As someone living literally on the other side of the planet, with no direct experience of the issues involved, it is obviously very important that I tell you what I think about gun culture in the USA.
…they sound to me like junkies or alcoholics…
Mostly what I think is “I don’t fucking get it”. There’s a mindset at work that is utterly foreign to me in both a literal and a figurative sense – this extreme fetishisation of guns to the point that any sort of restriction on them, or even any sort of criticism of them, is utterly unacceptable. The “we need our guns to stop the government from taking our guns” paranoia. Where does it even come from? (Here’s a good point to chuck in a disclaimer: obviously I know that these are not the views of all Americans, or of all American gun owners. They do appear to be the views of a segment of them, though – a particularly vocal segment with a disproportionately high level of influence. It’s these views whose incomprehensibility makes them most interesting to me, so they’re the ones I’m addressing here.)
Initially, the only way I could make sense of this sort of gun culture was to write it off as a quasi-religion – an irrational faith in the magical power of firearms to make all the Bad People go away and keep all the Good People safe. There’s even the obvious parallel of a holy document in the Second Amendment*. But the more I hear what gun advocates have to say and listen to how they talk, the more they sound to me like junkies or alcoholics; gun culture not as a religion, but as an addiction. Look at Alex Jones’ meltdown with Piers Morgan – that guy is definitely on something, and I’m pretty sure it’s guns.
Pursuing the analogy, for starters we see the inability to admit that there’s a problem, or that the addicts’ actions are harming others, even when standing among the bodies of schoolchildren. There’s the insatiable need for more – a belief that if they can just get another hit, get the teachers armed, get the students carrying, then everything will finally be alright. (I was talking about this the other day with a friend, who phrased it “the problem isn’t that I’m a heroin addict; the problem is that I don’t have heroin right now.”)
And of course there’s the “hair of the dog” aspect, where the reaction to every gun massacre is inevitably an increase in gun sales and NRA memberships. (It’s interesting to look at this fact in light of the various conspiracy theories that claim that recent massacres were faked or set up as “false flag” operations. If the conspiracies are true, the biggest beneficiary has so far been the gun industry, not the evil government – what does that tell you about who’s behind them…)
It kind of fits, yeah? But at the end of the day it’s just rhetoric – the junkie analogy breaks down when you ask what to actually do about it. How do you stage an intervention for a country? Beats the hell out of me – what does a 37-year-old Tech Writer in Auckland know about gun nuts in America anyway? Feel free to tell me how much of a clueless arsehole I am below.
*I’ve read a few interesting points concerning the Second Amendment recently. There’s this from the redoubtable John E. McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun, where he points out that no, the Second Amendment doesn’t say “the people have to be able to own guns so that they can overthrow the government if they want to” – the “well-regulated militias” it mentions serve under the government. (And how dumb would the Founding Fathers have to have been to add a “please revolt against us” clause to their Constitution?)
Then there’s Warren Ellis’ column at Vice.com, where he suggests that the US is in contravention of the Second Amendment as things stand “… because the current form of gun sale does not constitute the arming of a well regulated militia of the people, nor do they constitute the operation of state security.”