I started out writing this with the whole idea of structuring an argument around how the United States has an angry white male problem, and that’s the real driver behind all these mass shootings. It really does always feel like that’s a root cause of these things, doesn’t it? White guy is angry because he feels slighted by the world around him, hates that women, minorities, and the gays are getting everything, and needs to do something about it? Decides that the best way to fix the problem is to get a gun and shoot a bunch of people? I mean, it fits, but it’s a little too stereotypical for our needs here (although there is this interpretation which has some strong arguments about the anger issue). While I was trying to organize my thoughts on all of this–I mean, it’s kind of nuts that we keep having to do this every few months–I fell into a real webhole for about two days, just reading stuff so I could try to back up my arguments. I didn’t find a lot outside of the realm of opinions that could back me up, but I found so much other stuff that has left me kind of sad and a little numb. So yeah, here are some disjointed thoughts about all this shit, just to get them out of my head at this point.
Columbine happened in April 1999. That’s nineteen years ago. Nineteen. I was a senior in high school back in April 1999. That shit could have happened to my school. Yet, here we are nineteen years later (like the ending to the Harry Potter series), and it seems like we’re even farther away than we were then to any meaningful change. Also, let’s consider that we have now had a full generation of kids who have never known a world where a mass shooting at their school isn’t at least a possibility. Instead of laws that might make it supremely difficult for someone to carry out this sort of thing, they get mass shooter drills, and somehow we call this okay.
And how is that possible? Well, I found this very interesting piece by Vox that talks about how the NRA got overrun by conservative loons during that weird post-Watergate era in the 70s. Interesting to me is how legal thinking before this was pretty staid. The Second Amendment said militia, so they must be talking about an organized militia. You know, the state calls you to service and you have a right to be armed during that serivce. Today we call that shit the National Guard, and no one has a problem with them having rifles. They do get some training, right? It also brought up an interesting argument about how Southern delegates to the Constitutional Convention wanted this in place because they used militias to go after fugitive slaves. Oh, and also, it turns out that there was fairly comprehensive gun control that existed in Colonial times. So the loons at the NRA revolted in 1977 and took over the organization, fueled by God knows what (but probably a lot of that white rage that I started out thinking about, especially as a lot of inner cities really went to shit in the late 60s), and sprouting this idea that the Second Amendment was not meant to protect the government from disarming militias, but for allowing people to be able to rise up against government tyranny instead. And, fueled by extreme government distrust in the wake of Watergate, that message succeeded. And over the next 40 years, they chipped away at any sane notions about what to do about guns, to the point where you get laborious legal interpretations like this one, which helped lead to the Heller decision and fucking Scalia’s view that militia meant any individual person since any person could be called to serve in a militia. Great. This isn’t what the guys in that painting up top meant.
By the way, quick sidebar. I do love how court conservative politicans and jurists love to rail against legislating from the bench and preach the gospel of “originalism”, but had no problem doing it when it helped their pet causes. Fun, right?
Oh, here’s another thing that popped up since I started writing this. As it turns out, there was an armed security guard at the high school the day of the shooting. So, the theory the gun nuts love is that “a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun”, right? Guess not. Turns out the guy hid outside while the carnage was happening. Some rounds at the range against a paper target, or spray and pray against a defenseless deer might get your juices flowing, but it isn’t going to steel you to actually put hot lead into another human being, is it?
Anyway, the biggest takeaway is all the research that comes to one conclusion: limit access to guns, stop a lot of gun violence. Illegal guns may play a big role in shootings in places like NYC, Chicago, and LA–and that is going to be difficult to fix–but when it comes to these mass shootings? Research shows that most of these people got their guns legally and easily. I mean, maybe we need to look at this. The kid who did the Parkland shooting could not have gotten a handgun legally at his age, but there was no problem getting a fucking AR-15 style semi-auto. What the fuck is that?
Lastly, let’s return to that white man anger problem. I mean, you can kind of piece together how that is very possible. Did you hear about Wayne LaPierre’s CPAC speech which basically said that any regulation of guns means the end of Western Civilization as we know it? Or the idea that having one of those semi-autos in your hands brings about a very inflated sense of power? Or how maybe, just maybe, you feel like society has declined and that AR-15 is your only defense against wild chaotic left wing anarchy? Yeah, you can see how angry white people might think they need to shoot first and ask questions later. And if that’s not enough, there’s always the gun manufacturers themselves, letting you know that you’re not really a man unless you have a gun. Fuck, no wonder we are where we are today.
(Header Image: Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull)