for making people afraid, then profiting off that fear. Which is the only goal I can see in these words, from Wayne the Gun Salesman’s editorial: “Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face—not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival. It’s responsible behavior, and it’s time we encourage law-abiding Americans to do just that.”
There it is: Not maybe. You WILL face death, all the time. So buy a gun. In the America that Wayne LaPierre inhabits, everyone, everywhere, needs a gun on their person all the time in order protect him or herself from everyone, everywhere who might have a gun on their person all the time. If we just open our eyes, we can see clearly that Wayne the Gun Salesman’s America is a fiction.