We hear a lot about American gun culture these days. One side is willing to blame anything and everything but the guns. The other side mostly blames the guns for the massive uptick in gun violence. There are things about our society that are not easily changed, and I’m not about to come up with suggestions here. Recognizing the problems though is a first step in having a meaningful discussion.
I’m not a “blame the media” kind of guy, but I have to agree with the NRA on this one. For nearly my whole life, I’ve watched TV and films where someone gets shot and dies instantly, without even a bullet hole tearing up his shirt. Or he gets wounded and patched up in a couple of days, retaining the ability to shoot a gun. You just don’t get reality out of the American media when it comes to guns, getting shot, war or violence (with a few exceptions like Saving Private Ryan.) What you get is sanitized death or a quick recovery. If there is a nod to grief and pain, it’s wooden. Reality would depress the viewers who would soon flee to a nicer war.
If this wasn’t enough, we have a population that, to a high percentage, believes in an afterlife. Killing someone isn’t so bad if you believe you’re just sending him to a different place, without really hurting him. All you’re doing to him is simply evicting a nuisance from your turf. There’s no real need for remorse. Nothing to feel all that bad about. You haven’t killed their immortal soul. When I read that some parent has described her kid, the perp, as a good churchgoing lad, I tend to wonder whether that kid understands the nature and finality of death. As soothing as religion is for survivors mourning a loved one, it also gives some people the idea that death is not synonymous with finality.
Then along comes an avaricious gun industry, using shills, lackeys and sycophants to push for and justify putting increasingly powerful and lethal weapons in the hands of as many people as they can. The gun industry wants to sell guns. To do that, it has to trumpet a view of guns that is inconsistent with the way we actually live. The image they have selected is the rugged individualist surviving the jungle of society on his own, with only a machine gun to protect him. The truth is that none of us would last very long if that was the reality. But the gun industry feasts on this false image.
Electoral politics has to take some blame too. Elected officials require massive donations to keep their jobs, and donations involve payback. Why we don’t just come out and admit the system runs on pure, unfettered bribery is beyond me. The gun industry is willing to shell out big bucks to trusted pols. Who might they be? Well, the guys who want to let people carry loaded weapons into a bar come to mind. You know they’re loyal if they’re willing to sign on to something stupid. The more outrageous they get in writing gun bills, the happier Ruger, Browning, Colt and Smith and Wesson are.
It is important for a gun culture to sow distrust and divisiveness among the people so they will be scared to answer the door without packing heat. News and faux news media have to tilt their stories to at least hint that there is a racial issue. (“Oh my god Mary, there’s a black person at the door. I’m going to have to shoot.” “No Joseph, don’t shoot. It’s our daughter’s new boyfriend.” “Boyfriend, you say. Now I’m going to shoot for sure.”) Let’s get real here. A lot of people own guns, not for sport, but because they are afraid. Racial stereotyping is important in that context and the more fear you can engender, the more guns you will sell.
It’s also critical that there be no restrictions on gun ownership. Go to a gun show. You’ll find the price of an AR-15 is exactly the same for an FBI agent and paranoid schizophrenic with a list of potential victims in his back pocket. The profit margin is the same for the sane and the nuts. So let the lunatic stock up on arms rather than placing a heavy burden on the law abiding citizen to fill out an innocuous form that will reveal his law abidingness. Nobody (well almost nobody) complains when they have to do paperwork to get a drivers license but these same folks wring their hands at having to fill out a form to buy a gun. God forbid they’d be required to have to take a test and identify the safety, or be reminded not to leave a round chambered.
Another good thing to do if you want to stimulate a gun culture is to give shooters great legal defenses. Hit someone over the head with a shovel, it’s off to prison for you. Shoot him; well you were just scared for your life, weren’t you. (Good ol’ boy just standin’ his ground.) This works particularly well for white people because they have been conditioned to fear those with darker skin.
Of course, we can’t forget about the psychological angle. I’m not a Freudian but it seems to me that there is a correlation between the number of rounds you can shoot and virility. I mean, what kind of weakling wants to shoot off a meager ten rounds when the other guy can do thirty. Who’s the pretty young lass going to pick anyway? The guy with the most potent gun, that’s who. So it’s important to subliminally associate guns with masculinity. We want to get to a point where one’s manhood can be evaluated based upon the potency of the weapon he’s packing.
If this keeps up, we’ll all become a Rambo, packing a .30 cal. automatic—staggering down the street drunk, keeping our fearful eyes peeled for armed locos not unlike ourselves and people who don’t look like us. There’ll be a hell of a lot of shooting, but no one will really get hurt because God has provided us with an afterlife and we stood our ground. Once there was a law in Dodge City that required cowpokes to check their guns with the sheriff when they crossed into city limits. It seems rather quaint in the 21st Century when we have a population maybe ten times what it was then. After all, we have ten times as many people to fear and ten times as many targets. State governments are issuing concealed carry permits as if they were free samples. Back in the Wild West only gamblers and crooks concealed their weapons. No longer. Thanks to our gun culture, we’ve all gotten out of Dodge.