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A Child Armed Himself

So there’s this, and it broke my heart. Good job, America. You’ve convinced eleven year-olds that they need to be armed and dangerous. And what happens when we arm children? They don’t know how to use a gun responsibly, so they wave it at people, and we have one more data point in the set that says guns don’t make you safer. At least it was unloaded.

Elsewhere in that article, after the tragedy of a child thinking he needed a firearm to be safe because we can’t get our violence under control, and we have gun nuts telling us the solution is more guns (conveniently forgetting Fort Hood, and all of the highly-trained people armed with guns there), we have an Attorney General-elect declaring fortifying schools is one possibility.

Ah, smell that Second Amendment freedom! We are free to live as if we are living in a war zone, because we’re not responsible enough to take the high-capacity clips and assault weapons away while we begin the long work of addressing the myriad factors that go into making this a culture where people with guns kill lots and lots of people.

“Well Regulated.” Image courtesy Rick Cooper (RickC) on Flickr.

I am disgusted beyond words with my country right now.

The NRA released a rehash of the same statement they make every time some dude with an anger management problem and too many guns shoots up a public space: “Sorry and all that, but now’s not the time for policy and politics. Oh, and by the time we may pretend to concede that it is, there’ll be another mass shooting so we can repeat these words and kick the discussion down the road.” I paraphrase, of course, but I believe this to be an accurate representation of their words.

I am tired of people telling us we should postpone this conversation. I’m tired of people screaming “Freedom! Security! If I don’t have guns, tyranny!!eleventy!!1!”

What Mythbri said is better than my immediate response of “fuck you, dumbshit” and gets the same point across: “What is the minimum amount of children required to die in a single shooting before everyone can agree to at least talk about gun control? Because I have already surpassed my limit.”

I will ask the same thing of the Obama administration, and I will not limit myself to just a bunch of American kids. If we’re going to cry over our own children, we need to stop killing other countries’ children. The government can’t go on killing kids in distant places and claiming a moral high ground here. We can’t ask our own citizens to be more human and humane and justify murdering wedding parties by calling it “mowing the lawn.” When we dehumanize others, when we use that language of other human beings, when we are that dispassionate about killing, what are we telling the young folk we’re supposedly so concerned about? We’re telling them it’s okay to kill if you come up with a reason why your opponent is not human. I do not deny that this is a world in which human beings sometimes need to be killed in order to protect other human beings. But we must remember, as we are killing them, that we are killing human beings. Not blades of grass. Not bugs. People.

When I was studying forensic psychology for the book I was writing many years ago, something stood out to me: victims of serial killers who survived did so because they’d persuaded their potential murderers to see them as human beings. Even serial killers have a hard time killing people they’ve come to recognize as human beings. Think about that.

We have a lot of work to do. Part of that work begins with ourselves. We need to stop dehumanizing people we don’t like or are uncomfortable with the idea of killing. This includes the people we attack in other countries. This includes the people we kill because we thought they might be suspicious but turned out to be wrong. This includes the people inside our borders who kill other people. And this includes the people we don’t like. We need to be careful, while calling a douchebag a douchebag, to recognize that there is a human being behind that label, and their life also has a value.

This is why I changed my mind on the death penalty. It may act as a specific deterrent, as John Douglas said, but it doesn’t act as a general deterrent, and it puts vengeance ahead of justice. This is in addition to its many other problematic aspects. We may have a complex and nuanced discussion about this later, but for now, I just want to point out that societies that are more humane and more lock their murderers up instead of engaging in a morbid quid-pro-quo. And I think that tells a country’s citizens to pause and consider the value of a life, even an abhorrent life, one we’re not tempted to see as human. We may not want to see murderers as human, but they are. We need to face that. And we can do so without excusing what they have done in the least.

In the meantime, since it will take a long time to bend that arc toward justice, since it will take a long and sustained effort with few immediate payoffs to fix the things that need fixing to ensure that fewer people kill other people, let’s cut back on the easy access to the means of destruction.

Does gun control work? Ask Australia, for one. Yes, it does. It is one means a society can use to protect its citizens. It is one means a society can use to make it less likely that eleven year-olds will feel it necessary to arm themselves.

And I love this idea from Amanda Marcotte: go after the ads. I’d had the same thought the other day, looking at the ads Mother Jones collected. We don’t let cigarette manufacturers advertise. Why not the same restriction on gun ads? There’s a thought. Again, not the solution, but a piece of it. It’s something to add to our list.

Many of you started a good conversation here. Let’s keep that discussion going. Ideas, people. Let’s have them.

Let’s ensure Sandy Hook is the watershed moment.

Let’s ensure children don’t have to go armed into fortified compounds for their education.

Comments

  1. brianthomas says

    All I’ve heard for the last week since Sandy Hook is the gun nuts in my vicinity telling me “Yes! We need more guns!!!”

    Then I started reflecting on the mind sets of these people, like I haven’t done before.

    In their world (and I am talking about human beings with whom I am well acquainted), violence is the way to solve problems. These are people who celebrate and cheer whenever our military is stomping the hell out of some brown people in the third world. They love that shit. In their world it’s shoot first, ask questions later. Actually, they never ask questions….so it’s just shoot.

    These people also fantasize openly about how they and their guns will be able to stop tyranny from coming to America. In their wacked and paranoid minds, they stand bravely and armed to the teeth, imitating Clint Eastwood all full of fake bravado and machismo, ready to stop Obama’s bureaucrats with their guns! Irony there is that the lot of them would be ushering in tyranny if given the chance, establishing a Christian theocracy groveling before its violent white male sky-god and stomping out all those they and their sky-god disapprove of.

    It’s not tyranny if they get to play the tyrant, of course.

    These are people who are constantly “otherizing” and dehumanizing their fellow citizens, grouping them into categories of desirables and undesirables. They are obsessed with “real Americans” and the latter don’t fall into that category of course. Only whites and Christians belong. And since they haven’t ushered in that Christian tyranny yet, their sky-god will just have to take care of these undesirables for them.

    Violence, violence, violence…the answer to all their problems. Never do they talk of compromise, never do they talk of dialogue. Never do they question anything beyond their Fox News and talk radio echo chambers. Instead it’s always the simple black and white dichotomy, and they’re white. It’s always their cut-and-dried “the-way-it’s-always-been” like “real Americans”™ have always done it bullshit. Don’t listen, don’t care…shoot first.

    These are the people that turned this country into a violent and paranoid nation. These people, who worship their guns and violent solutions to everything…they are the ones responsible for Sandy Hook.

    Fuck them.

    Time to start calling them out on it.

  2. Aliasalpha says

    I’d be interested to see a comparative study on firearm violence between countries that have had a peaceful transition to the modern age vs those who fought for independence. It seems to me like a lot of America is still mentally fighting the redcoats

  3. says

    As I said elsewhere, I really and genuinely think that in this case ,the Constitution will actually be helpful if we follow it to the letter. Specifically, Article 1, section 8, which prohibits the funding of an Army for a period greater than 2 years, and the 2nd Amendment, which prescribes a ‘well-regulated militia’ to keep and bear arms in the national defence. Keeping in mind that in this context the word ‘regulated’ means something akin to ‘trained and disciplined,’ we’ve got one of those: The National Guard and Air Guard. So, as far as I can tell, we could disband the Army except for the Guard, which would prevent going oversea and murdering children (and adults), and disarm everyone who isn’t in the Guard (and I definitely include the police here), without in any way violating the Constitution. And I am entirely in favor of this course of action.

  4. says

    It seems to me like a lot of America is still mentally fighting the redcoats

    It seems to me like a lot of America is still mentally fighting Imperial Rome. :\

  5. rory says

    I’m entirely in agreement with your position. For that reason I think I should point out that your argument about Fort Hood may not entirely hold water. A quick check of Wikipedia confirms what I thought I remembered hearing at the time:

    President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Paul Helmke, said that “This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places.”[118] However, Lt. General Cone stated: “As a matter of practice, we do not carry weapons on Fort Hood. This is our home.”[119] Military weapons are only used for training or by base security, and personal weapons must be kept locked away by the provost marshal.[120] Specialist Jerry Richard, a soldier working at the Readiness Center, expressed the opinion that this policy had left them unnecessarily vulnerable to violent assaults: “Overseas you are ready for it. But here you can’t even defend yourself.”

    I would not want your overall point to be discounted based on an inaccuracy in an anciliary point.

  6. says

    It seems to me like a lot of America is still mentally fighting the redcoatsNatives and revolting slaves.

    And they tend to include white liberals as allies of the latter category, which in their minds comprises all black people, and usually Latin@s as well. They usually use dogwhistles in public, but that’s what it boils down to.

  7. adrian says

    Hi Dana

    I’ve refrained from commenting on this tragedy before now. All I feel is an overwhelming sadness and helplessness in the face of the atrocities that have happened and will continue to happen until auto and semi-auto weapons are removed from private hands.

    In reply to the gun lobby saying there needs to be more guns, how will this help. As I see it all it would do is cause more deaths as how would it be possible to separate the good guns from the bad in a very tense and stressful situation.

    Thank you for saying things better than I ever could.

    Adrian

  8. says

    There were two horrible school shootings in Germany.
    After the first one we discussed and reformed weapons laws*. The second one still happened. Why? Because the father of the shooter broke the law. That man thought that although he had a teenage son of whose emotional problems he knew he still thought it unnecessary to follow the rules and lock guns and ammunition in different places.
    And we discussed gun laws again.
    And politicians here are discussing gun laws now after Sandy Hook again and I haven’t heard anybody saying that the solution is “more guns”.

    *To a ridiculous point where you could buy a sword replica at the medieval fair but not carry it back to your car, but they came to theri senses.