Every time a mass shooting occurs in America, pundits and politicians both for and against guns are quick to exploit the tragedy to score political points and further their agendas. But mass killings like Sandy Hook have little do with guns or their availability. There are more guns than people in America, and this certainly exhibits a profound perversion of values. It is also true mentally disturbed people can access guns far too easily. But it doesn’t make sense to identify guns as the primary problem because they are one of the many tools for violence. The source of the problem is the will to harm innocent people fueled by a profoundly sick and violent culture and state.
Most people who advocate for peace agree we must reduce our weapons stockpiles worldwide, but what some don’t know is that there are already hundreds of millions of guns in circulation. According to the 2007 small arms survey, there were at least 875 million guns in circulation in 2007, and there are millions of far more dangerous weapons than guns. Governments own tomahawk missiles, warships, nuclear submarines, manned jet fighters, drones, nuclear missiles, and armies of millions. There are maniacs with their finger on the button ready to launch warheads. Dangers exist in the world that are far more perilous than guns, and if you don’t have the most basic means to defend yourself, then you are just at mercy of all armed individuals. When you imagine a path to peace, you have to take this into account.
The US government and other imperial governments not only sell guns to the highest bidders in poor, undeveloped, conflict-ridden countries, but they also sell them larger and more dangerous arms like nuclear weapons. Politicians dump billions of taxes into militaries, machines designed to kill, and police forces ultimately to control the public and increase their own fortunes. This is far more concerning to me than civilians who own guns in America. Gun deaths are high in America but gun availability is one of the many reasons this is the case. Socioeconomic inequality and repression created by the corporate state may be more responsible. Guns are cheap and available in poor neighborhoods, but the product alone doesn’t create demand or the will to kill. Gun control is also disproportionately used against the poor and people of color while in practice whites are allowed easier access to guns.
Many of the people criticizing the second amendment right now are also the very same people criticizing foreign wars and police brutality. We clearly don’t trust our “leaders” to make responsible decisions with their armies and weapons, so there’s no reason to believe disarming everyone except for the military or police personnel would help reduce violence. It would likely do the opposite and bring us into an era of unimaginable despotism.
To achieve a successful reduction in all arms, we need to start by disarming countries of their largest and most dangerous weapons. We must stop the military industrial complex from growing because most of the people in charge are violent and some only understand violence.
Guns are among the least dangerous weapons in the world’s arsenal of weapons, so it doesn’t make sense to start by targeting them. The gun issue also isn’t about being a hawk or a dove (or whatever other euphemism you would like to use) as some people may believe. Of course, there are violent people who just want to own guns to feel powerful, but many of these people are police, soldiers, Klan members, white supremacists, and others who will never give up their guns. So this comes down to a matter of liberty and pragmatism.
The tragic Sandy Hook school shooting has little to do with gun laws. Adam Lanza, the suspected shooter, did not buy his own guns. My guess is that most gun stores wouldn’t have sold him a firearm. All of the guns belonged to his mother, Nancy Lanza, a woman who has been described by her friends as kind, generous, thoughtful and stable. (1) When this story was first reported she was described as a “survivalist” preparing for the apocalypse, (2) which turned out not to be the case. Several other rumors were reported. However, in fact, she owned weapons because she lived alone with her two sons and she was concerned about her and her son’s safety. According to a close friend of Adam’s mother, Russell Hanoman, Adam was an alienated, anxious young adult with Asperger’s syndrome who clearly wasn’t getting the help he needed. His mother felt she was “losing her son” as he became more and more distant. She kept their problems private and he eventually slipped through the cracks. He likely felt very disconnected from the world, which is usually what renders someone capable of committing horrific acts.
It’s also worth mentioning the shooter had an obsession with the military. He had military posters plastered on his walls, even one showing every armed vehicle used by the U.S. military from the past to the present. (3) This was conveniently left out of the corporate media narrative that almost never blames the state. Adam’s mother trained him how to shoot guns to show him “responsibility,” which could certainly be considered unwise and even reckless. It seems Lanza needed social support, more friends, and close relationships, and certainly not guns. This was his mother’s error and his own error to embrace it.
People with serious personality disorders like Asperger’s Syndrome shouldn’t have access to guns, (in 2009 suicides accounted for almost two thirds of all gun deaths in the United States according to OAS data) but by introducing her son to her guns, she was unknowingly training him for his shooting spree and giving him access to the guns that would be used to kill her. Therefore, the debate should really be about how to keep guns locked away and perhaps more importantly how to help children and young adults deal with social alienation, isolation, mental health problems, and depression and reduce their will to go off the deep end.
We need to set up safety nets in schools for kids who feel alienated and help them come into themselves. But the current debate isn’t about this. Instead, this has become a very partisan debate dominated mostly by very pro-gun and very anti-gun people who want to push their own beliefs forward. Events like this should not spark hysteria. Mass shootings are certainly not new, but they are rare in comparison to the frequency of individual gun murders on poor streets in America and war torn countries. Demonizing one thing or another certainly won’t prevent these tragedies from occurring in the future. Instead, these events have to be carefully analyzed in the context of patterns of violence we see around the globe to reduce and hopefully eliminate them.
The reality is that thousands of children die around the world every day who will never make headlines. They die slow, silent deaths from malnutrition, disease, and dehydration. Many are also dying in foreign wars and drone attacks, and no one seems to have as much hysteria about this. This is where our attention, energy, and resources should be focused. White lives in developed countries like America are simply valued more. When white children are killed there is hysteria. When brown and black children are killed there is little reaction at all because it happens so frequently.
This article is not primarily about the Sandy Hook shooting. The media has already spent far too much time covering this story and constantly reminding people of it and essentially exploiting the tragedy for viewership, ratings, and to instill fear, as they always do when tragedies occur. In this article, I instead want to explain a simple concept: why guns should remain in the hands of civilians.
Guns in America
There is a reason to be concerned about guns in America. 11,000 or so people die a year from guns. But most of them are killed by are caused by guns bought illegally. It’s also worth noting alcohol, tobacco, and motor accidents kill more than a million people per year in America, so these are far more devastating problems.
The lack of funding to public schools, the lack of safety nets and guidance in schools, the lack of opportunity in poor neighborhoods, and inherited poverty (which can all create incentive to join gangs or just commit crimes) all contribute to the number of gun deaths as well. Other contributors include police brutality, white supremacy, violent religious convictions, and lack of access to mental health services that are compassionate. Gun availability also contributes and it is relevant. There are far too many gun stores (and liquor stores for that matter) in poor neighborhoods, and too many people have access to guns that shouldn’t have them. But gun control is just one of the many complex issues at hand.
It would be ideal if we didn’t need guns. But we have to contend with the reality, which is that there are people across the world with weapons that are far more dangerous than guns, and some of them kill people without any provocation. We must always use violence as a last resort in self-defense. But if the worst case scenario occurs and we’re left on a battlefield holding flowers, the result won’t be too favorable.
Just as every direct democracy involves equal say among all its members, it must also require equal protection. The current people designated as “protectors” of society aren’t protecting us and instead preying on us so people need to protect each other.
The real path to peace is complex. It’s not a fairy tale or a quick fix. We can’t just say “let’s ban guns” and then expect there won’t be any more violence. It’s very naïve to think so. Some people will never give up their guns because they own them after all. Of course, some would hide them or use force to retaliate if their guns were to be seized because this is the same as forcibly taking away any other possession from a person. Gun confiscations have already been made by the Obama administration from people convicted of drug charges and other crimes. (4) However, the number of people affected is usually exaggerated by gun dealers and conservative gun groups to increase gun sales.
Arms must be reduced as we improve social and economic welfare across the world globally. That will help reduce the will for violence. But we have to start with the most destructive weapons like nuclear weapons first. Then, we can take away smaller weapons and every piece of military equipment used for offensive means, and then we could consider guns. That is the safest way towards peace. It is not through public disarmament because that can easily result in a dictatorial police state.
This is a platitude, but it’s quite obvious that guns don’t kill people and people do. The will to be violent is the problem, not the weapon. If it wasn’t guns, it would be knives, fists, rocks, or homemade weapons. Potentially, anything can be used as a weapon. However, if no one had to the will to harm or kill anyone else, it wouldn’t matter if guns were everywhere because people wouldn’t want to use them. It is a simple concept. But in a peaceful world, there would be little reason to have such a powerful tool.
The problem with weapons is actually inherent in our knowledge. Once we know how to make them, they can be used by anyone for very destructive means, which gives governments the opportunity to claim they “need” these weapons in case this ever happens. But they are the largest perpetrators of violence and tyranny. Switzerland has the 3rd largest gun-toting population on Earth, because of their informal army of ordinary citizens, but they have far fewer gun deaths than America does.
The reason that most gun deaths that occur outside of wars are caused by weapons bought illegally is because if you’re going to kill someone, you don’t want the gun to be traced back to you. Therefore, most people buying guns legally are not doing so with the intention of hurting or killing anyone. Gun rights are also essential to keep women safe from men who could overpower them. Guns put women on a level playing field, and this can help prevent rape and other types of attacks.
The black market for guns would also grow if we made guns illegal for citizens. Illicit gun imports would come in from many other countries and fill the demand and the market void. Criminal and law-abiding vigilante groups would likely start forming and police and the military would likely fight them creating massive conflict.
People need to understand banning something doesn’t make it disappear. Drugs are plentiful even though they are illegal throughout the world and they do far more harm because they are illegal. When you lose common control over weapons, just like drugs, the most unscrupulous people will want to obtain them, make them, sell them, and so forth. If guns have to exist, they have to remain in hands of the people, and they have to exist as long as governments are allowed to rule with larger, far more destructive weapons.
Improving Gun Laws
Most people who criticize gun laws in America haven’t been through the process of buying a gun, so they don’t have first-hand experience, which puts them at a disadvantage. I can tell you from experience it is too easy to acquire a shotgun or a rifle in this country. While I don’t believe there should be any government at all, so long as there is more restrictive gun laws and some free training required to own any kind of gun in America could be helpful, as well as a test for psychological wellbeing. But like most gun reforms these could be used against POC, gays, trans folks, and others gun dealers and states discriminate against. It might also make sense to require individuals to inform gun dealers if they live with anyone before a purchase, and if they do they would have to give some information about their family. That way dysfunctional families with mentally unstable members may not be allowed access to guns.
Anyone 18 or over can get either type of “long gun” (rifle or shotgun) as long as they pass a background check, which searches criminal records and records of hospitalization for mental disorders or psychosis. Therefore, most people don’t have trouble getting them. Handguns, however, are harder to get. You have to be 21 and pass a test in most states, which asks some psychological questions. It also tests your knowledge about firearms and safety, but it is fairly easy. I passed the test without studying for it. There is no training required. To carry a concealed weapon, you need a concealed carry weapons permit, which is much harder to get.
Automatic weapons (also called “class 3” weapons) require a background check and a test if you haven’t taken one, as well as a federal excise tax of $200. There is already an existing ban on assault weapons that are new or made within the last 26 years or so. The National Firearms Act made it illegal to own or transfer any automatic firearm made after May 19, 1986 unless they are going to a government agency. Manufacturing of automatic weapons is also forbidden without a Federal Firearms License. Only government agencies are allowed this technology. (Military weapons often end up in black markets though.) This is something many anti-gun people don’t know. I don’t believe we need further restrictions on assault weapons. Most gun deaths in America are caused by handguns, and you can do just as much damage with a semi-automatic or automatic hand gun as you can with an assault rifle. (Snipers are potentially more dangerous because they can be used at a distance, although they are rarely used to kill people in America.) Laws on the capacity of magazines make more sense. There is little reason why the average citizen would need a drum clip with one hundred rounds in it. But there are already laws that restrict high capacity magazines in most states. Some states have tougher laws than others. Many of these laws don’t allow purchases of clips with 30 rounds or more.
The army and police are not subject to such restrictions, and ideally these destructive parasitical institutions should be scrapped forever but as that may be a long ways off, we at least need an arms reduction in the army and in police forces because they kill and harm people all the time without reason. People must understand that there are plenty of well-intentioned, moral people who only want guns to protect themselves, as well as the lives of their family members and neighbors (without a badge or a uniform). And these people shouldn’t have their guns taken away.
If the government tried to attack our liberty to bear arms guaranteed by the second amendment of the Bill of Rights, there’s no telling what they may do next. The Department of Homeland Security and federal agencies like the CIA have so much power it’s unfathomable. Do you trust them? With their horrendous record of crimes against humanity, I certainly don’t. Obama is not likely about to take all of our guns. In fact, he very rarely mentions guns at all. But we need to keep each other safe, as well as take care of one another most importantly to reduce the will for violence, and not blindly trust our government agencies to ensure there is peace because if we do we are only ensuring there never will be peace.
(1) NBC News: New Detials on the private Lives of School Gunman Adam Lanza and his mother. December 18th 2012. Link: http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/17/15976160-new-details-emerge-on-private-lives-of-school-gunman-adam-lanza-and-his-mother?lite