When we “anti-gun” people start rabble-rousing, there are pockets of responsible and sane gun owners who raise their voices, gently (not like angry NRA and automatic weapons-lovers)–like the ones who hunt and fish and don’t bring guns everywhere they go. These are the people who might even use bow and arrow in the woods. These are the people who see guns–out on the frontiers of big open spaces or in the deep woods–as dangerous tools–to be left locked up until needed for killing animals for their food. I do sympathize, to some extent, with these people who use guns to hunt–even though I am a vegetarian and look to a better, more advanced day–when most of us will no longer use animals for sustenance. We are undeniably part of the species food chain; we are not vegetarians by design. We are not carnivores by design, either. We are omnivores by natural selection.
However–I disagree that ‘guns don’t kill people’ as much as I agree that drugs do kill people. Let me explain. Guns empower people who should not be empowered–with infinitely hostile and deadly force. A person under great duress and mental fatigue–from bullying, feelings of inadequacy, injustice, abuse, and neglect–and who perhaps is not usually physically violent, but who will see recourse in the use of a ballistic weapon (unconsciously, at first–perhaps)–especially if suffering feelings of overwhelming persecution–will resort to the means at his or her disposal–if his or her feelings are intense enough.
People under duress are more sensitive–and so when preyed upon, experience emotions of greater intensity and hostility. For this kind of person (or for a person in these circumstances), a gun reduces retribution to an extraordinarily simple and impersonal act, like in the use of a TV remote or video game. For this kind of person, pulling a trigger–notwithstanding the skills necessary to carry, aim and shoot a gun–complies with an inner, painful, and intensely self-preserving feeling and a wish that the source of pain go away–as easily as with the pressing of a button.
The use of a gun doesn’t require years of martial arts practice, physical or mental stamina, mental concentration, or much study. Guns make killing simple and too easy–so easy that they allow the user to be amazingly impersonal—perhaps just as he or she has been treated. the gun-using assailant doesn’t even have to be close to his or her prey to cause pain… or death. For this reason–among others–guns can be (and I feel they usually are) very dishonorable weapons, which is why they are perfect for the temporarily or long-term mentally ill, the depraved, and the mediocre-minded. So as you can see—and we might agree–not much mental health is necessary to use a gun–beyond the motor skills involved in its comportment and use.
Even a person with largely pacifistic tendencies, such as I, can notice a marked feeling of power when holding a gun (as well as fear, foreboding, disgust, revulsion and sadness). This is what I sensed when I held an unloaded ballistic weapon in my hand some years ago—which I was using as a prop for a drawing I was doing.
Another time I felt the latent but real power of a gun when I held a pump-action pistol, which I had found in my late uncle’s drawer. (He was a World War II veteran, a New York City Fireman, and like some of his sons who were police officers, very responsible with his guns); a gun is so powerful that as I held this unloaded one, I imagined that were I alone in the house, and were an intruder to come in unannounced in a threatening manner–or were I to feel set upon in a strange place–on a train, in a plane, or on the road–I might at least lift the weapon and say, ‘stand back’. This almost innate reaction is capable because guns have become second-nature in our culture, and so have their power—which I feel is embedded in our psyches—even for those like myself who have not fired one.
Let me say that I hate violence–but I felt this feeling pulse through me. And if I could feel it, all human beings—especially those raised in gun-cultures—can feel it, because (as the Roman philosopher said), I am human.
People and who are not stable are going to feel that power magnified, and when desperate, they will fall prey to it–especially when they are preyed upon, neglected, and abused (or feel as such). That power is going to influence their feelings of powerlessness in a way that gives release to them–to empower them… and it will bring danger to the rest of us. This feeling of empowerment that guns offer is how guns do kill people, because people do not have the power, otherwise, to blow holes in one another–with “the push of a button”—until they hold a gun.
The seductive power of guns in a society that legitimizes their use in our constitution, glorifies it in our entertainment, and recognizes its significance in our freedom in folklore and history–sits in a device that possesses enormous technological power. And it is too easily available to us.
In the way just described, we have the reason behind the ‘why?’ — which we hear almost stupidly–every time we learn of a gun-related tragedy… be it in a convenience store, a shopping mall, a school, a kindergarten, a post office, a bell tower, a park, a parking lot, an office, a library, a playground, a work or school campus, a military facility, or on the road. So, I say… stop asking why…. The reasons and means are obvious. We have enabled and justified them. But what are the causes? Before guns were so ubiquitous and available, families were tighter, games and toys were more innocent, TV was less insane, and school didn’t teach to the test—meaning there was far less stress acting on our children; we weren’t eating plastic and mountains of sugar—meaning we were healthier, had less ADD, ADHAD and other mental disorders (this is documented), and we weren’t pumped up on drugs to make us perform—like those that keep people going, help them sleep, help them relax, and help them relate; we didn’t have devices in our hands–much like the guns, themselves–that make instantaneous satisfaction a reality—justifying immediate gratification and alleviation from pain.
Before Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq–before the government gutted the bill of rights and started watching us and our neighbors secretly; before they weren’t trying to take away social security, unemployment, and healthcare benefits–and our very dignity was ; before, when Nixon was the only liar; before oil and gas companies weren’t known to be poisoning us on our land, in our air, lakes, streams, and oceans–the American government, society, and life were not such a problem, were they? They are now, and that is why guns are, too.
So today, when young people have their own intense problems and they think of how they are all the more compounded by the world around them—making them feel more helpless than adolescents usually do, they turn to ending it all… and calling attention to themselves when doing it–lashing out at that unforgiving world–attacking the ones they see as part of the madness; the ones who have hurt them. They resort to the fastest, easiest, most impersonal and graphic means of instantaneous power, revenge, and finality of purpose–the gun. Guns are available to them. They have been raised by a warring culture, a gun-gaming-culture, a hunting culture, a TV and movie culture that worships getting even—often with guns–and a culture that believes heavily in retribution.
Look at our conduct: 1. We are the last western democracy to continuing to kill our own citizens (the use of the death penalty). 2. We use capital punishment against child-offenders. 3. We use immoral, illegal, internationally condemned methods of invasion against other sovereign nations. 4. We secretly surveil both our own citizens and those of our allies. 5. We arrest, incarcerate, and detain suspects without charge. 6. We torture detainees (be it by proxy or not doesn’t matter; we instigate and finance this). 7. We secretly kill by remote-control plane in foreign sovereign nations (often innocents). 8. We secretly kill without due process those we deem a threat to the US government and are pushing for the right to do this in our own land. These actions represent our true values. They run contrary to most decent peoples’ personal values, but these—nevertheless–are the values we have endorsed as a nation—either by our complicity or ineptitude. Why would we then expect young or old people in our country to not think they can act in the same ways—in non-egalitarian, non methodically just, and totalitarian ways–taking matters into their own hands, unilaterally and with finality?
All the reasons I have just delineated are part of why guns are such a source of high violence in America and why they are simply too dangerous for our population in general. So many more of our people–especially the sensitive youth growing up in this nightmare landscape, are thinking and feeling(and perhaps saying to themselves) ‘I’ll fight back’ — the way they have been taught.
Remember the responsible hunters we discussed at the start? It is ostensibly for their benefit, and for the benefit of defending ourselves against our government, that we make guns so avilable. But these responsible ones are the anomaly–the geniuses, if you will; they are the spiritually mature, the highly stable, the very strong–who keep their guns locked up until it is time to k food. They are not the issue, but what we allow for them is hurting us at the hands of others–others who by the logic of probablity and the conditions of our society–will always be among us!
The youth raised in this fragmented cage of a culture that we have made in the last twenty-five to thirty years–are breaking out with a trigger in front of their fingers, killing–and sometimes killing themselves–because it is easy and because their world is insane–and worst of all, because it justifies this behavior in the culture. They can’t take it, anymore. And neither can you or I, just for the sake of ubiquitous gun ownership.
I am willing to bet on scientific studies that given the feelings and conditions suffered by the mentally ill youth in our country–the average person furnished with a gun would shoot at other people, too. This is borne out in how easily we can turn a person into a killing soldier– by training him to disregard human life and filling him with the purpose and fear that military life and war require. On a related note, look at the systematic sexual abuse in the rank-and-file of the US military, which is further proof of the brutal nature of our culture. More relevant, this transition of innocent human-being, to cynical, fearful, unforgiving, controlling, and violent individual is borne out in how frequently gun violence occurs among the youth in this country–who are not military! What is it, now–once a month? (At the time of the most recent edit of this article, there were three gun-related violent acts in the same week–here in the United States.)
The afore-mentioned proves we are simply not evolved enough–in this society–as it has been devolving—for the ubiquity of ballistic weapon ownership. For comparrison, consider that half all people in Sweden own guns. Sweden has the lowest levels of violence worldwide.
We should not be able to buy guns at Walmart–given our situation–which is patently and clinically insane. We’re not in Norway, Denmark, or Greenland, either–nor are we South Korea or Japan. These are not perfect countries with perfect societies–but they are enormously more harmonious and thus far less violent. And when their societies do exhibit violence, it is usually not in the form of gun violence–in a school, post office, or park.
This is America; “the land of the free and the home of the brave” — so brave that we take matters into our own hands and don’t seem to care how grave our reaction—meaning we are not terrified by ourselves–and we should be. We keep trying to eat our cake and keep it, too–and we are choking on it! What is the definition of insanity –the popular one? We can’t afford to allow for ourselves ‘the ‘joy of killing’ for stable people in the woods—if we cannot change this set of circumstances; or at least we have to make gun acquisition as difficult as getting a pilot’s license.
Unstable people are all around us–as the cracks in our society grow, -due to its dehumanization, mean-spirited government policies, demoralizing and desensitizing entertainment, increasing school and employment pressures, and the stress and hopelessness this all creates among us. Unstable people will always be among us–and in greater numbers now–perhaps (or fewer, now that millions en masse are acquiring healthcare?). And as long as we continue to sell and make weapons of this nature readily available, death of this kind will be a part of our lives: public shootings.
We apparently don’t care enough. Once we do, we will all agree that the guns have to go–because we won’t transform the society over night, right? Or we need far stricter background checks. Isn’t that rational? But that line of thinking presupposes that life means so much to us that it can be weighed over this fantasy of gun ownership without consequences, of this desire to be constantly armed, this need for self-defense and protection against our own government. What insane paranoia. Humanize the society, integrate your involvement with government (instead of against it), and those fears will go away–but once again, not over night–and not as long as people are delusional and selfish.
It is really a question of mental health and intelligence, I fear–two aspects of humanity that America is showing the world it lacks in large proportion. In order to get people to agree that guns are part of the problem, we have to become more rational, but how can we? We cannot even get half the nation to agree with the most talented scientists on Earth about the condition of the environment, the origins of the Earth and life on it, and until very recently–the importance of health care for the the non-wealthy aged, the under-privileged and the unable to work or capable unemployed. How will we get the majority to agree on the dehumanizing aspects of our society and its worsening by easy gun ownership? It is a much more abstract principle. It seems we’re too proud–and we all want to be right. That’s not possible. Even if it were, there is no time for such selfishness. Just like with the climate: rational and unselfish minds know it is not time for more debate (and this is true regarding guns, as well). It is time for sweeping, solution and emergancy action. We have an almost contagious problem, it would seem.
Not one more person–especially a child–should die in this country as a result of such stupidity, irrationality, selfishness, and inaction. What honorable, sane, and self-effacing citizen can stand for that? (Since the recent massacre in San Diego, California–this has become the slogan: “Not One More!”)
Alas, too many Americans apparently love their guns. I don’t. I look upon a gun with embarrassment. As a member of the human species, which is conquering outer space, genetics, and micro-electronics, it is embarrassing to me that we still dependent on centuries-old primitive weapons technology, designed to maim and kill by having people bleed to death by puncture wounds–a revulsion and testament to our lack of civilization, sophistication, reason, and compassion. Finally–with most people wanting at least stricter laws inhibiting gun purchase in the United States, the NRA, other PACs and politicians keep guns easily available against the will of that majority, and against good sense, decency, logic, morality–and the constitutional provision for the common defense–of individual citizens. We had better stop asking ‘why’, as the killing continues. We have seen–and are surrounded by–the answers that have been under our noses since long before this all got out of hand. The question is, what are we going to do about it? We are sentient, aren’t we? Don’t we still live in a democracy? We love our children, don’t we? We love ourselves…. Or, do we love our guns more? It’s high time we got busy solving the problem, or we should be resigned to its escalation–and get busy burying family members without complaints and stupid questions.
Carl Charles Carroll Atteniese