THE other day I posted a tweet in reply to one by a friend. It expressed a thought I had about gun violence in the wake of what had happened in Sandy Hook and other places including, most recently, Charleston. Since then I’ve been thinking more about it but there’s way too much to fit into bite-sized tweets. Right now I should be working on Artemis, but I can’t do that until I get this out of my head. And so…
Tragedy After Tragedy
CHARLESTON was a tragedy. Why Did It Happen, is the question we see all over the place. The answer is simple, as far as I can see: it happened because it can. Because in America, everyone has the right to own a gun. And as a result, some kid who gets pissed off by someone at school, or a fucktard tormented by the voices in his head, etc., can get hold of a gun and let loose. Result: another tragedy.
In other words, shoot-ups in schools and cinemas and churches are (as I said in my tweeted reply) the price America pays for gun freedom. So when the next one happens—and there will be a next one, and one after that, and on and on—don’t ask why. You know why. It happens because it can happen. Because the conditions that make it possible—and probably unavoidable—are written into the constitution. They’re the law.
Is The Price Too High?
FOR a lot of people, of course, it is. For many, one victim is one too many.
At the other end of the scale are the gun rights advocates, and it seems that for many of them, no price is too high. The body count can go through the roof, and it’s still a worthwhile price to pay for second amendment freedoms. For them, there is no problem; things are just fine the way they are, and the collateral damage is acceptable.
(It occurred to me… many of those advocates say they need their guns in case of a rogue government. So let’s say the government gets out of hand, and there’s a revolution. There are, of course, the armed forces, and they have lots and lots of guns, and planes with bombs and missiles, and tanks with cannons, and drones with machine guns, etc., etc. And the armed forces are either going to be against the government just like the gun advocates—in which case they don’t need untrained vigilantes with popguns getting under their feet—or they’re going to be on the side of the government, in which case the gun advocates are, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked. Just a thought.)
Note that there can be no line here, no number we can say is the limit. No number we can point at and say, fewer deaths than this is okay, and more than this is too many. Because any number we posit will be too high for those at one end of the spectrum and too low for those at the other.
OF course, while gun rights advocates might not see a problem, other people do. And we keep hearing about it as a gun problem—but what’s the problem, exactly? Too many guns? Too easy access? Not enough training?
For myself, I don’t believe there’s a gun problem. What I think there is, is a constitution problem. There’s an eighteenth century amendment that might have made sense at the time, but—from where I stand—has no relevance in the twenty-first century. No, I don’t think there’s a gun problem. I think the problem is the second amendment. Get rid of that fossil, and the rest will follow. And to those people who think you can’t repeal the second amendment, think again. It’s an amendment, for fuck’s sake. It wasn’t in the original constitution—it was added later. And just like other amendments, it can be repealed. The eighteenth amendment—that’s the one that gave you Prohibition—was repealed with the passing of the twenty-first, and that didn’t signal the end of the constitution, or of the United States. So don’t think there couldn’t be a twenty-eighth amendment that pushes the second amendment into the history books.
[Update: I read an interesting article that pointed out that the second amendment was intended to ensure that militias had the right to carry firearms. That didn’t extend to individuals—until 1976, when an NRA-backed initiative changed the legal interpretation of the wording of the amendment. Thanks to that, many people think the right for individuals to bear arms goes back to the eighteenth century (in many cases, it seems, the same people who have the weird idea that the constitution says that the US is a christian country). It doesn’t. So it’s clear that the NRA is to blame for much of this shitbucket of a problem.]
But what would it take to do that? It seems obvious that there’s no number of corpses, no amount of spilt blood, that would be enough for some people. In fact, I don’t think the body count would ever be a factor. Cynical git that I am, I think the only factors that are likely to have any impact are going to be economic ones. Now, I have no idea what the economic impact of, for example, Sandy Hook was. How much did it cost? Did it affect people’s taxes? Or health insurance? Or life insurance? Did it have an impact on people’s money in any way at all? I suspect it did—but not enough for anyone to notice, or really care. But as tragedy after tragedy happens and the corpses pile higher, maybe one day some pen-pushing asshole will figure that these massacres are costing too much of the folding green. Once that happens, you can guarantee someone will say there’s a problem and it needs to be fixed, pretty fucking quick.