Friday, July 20, 2012

"Happiness is a Warm Gun"

 "Freedom comes out of the barrel of a gun." -- Mao Zedong

I agree with James Fallows in his online article on the Atlantic website, gun massacres like the one we saw this morning in Colorado will happen again, and that nothing will be done about it.
Fallows points out that the Brady Campaign's PDF list of all the mass shootings in the USA just since 2005 is 62 pages long.

I was never a gun enthusiast, but it's hard to grow up in Texas and not have some experience with guns.  I went out target shooting and skeet shooting when I was a kid (I was not a great shot).  I never went hunting, something you enjoy if your father enjoyed it, and mine didn't.  I didn't really enjoy guns like some other people did.  I don't own a gun, and I don't want one.

I'm not opposed to people owning guns, for sport, for hunting, and even for self-defense.  What I do oppose is the way-too-free market for guns, and the paranoid cult that has grown up around them, a cult so powerful that it automatically cancels out any decency and common sense when it comes to firearms and the rest of us, even in the face of a catastrophe that will alter the lives of families and of an entire town forever.

I think there should be at least as much involved in owning a gun as in owning a car.  "Waiting periods" are not enough and easy to evade.  I would have age limits; too young and too old cannot have a gun.  There should be a requirement that ownership be registered with an official deed that is in the public record.  There should be a license that says that the owner is competent to own and use a firearm.  This would include not only a background check for mental health and a criminal record, but certification of successful completion of training in the gun's safe use and storage.  Owners should be required to carry liability insurance.  I would take semi-automatic and automatic weapons (especially semi automatic and automatic handguns) off the market.  Those are weapons of war and not for sport.  This would be my bottom line for regulation and leave it to states and cities to add any more as they see fit.

Such regulations would not guarantee that gun massacres would never happen again, but they might make them less frequent.

I don't think this or any other gun regulation will happen anytime soon.  That industry lobby known as the NRA has as firm a lock on our political process as the financial industry.  I don't know anymore what it will take to get our government to shake off the inertia of corruption and to work for us instead of for patrons.

The notion driving the opposition to any gun regulation is that personal firearms guarantee democracy.  As in the days of the Frontier, the best guarantee of liberty is the gun hanging over the hearth, so the reasoning goes.  Whenever Tyranny rears its ugly head, a new generation of Minutemen will be there to meet it on Concord Green with rifles in hand.

And yet, in Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East, and Africa, people are swimming in guns and weapons.  Just about everyone in the Sudan, Congo, and Somalia is armed to the teeth.  By the logic of guns = democracy, those countries should be models of accountable government and domestic peace.

Those countries demonstrate to us that the surest guarantee of liberty and safety is the rule of law.  People in those places cling to their weapons because they have no law beyond that of survival of the fittest.   They have neither liberty nor safety.

The narcissism of the American gun cult is the stuff of comedy, and has been so for years now.  So many people see themselves as their own Marshall Dillon or Dirty Harry, the lone man with a gun taking the law into his own hands and making things right.  The problem is that a lot of the nutcases taking out restaurants and movie theaters see themselves in the same role.  Their victims are just "punks."

The big gaping hole in the American idea of Liberty is right there in the Gadsen flag so beloved by the Tea Party and other right wing Americans.  It says on the flag "Don't Tread on Me," and never "Don't Tread on Us."  We imagine Liberty as something that each of us owns personally and can hoard.  As long as I'm free and okay, everyone else can stay in their chains.  When someone else gets something, it means I've lost something, so we reason. We claim our liberty to ride our motorcycles anywhere we want without a helmet.  Helmet requirement?  Screw that!  Take your nanny state and shove it!  We never think about the fact that someone else will have to clean up the mess, and that lots of other people will have to pay for that clean up.  When the ambulance takes us to the hospital after we crash, other people pay for that with their taxes and insurance premiums.  We depend on each other and we are responsible whether we like it or not.


For once, I agree with Mayor Bloomberg.


I think gun dealers should be licensed, and that the sale of a gun, like the sale of a car new or used, would involve a transfer of title.  Walmart and other discount chains, should not be in the business of selling guns.  Gun show sales should not get a pass.

 Lock and load at Walmart

Other countries have suffered gun massacres.  Indeed, there was a terrible massacre in Tasmania in 1996 that killed 35 people.  That's as bad as anything that's happened in the States.  The difference is that Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since, and we've had several since 1996, including Columbine and Virginia Tech.  They are starting to become routine in this country.  Expect many more.

When it comes to guns, we Yanks are batshit crazy and dangerous.


JCF said...

Admittedly, John Lennon was singing about a syringe full of heroin.

Re gun violence: too depressed to comment.

Counterlight said...

'Happiness Is a Warm Gun.' It was a gun magazine. I just thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means you just shot something." -- John Lennon.

I always thought this song was a spoof on Charles Schulz's "Happiness is ..." series in Peanuts.

Rick+ said...

Well written, Doug. When will America stop believing in the myth of redemptive violence?

Rick+ said...

Well written, Doug. When will America stop believing in the myth of redemptive violence?