After a major mass shooting, friends and readers often suggest I do a column on gun violence. I’ve so far resisted, being completely burnt out by the cycle of fruitless debate that our country goes through after every gun massacre. I still don’t want to, but here’s how such a column might go if I did.
I’d start by recounting the most recent mass shootings. Twenty-six people slaughtered in Texas, another 58 in Las Vegas the month before. But frankly, they happen so often that I wouldn’t have space even for just this year’s mass shootings. I’d take care to note that despite the visibility of mass shootings, most gun deaths occur during street crimes and suicides. I’d relay the figures: over 33,000 gun deaths in America every year. Seven dead children every day.
Next, I’d write about my own experience with guns, which is nil. I’d try to explain how out of step people like me feel with American gun culture. I’d argue that guns have become a purely cultural issue, with gun rights activists largely eschewing good-faith debate and instead using firearms as talismanic in-group identifiers.
I would gleefully rip into the craven politics and asinine beliefs of the right-wing gun owners and Fox News grandparents who oppose common sense gun control policies and unquestioningly eat up the fascistic nonsense pumped out by the NRA. I’d try to have fun with it, but the joy I usually find in writing just wouldn’t be there. My frustration and disappointment with our society’s inability to reckon with a plague – a literal public health crisis – of gunshot wounds would throw a wet blanket on any clever points I might have written. Readers would notice. They’d wonder what had me so off my game.
I’d feel obligated to parrot the usual concessions to hunters and sportsmen before the clichéd segue into questioning why any private citizen would need a semi-automatic weapon or bump stock, grotesque tools suitable only for driving bullets through human bodies very quickly.
If I’d eaten my Wheaties that morning, I might even do some legwork and call out Democratic Michigan legislators who pay lip service to gun control half-measures while aggressively courting gun-friendly constituencies. Liberal readers and I might share a laugh after I lay out one of my brilliant satires at the expense of the Michigan Militia types and other mouth-breathing degenerates who wring their doughy, inbred hands in anticipation of armed insurrection against the state.
Here, I’d note that owning a gun makes one more likely to shoot a family member than an intruder while dramatically raising their risk of suicide. I’d ask whether these risks are worth a false sense of safety. I’d implore readers to look up the statistics that prove gun ownership does not make one safer from crime, knowing they almost certainly won’t bother.
Then, I’d pivot to policy options, reassuring the reader that I’ve not completely given into apathetic rage (even though I clearly have). I’d be a good political science student and cite some real-world examples. Did you know Australia had an incredibly successful gun buy-back program? Have you seen this video on how strict Japanese gun laws are? Look at what an outlier we are in terms of gun deaths and guns per capita! Crazy, right? Right.
I would try to convince you that there are viable policy changes that could satisfy everyone, including gun owners. We might hold on to that fiction together, for a while. Then we would remember the Newtown massacre, the incident that proved to America that the Right does not care about dead children if their stupid gun hobby is threatened. We wouldn’t be able to long deny what we all know is true: Gun rights hardliners view the deaths of fellow Americans as the acceptable price of their ability to play army.
By this point I’d be pretty fired up, so I might just start throwing some bombs around. I could argue that since gun sales always increase after a shooting, the NRA has an interest in facilitating more mass murders. Perhaps I’d make the case that radical leftist groups should start arming themselves and founding their own protective militias – you can bet our politicians would start limiting gun access then.
So that’s it. That’s the gist of the column I’d write on gun violence and the idiot cult of the firearm. Reprint when necessary, no later than next week I’m sure. To those who haven’t completely lost hope of ameliorating gun violence in America, I envy you.
But I won’t write you that column, because there’d be no point.
We’ve been having the same debates and writing the same articles for decades. Despite them, the paranoid and sociopathic among us push politicians to advance gun access to the point of absurdity we see today, where weapons of war are marketed as wholesome commodities.
The power and resources of the gun lobby can never be successfully challenged by an impersonal and divided culture perpetually on the verge of exploding into nihilistic violence. Every mass shooting, every woman shot by their domestic abuser, every child’s skull shattered by a bullet that is met with no meaningful change proves it. We are stuck with this nightmare, this slow motion civil war, until we destroy enough of ourselves and something worthy of the name “humanity” crawls out from the ashes.