Gun Violence and what to do about it: A perennial topic to be sure. I suspect it is a topic that will never go away, a conversation that will never end, until such a time as mass shootings in our country become a tragic rarity, as opposed to tragically commonplace. The massacre in Orlando, which I wrote about briefly last week, may be the latest and greatest in the long and steadily escalating series of such events, but even such a bloodbath is insufficient to sway the hearts of minds of the Republican Party who currently sit in comfortable control of both houses of the US Congress, and have used that majority to squash all Democratic attempts to address gun violence in the weeks following the slaughter.
Which of course begs the question; what would be enough? Just how prolific and how bloody would mass shootings specifically, or gun violence in general, have to be before even Conservatives, write large, would sigh with resignation and say, “Ok, this has gone too far. It is time to do something about it?”.
The short answer is that for some people, there is no such thing as too far. For some people, people I have spoken with personally, there simply is no threshold for wanton death that would motivate them to change their minds and deem further gun control warranted. I have had Conservatives tell me, in direct and uncompromising terms, that the right to bear arms, and to bear which arms you wish, is a sacred right, not to be breached for any reason, and escalating gun violence only increases the need such people feel to cling to their guns. I suppose the logic does make a certain kind of paranoid sense.
But that is, thankfully, not most Conservatives. Most Conservatives are, despite how it may seem at times, reasonable people who support reasonable measures in response to adequate tragedy. The problem is that there does not seem to be an agreed upon sense of how tragic circumstances need be to warrant action, and in that uncertainly vested pro-gun interests, such as the NRA, set the agenda and get their way. I think part of that uncertainty, part of that reticence to be compelled towards Gun Control, is due to the fact that we are so accustomed to guns in this country that we have become desenitized to what an awesome power they truly are, and the kind of damage they can wreak. I find it useful to divorce the power a gun bestows from the imagery of a gun to demonstrate that point.
Imagine yourself living in a world where, through some miraculous advent, it became possible to bestow a person with the ability to will other humans to death. To kill another human with scarcely more than a thought. Imagine that a person could be equipped with the ability to simply look at another human, snap their fingers, and extinguish that person’s life. Snap. Dead.
Who would you trust with such a power? In who’s hands, under who’s judgment, would you feel comfortable entrusting such an ability? How do you think Conservatives would treat such an ability? Who would they feel comfortable equipping with said power?
Speaking for myself, as a sane, even tempered, and generally non-violent person, I would not even trust myself with such an ability, let alone the vast majority of other human beings. Based on what I know of Conservatives, they would likely deem such a power to be practically profane, and ask that it be destroyed rather than given to anyone at all. It is simply to much power for a person to be trusted to wield. It is almost God-like. Snap. Dead.
It conjures up the image of an ancient Roman Caesar at the Colosseum, passing judgement on Gladiators. With a thumbs up, life. With a thumbs down, death. It is perhaps one of the most iconic depictions of man as God, of the inhumanity of allowing a person with a mere gesture of their whim to end another life. It is an image the people of a free country are, and should be, uncomfortable with.
But of course, that is exactly the power that guns bestow.
With little expense, little training, and few regulatory hurdles, anyone can gain this power. Rather than a snap of a the finger, a gun requires a squeeze of the finger, but this is a distinction without a difference. The ability is the same; point at a fellow human and with the slightest gesture, with hardly more than a thought and a twitch, you may end a life. Squeeze. Dead.
This power, to deal out death at range with a gesture, is used against more than 30 thousand Americans a year, 85 a day, 3 an hour. This ability is so potent, so effortless, that about 600 people a year use this power to end a life without even meaning to, in accidental shootings.
And that is not including the other 70 thousand people a year involved in non-lethal shootings.
If these really were finger snaps, we would be terrified of this inhuman and supremely deadly power. If 100 thousand people were torn into, 30 thousand of them fatally, each year by this power, I have no doubt we would join together to ban it, cast it out of our lands. If only these were finger snaps. Snap. Dead. But they are not, they are guns. Squeeze. Dead. Guns are comfortable and familiar. It is ok to be slaughtered by that which is comfortable and familiar I suppose.
But to tell the truth, this whole conversation has been a bit disingenuous. To compare the ease of killing with a gun to the ease of killing with a mere snap of the fingers is not really fair. In fact it is far quicker and easier to kill with guns that it would be with lethal finger snaps. Most guns can be fired much faster and much longer than the same person could snap. A Glock wielded by an average shooter can empty 17 rounds in about 4 seconds. The same average shooter could easily pump 30 rounds out of an AR style rifle in about 6 seconds. Which is, of course, by design, with the intent being the death of human targets.
I did something today I have never done before. I went to the website of a gun manufacturer and looked at their advertising for their, what they call, Modern Sporting Rifles, which include most of the rifles that an average non-gun nerd would look at the imagin in the hands of a soldier. These are rifles advertised and sold to civilians here in the United States, but designed to be used in prolonged battles against human combatants. In other words, not for hunting or self defense, but for war.
Of course gun advocates deny that these rifles are intended to be used to kill humans in battle. I’ve heard Wayne LaPierre and others go on television and tell us that what the liberal bleeding hearts want to call an “assault rifle” is really no different than an average hunting rifle with a different cosmetic kit. I’ve had people on the internet tell me that when I call an AR-15 or a Sig an “assault rifle” or a weapon of war, that I just don’t know what I am talking about, and should excuse myself from the conversation.
Well, tell that to the advertising execs at Sig Sauer, because the advertising material for their MCX rifle, the rifle used in the Orlando shooting, is nothing short of bone-chilling.
Their advertising brochure brags about how their gun is light, silent, and fast. Made to be portable and adaptable to any “scenario”. They brag that their gun is always ready “when it counts” is “revolutionary” and is the weapon “of a new era”. If that is not coded language, then I do not know what is. It is presented with a wink and nod to their target audience, nothing too explicit is directly stated, but strongly implied and mutually understood. These guns come equipped with black paint to be difficult to see, silencers to be quiet, detectable clips for rapid reloading, foldable stocks to be concealed or easily packed, light weight to not be a hindrance while on the move, barrel shrouds to protect the shooter from a barrel that will get hot after prolonged fire, and pistol grips for better aim in tight spaces.
Try to imagin the scenario in which you would need your gun to be silent, light, portable, camouflaged, and able to be rapidly reloaded in tight spaces and over a prolonged period. It should not be hard to imagin what kind of “scenarios” this gun is designed for. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, showed the world that Sig Sauer products work exactly as advertised.
But if there is any plausible deniability left, any room at all to believe that these weapons are not weapons of war, marketed to civilians, with material deliberately invoking revolution and urban warfare, and targeted at the people to whom that idea appeals….then you only need to watch their short video add.
Who is this stealthy dark clad and efficient killer meant to appeal to? And are the kind of people this would appeal to really the kind of people you want bestowed with that power?
Snap. Dead. Ad Infinitum.
Why are we comfortable with this?