The Strange Thing About The Strange Thing That Maybe Wasn’t So Strange

I’m going to be a bit waffly in this posting, because it’s about something where some facts appear to be in dispute, leading to disputable conclusions. Also: psychologists are involved, which I believe increases a level of epistemological background noise, without adding much, if anything, in the way of things we can treat as facts.

The recent tragedy in ${mass shooting of the week} has given America pause to think about mass shootings and how we can’t seem to do anything about them except, you know, the obvious stuff that we “can’t seem to do” for political reasons. Ignore the fact that other countries (as we say in America: “lesser nations”) have been perfectly able to do that obvious stuff, we – the great bastion of liberty and military supremacy – seem unable to connect the mental dots that lead to a conclusion, namely that America is a nasty, violent, place, built on racism and toxic masculinity and that both racism and toxic masculinity often intersect to bring us mass shooters. Meanwhile, some parts of the US struggle manfully (see what I did there?) to ignore the fact that something around 60% of recent mass shootings have been done by white men, 1/3 of the guns in the country are owned by white men, and 3% of white men own 20% of the global stockpile of personal firearms.

[pew research]

As a man, a gun-owner, and a strategic genius (*) I believe I am uniquely positioned to mansplain some of these issues, but I won’t, because they ought to be obvious. In fact, I consider that they are often treated as incomprehensible is evidence of a vast conspiracy – a “conspiracy of stupid” – among white American men. We’re playing dumb but, let me be frank with you: anyone who can assemble an AR-16 blindfolded cannot claim to be completely incapable of handling complexity. (**) There’s some obvious stuff, starting with guns being needed for controlling slaves and committing genocide against the Indigenous Peoples, and then … what? Gosh, it seems as if maybe, just maybe, a lot of white American gun owners are implicitly continuing to support Jim Crow – they just lack the guts to come right out and scream it. Whenever I used to encounter the survivalist gun-nut types, the types who like Tactical(tm) stuff, I used to ask them who they thought they needed to protect themselves from when “the shit hits the fan.”


Protection from WHOM, EXACTLY?


You know, people from the city who can’t take care of themselves…

I don’t think they mean capitalists, I think they mean maybe, you know, people who aren’t white and stupid? Because, white and stupid is the profile of the gun collectors. You don’t need to be a strategic genius to know that 5+ guns is “a stupid number of guns.” If you are in a particularly dangerous part of America, you might need a rifle and a semi-automatic handgun or a battle rifle but – since we’re being frank here – the only Americans that realistically live under that level of threat are black people, in the south, and the defensive benefits of having firearms would only begin to manifest themselves if all the other black people in the country were similarly armed and the police weren’t. I have a friend, for example, who moved from his house in suburban Maryland to a bigger place farther out in the countryside in Virginia, and he asked me if I could swing by with my Suburban and a bunch of moving blankets to help him move his guns. Think about that: that guy’s pissant little gun collection only filled one Suburban! LOL!

As a strategic genius, though, I have to tell those of you who are perhaps Canadian or French or English that a single person cannot effectively use more than a maximum of 3 guns – and that’s pushing it. My friend Sazz, who was a sniper in Vietnam, carried his killing rifle (A Sako hunting rifle chambered in .300 W/M) an M-3 submachine gun, and a .45. The pistol, as he explained, was not for self-defense, it was for a quick exit in case the Vietcong were about to catch you because they did not like the Americans who roamed their countryside using them as targets because of obscure geopolitical decisions made in Washington. And who can blame them? But I digress.

The point is: there’s some pretty intense bullshit going on and it’s being allowed to fester, unexamined. Another interesting element of that bullshit is that the white guys who do mass shootings seem to own lots of guns. Granted, they do not come to the battlefield with a Suburban-load of guns – but the Las Vegas shooter did spend several days hauling loads of guns and ammunition to his room. This is not “some jackass who looks like he was trying to start a war” it’s “some jackass who has so many guns that there is no way he’s competent to start a war because he can’t maneuver.” I’m absolutely not going to reach for a facile “psychological” explanation because psychology doesn’t have one for this kind of behavior. Unless there’s some new diagnosis of “obssessive-compulsive disorder” applied to collecting guns, which that 3% of Americans should  be being diagnosed with…?

By the way, the bag hanging on the trolley closest to the camera: that’s a range bag. I recognize it instantly and so do any other random army of gun nuts and recovering gun nuts. It’s a shame that the hotel staffer didn’t go back to the security desk and say, “hey, one of our guests appears to be preparing to re-enact the battle of Rorke’s Drift in his room, should someone maybe run a background check or maybe set up a drop cam next time they clean the room?”

What I’m getting at is that this guy, while being a “typical American male” is not normal in any sense of the word. He’s just checked into a hotel with 400lbs of guns (and ammo) and that is not normal. If he were a “legitimate” arms-dealer, he’d be driving a Suburban and he’d have a security screen out, because that isn’t normal, either. The point I am trying to belabor is that absolutely none of this is normal. Oh, and shooting up a country music festival isn’t normal either. In other words, the only way this happened is because of some circumstances that are above and beyond the usual nihilism of Las Vegas. I’m thinking about this particular incident because another incident was mentioned in a pretty interesting mega-thread over at Daily Kos [kos] It’s a wide-ranging discussion that turns into a bit of a scrum, because picking apart what is racism, what is plain old colonialism, and what is toxic masculinity is difficult: they feed eachother and interact in various ways that are not obvious and may be idiosyncratic. Let me put that differently: the Vegas Shooter might have been a racist or he might not, but his easy access to guns was part of a racist system that facilitates killing non-white people. It was designed that way, and was not explicitly designed to kill women (that flies strongly in the face of the bullshit protective ideology, for one thing) but all too often that’s how it works out, also. I don’t think the Vegas shooter was a misogynist or a racist – he was firing at a range where, frankly, his piece of shit rifle and its shitty bumpstock had no chance of selecting a target. He was just doing “spray and pray” (which means the “tactical” toxic masculinity crowd and the “sniper” toxic masculinity crowd hold him in contempt) there was something else driving that guy. Obviously, he didn’t just do this on a whim: it took him several days to set up his room-arsenal. Several days in which the cleaning staff had no questions about range bags or heavy luggage.

In the Kos thread, one topic that was mentioned was ${Texas shooter}. The person who mentioned ${Texas Shooter} did not appear to know that his motivations are also considered unknown: he had a small tumor growing near his amygdala, which may have affected his mood. And, by “mood” I mean: it could have caused anything from voices in his head to irritability. ${Texas Shooter}, unfortunately for those who are trying to understand what happened, didn’t leave notes or a statement, or a research-trail that might have indicated whether any of those hypotheticals were true. He complained about mental flashes, but that’s just self-reported experience from a patient, right? For example, today we might look at ${Texas Shooter}’s browser history and learn something – but those kind of trail-generators didn’t exist back then, and the usual sources (ask his friends, as his doctor, ask others who interacted with him regularly) didn’t turn up anything conclusive.

Walking into the abyss, Nietzsche-style

All of this pulls the threads together to where we can knot them off, and now I can get to what I wanted to post about: there is controversy regarding the motives of the Las Vegas shooter. If you recall from the time, there was brief media focus on “why did he do that?” but no plausible, conclusive, answers were forthcoming so we all got distracted by the gibbering monster in the White House. After a while, the FBI published a report which I think I can fairly summarize as “we don’t really know.” But I’m really amazed by that idea. What do you mean we don’t know? Toxic masculinity, which is one of the well-springs of American gun culture, is where the idea of “getting a whole bunch of guns and fortifying some place and going out in a blaze of bullets” comes from. I’m going to assert, here, that they are inseparable. We don’t not know why the Las Vegas shooter did what he did – what we don’t know is what set him off – but rather obviously he was primed to take that action, pursued a plan of action based on other representations of similar shootings in the media, and did it. I’m going to say that the Las Vegas shooter did what he did because of toxic masculinity: toxic media representation of maleness and how men are (in some media narratives) supposed to confront nihilism by going out in a hail of bullets. If you have seen The Shootist or The Wild Bunch you know exactly what I am talking about. We do not do these things because they help anything; we do them because we are men of unflinching pointless resolve and our meaning comes out of the barrel of a gun.

I’m saying that the FBI’s idea of why this crime was committed is simplistic, but also shields the problem. Well, that’s interesting because the FBI are one of the foremost representatives of American gun culture. The media is absolutely chock full of FBI agents pulling guns and “helping” people by blowing people’s brains out. If you look at it that way, the FBI can be forgiven for determining that the Las Vegas shooters’ motives were opaque to the FBI because for all we know, the gomer was actually fantasizing about gun-fighting the FBI in his final moments, or something tragi-stupid like that. We don’t know. But we absolutely can look at what he did and say that the “big why” is toxic masculinity in particular gun culture, and the “little why” (what set him off) is unknown. But I don’t think we should even let the FBI off the hook that easily: examination of the Las Vegas shooter’s financial records indicate that he had burned through a tremendous amount of money gambling and was A Loser. Did I just say the unsayable thing there? It seems pretty obvious, to me. By the way, the gang in The Wild Bunch were specifically called out as a bunch of losers, who decided to redeem their loserliness in a nihilistic blood-bath that even they knew would accomplish nothing. I don’t need to ask archly, “sound familiar?” Because it’s a fucking common theme all over Hollywood, e.g: everything by Quentin Tarantino, a lot of these stupid comic book movies we are expected to want to see (what about the story arc of Batman is not toxic masculinity and revenge from a rich loser?) etc. I just don’t see how anyone can look at the Las Vegas shooter and say “wow, big mystery but it has nothing to do with gun culture.

By the way, I must add: “holy shit, that’s apposite” – I emailed myself the Daily Kos link (from my iPhone) and the message in my in-box after that was this:

Look at that! They did not overtly racialize it, but – it’s the standard “white guy’s white wife getting raped by a ‘crook'” scenario that is the fantasy-wellspring of toxic masculinity-inspired gun ownership. You can paralyze a 260-lb thug instantly and leave him writhing on the ground in agony, you pencil-necked little keyboard warrior – just buy our shit. Wait a minute, I AM a 260-lb thug! They’re talking about disabling me, the strategic genius, with this little black rectangle. [I have not yet clicked on the ad, to see what it is and how it works] Yep, as I expected it’s a battery-powered shock toy. I wonder how well it would really work against a 260-lb thug with a katana? Let’s not worry about that. Because if we point that out, then the idiot that is their target customer is going to buy a Walter Mitty Gun – a titanium-framed .44 magnum that is utterly uncontrollable and thoroughly terrifying to everyone. In fact, they will buy a whole Suburban-load of the things.

Mother Jones [mj] reports on an FBI report that mass killers are not just randos who suddenly snap. There are warning signs that are ignored until it is thoroughly too late. The FBI report appears to not dwell upon the fact that it’s the FBI that is often doing the ignoring. And that one of the big warning signs is: buys guns.

The study, co-authored by criminal justice professor James Silver of Worcester State University and Supervisory Special Agent Andre Simons and researcher Sarah Craun of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, represents a second phase of FBI research on 160 active-shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013. Phase one, published in 2014, examined who carried out the rampages, where, how, and with what impact. The new phase, which uses law enforcement case files to dive deep into a subset of 63 attacks, seeks to better understand how active shooters behaved before they struck and, when possible, to determine their primary motive.

The study refutes several misconceptions about shooters, including the notion that they burst out of extreme social isolation. Most, in fact, lived with or had social connections to other people—who were likely to have witnessed disturbing pre-attack behaviors. Those behaviors most commonly involved mental health problems related to anger, paranoia, or depression; troubling levels of interpersonal conflict; or communicated threats of violence.

I want to say, “holy shit have those FBI guys got a firm grasp of the obvious!”

The study’s findings on how shooters plan and prepare highlight windows of opportunity for intervention. More than three-quarters of the killers spent a week or longer planning their attacks, while two-thirds spent at least a month planning, and some spent far longer. And about half of the shooters took a week or longer to carry out preparations for their attacks, including obtaining firearms, ammunition, and body armor or other tactical gear.

Elided from this is the endlessly repeated phrase “the shooter was known to law enforcement” that usually trickles out quietly a week or two after the mass shooting has moved from the center of the headline. Which endlessly begs the question, “then why the fuck didn’t you do something?” We spend all this money on police and counter-terror police specifically because they say they need these capabilities, which they hardly ever use effectively at all and mostly spend their time apologizing for. “If we only had more money and more cops we could prevent this kind of stuff by doing the kind of thing we didn’t do to prevent the last ${umpty} mass shootings.”

This was a linked piece at Kos that blew my mind: [kos]

Despite the seemingly overwhelming evidence that the 2017 mass murder on the Las Vegas Strip may have been motivated by extreme-right-wing ideology, law enforcement officials still say they have no idea what caused ${Vegas Shooter} to commit one of the deadliest mass shootings of all time.

After losing a court battle to keep them private, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday released a trove of documents from the investigation into the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting that left 58 people dead in Las Vegas.

The 1,200 pages of police reports, eyewitness accounts and interviews reveal that ${Vegas Shooter} shared some of the same narratives espoused by the right-wing nuts who believe that the government is coming to confiscate their guns and implement martial law…

Even though the evidence seems clear as to what motivated ${Vegas Shooter}, police and FBI agents still say that they have no idea what caused him to go on the shooting spree. Claiming an “ongoing investigation,” Clark County (Nev.) Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said that no motive has been identified.

Could it be as simple as that maybe the shooter had absorbed a bunch of right-wing talking points like “they are going to grab your guns and implement martial law!” and made a very, very stupid decision? The Las Vegas shooter had purchased 33 guns, many of them rifles, and dozens of “bump stocks” for them – [usa today] Do I actually have to mention that it’s gun nuts that go out and buy bump stocks, not sport shooters? (or even serious tactical shooters) The reporting about ${Vegas Shooter}’s purchases mentions that records of purchases are being traced, but the story … ends there. Why? I’m going to go out on a limb: because ${Vegas Shooter} was not merely some retired IRS/Postal Service accountant who suddenly lost his shit: he was a gun nut. He was a gun nut who had to have frequented a bunch of shows in the year prior to his killing spree you know, just the thing that “gun control liberals” complain about. Why is the FBI downplaying that? Couldn’t be the FBI investigators have a political opinion about gun control that they’re sheltering as they edit down the investigation results?

[The Intercept]:

Three years after the worst mass shooting in recent American history, the FBI has yet to identify a motive explaining what could have driven ${Vegas Shooter} to open fire on a crowded music festival from a Las Vegas hotel window, killing 58 people and injuring many hundreds more. But the FBI, which has been notoriously slow to recognize right-wing threats in recent years, may have ignored a politically inconvenient explanation: ${Vegas Shooter}, in our view, fit the profile of a far-right political extremist bent on sowing violence in society.

Well, that certainly scans. Given that the FBI just treated us to a spectacular performance of “we knew but we didn’t tell anyone, oh by the way we need more money” regarding the massive amount of intelligence they managed to ignore about the January 6 insurrection in Washington (which was, in part, organized by an FBI informant, so … there) The Intercept continues:

${Vegas Shooter} appeared fixated on three pillars of right-wing extremism: anti-government conspiracy theories, threats to Second Amendment rights, and overly burdensome taxes. For instance, one witness told Las Vegas police that ${Vegas Shooter} was “kind of fanatical” about his anti-government conspiracies and that he believed someone had to “wake up the American public” and get them to arm themselves in response to looming threats. Family members and associates of ${Vegas Shooter} painted a picture of a man who loathed restrictions on gun ownership and believed that the Second Amendment was under siege, according to our review of their statements to investigators after the shooting and other documents compiled by the authorities.

I guess the narrative: “gun nut flips his shit and kills a bunch of people” is too spicy for the FBI. Remember, these gun nuts are specifically propagandized with the idea that their guns are going to be taken from them (presumably by the ever-incompetent FBI?) and they need to be prepared to kill and die in a blaze of nihilist fireworks. I guess the FBI thought they could just say, “(shrug) dunno.” Because that’s a lot easier than making a statement that leads to the question, “why?” and “what did you know and when?” Remember – this asshole appears to have bought 33 guns in one year – a Suburban-load. I’m glad that investigative journalists like those at The Intercept are asking the FBI “what did you know and when?” but I doubt we’ll get an answer.

${Vegas Shooter} “had an obsession with guns” and would become angry when challenged on the Second Amendment, according to Adam LeFevre, who dated the sister of ${Vegas Shooter}’s partner. ${Vegas Shooter} “made it very clear he would have no part of gun ownership restrictions,” said LeFevre, who got a glimpse of ${Vegas Shooter}’s well-stocked gun room during a tour of his home, in another interview. Indeed, by the time of the attack, ${Vegas Shooter}had amassed an arsenal of some 80 firearms, mostly assault-style rifles, in addition to stockpiling ammunition and some survivalist equipment – another glaring attribute of the far right.

The answer’s right in front of us. Oh, and the FBI needs more money.

------ divider ------

(* One of  those might not be strictly true)

(** Fastest in my platoon in basic, Ft Dix, 1983, at re-assembling M-16’s blindfolded.)

Now, I would like to add a whole diversion about psychology. In the first Kos article, there is some mention of a theory that ${Vegas Shooter} had a father who was a psychopath – and, maybe, ${Vegas Shooter} either learned to be a psychopath from dad, or inherited psychopathic brain abnormalities. First off, we should collectively shit on psychologists who diagnose people who were not their patients, because all they are doing is demonstrating what is wrong with pop psychologists. If they had an intellectual framework that was worth a shit, which allowed testing for psychopathology, then maybe it would be plausible to talk about whether or not ${Vegas Shooter} was a psychopath, but basically what the psychologists are doing is saying, “well, only a psychopath would shoot a bunch of people like that, therefore he’s a psychopath!” which is actually less than 0% useless.

Besides, if being a psychopath is a neurological condition, how do psychologists unpack that mass shooters adopt a media-driven apocalyptic scenario? Oh, the media environment in which they were raised was simply the emotional superstructure of their actions, and the thing that triggered them was because they were a psychopath? Next question for psychologists: if you can’t come up with a test that distinguishes a gun nut from a psychopath, you don’t know what either is.

So here’s a think I think that we Americans should collectively do: if you buy more than 2 guns in a year, you have to take a battery of psychological tests, administered by a professional psychologist. At the end of the test battery, you have an interview with an FBI agent who asks you, “now what the fuck do you want with all those guns, boyo?” And, if you are discovered to own more than 5 guns (a number I just pulled out of my pocket) you get to pay tax on the total value of those guns, every year, in perpetuity. That tax money is put in a pool (not given to the fucking cops or FBI) for the relief of people who suffer from gun violence.


  1. pierremasson says

    I find it astounding that you can speak in such a matter-of-fact way about a friend who has enough guns and ammunition to fill a Suburban van. Just speechless…

  2. brucegee1962 says

    Along with the racism and toxic masculinity (or maybe this is just a subset of toxic masculinity) I would emphasize another word that you use a lot in your article, and that word is fantasy. I once had a gun-loving college student ask me, in all seriousness, “But professor, if you don’t own a gun, what are you going to do in case there is a zombie apocalypse?” I was a bit too shocked to reply anything particularly coherent, but now that I’ve thought about it a little more, it makes perfect sense.

    Remember the scene in A Christmas Story where the kid is daydreaming about an endless stream of Bad Guys climbing over his back fence, and he is taking them out one at a time with his Red Ryder BB gun? That’s a perfect portrayal of gun nuts. I used to be one of those larpers who would dress up in armor and go into the woods to swing a foam sword around, so I appreciate the daydream, but they’ve gotten so far into it that a part of them actually hopes for the collapse of civilization, just so they can finally live out their Mad Max fantasies. It’s why Escapism has always lured our imagination: if I can find a door into Narnia, or wake up one day in Barsoom, or the dead would finally get around to rising from their graves to feast upon the brains of the living, then I could once and for all stop worrying about this damn mortgage.

    Hmm…people who actively want civilization to collapse are the same people who voted for Trump — it all makes so much sense.

  3. says

    Have you ever noticed how orcs, zombies, trolls, etc are never attractive gender-normative white people?

    Make a game called “aryan attack” where you get to blast loads of white capitalist colonialists and I bet there would be pushback.

    Meanwhile, ask “why aren’t we trying to help the zombies with this fascinating medical condition? and isn’t this a good chance to study pandemics?” … asked exactly nobody. “Do we have enough ammunition?” Is the only question. Because the narrative is conveniently that all the afflicted need to be killed – whether it’s before the pandemic has completed its work or not. Enthusiastic xenocide.

    I watched World War Z and could not help but notice how the people outside the cities were just letting them turn into plague-pits. Meanwhile in the pandemic we saw white New Yorkers flee the city. Now I wonder how many bought a Suburban full of Walter Mitty specials on the way out.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    … “the shooter was known to law enforcement” … “then why the fuck didn’t you do something?”

    Please consider the major legal and logistical challenges of “doing something” about all the mentally disturbed/over-armed people in any given county, then multiply by ~6,000.

    Has anyone ever done a tally of how many mentally/socially askew Americans with guns don’t go on blood sprees? Pre-emptive rounding-up would put us all in a world co-designed by Philip K. Dick and Don Pendleton, only without the artistry.

  5. Dunc says

    It’s a classic screening problem – yes, virtually all mass shooters are white male gun nuts who are “known to law enforcement”, but there are fuck knows how many thousands (tens of thousands?) of those. How do you effectively screen a population that size for a tiny minority who pose a serious risk of going on to become mass shooters?

    Alternative proposal: forget about mass shooters. The majority of gun violence is not down to mass shootings. How about you just hand an instant ban to anybody with a domestic violence conviction?

  6. Callinectes says

    @2 The BBC series In The Flesh was about a world in which the zombie apocalypse was averted and a treatment was found to restore zombies to their human minds and behaviour. Though they are still dead and have to use make-up and perfume to fit in the best the can. They became a whole new demographic unto themselves, which as you might expect faced magnitudinous fear and prejudice and discrimination.

  7. outis says

    Eh, no suggestions for remedies here.
    Just one remark: you’d like a definite term for this particular mental ailness, but consider that entire nations can go mad and have done so for a long time.
    As an Italian I know very well that in the 20s and 30s people were convinced that it was a good idea to follow fascism and yell “il duce ha sempre ragione” even when it was pathetically clear that he had no ideas whatsoever in that useless, hollow skull. And Germany of course went way crazier, and I’d say imperial Japan went even further along the cray-cray scale.
    Mind you, such impulses are more or less universal, gun nuts you will find all over the world, but when society cannot or will not block this kind of crap anymore then there’s the risk of collective madness, and that’s bad news.
    Generally it costs buckets of blood to put things right.

  8. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    “if you don’t own a gun, what are you going to do in case there is a zombie apocalypse?”

    Around my house, The Boyfriend occasionally used to talk about the gear he had/would need in case The Big One hit. It’s unclear if he meant the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, which is a few hundred years overdue, or the zombie apocalypse, or something else. The necessary gear included his pickup truck and a bunch of camping stuff but thankfully no guns because he’s pacifist-minded.

    One day I finally explained why I was NOT involving myself in plans to bug out in case of disaster. I told him about the Red Cross natural disaster training I’d taken. In a natural disaster, most people who are saved are saved by their neighbors and people around them. I want to be one of those people doing the helping. And then I told him that if society totally collapsed and I could no longer get my thyroid prescription, my thyroid gland would begin swelling again and I’d be perpetually struggling to breathe and I’d prefer to die of that in my warm house than at a damp, cold camp in the woods.

    He hasn’t mentioned The Big One in a few years, and instead has begun watching CNN and paying attention to politics in a way that he never did in his 61 years before Trump was elected. I guess maybe he was listening to me after all.

  9. brucegee1962 says


    Have you ever noticed how orcs, zombies, trolls, etc are never attractive gender-normative white people?

    Do you mean like how Romero made the connection between zombie-killing and minority-killing with big, screaming, 50-foot-tall letters with his climax, right at the beginning of the whole zombie genre back in 1968?
    I mean, I haven’t even seen the Night of the Living Dead (never liked watching horror movies), but even I know that. It’s interesting how many people overlook it, though.

    On a side note, it’s been refreshing to see how the entire rpg/fantasy community is starting to wake up to this with the whole “orcs/goblins/drow are people too, not predisposed to any one alignment” movement. If I was in charge of the WotC, that is the message I’d want to base the new D&D movie around. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  10. komarov says

    Odd, I was under the impression that rifles were made to be exceedingly simple so that idiots stupid enough to voluntarily join the army as the rank and file would actually be able to use them. “Squaddie-proof” as the British Army (probably unofficially) calls it, although the average squaddie is apparently able to break anything anyway. The US may like overly complicated weapon systems but even they’re not stupid enough to build and distribute a hand-held fully automatic infantry-equivalent of an F-35 … yet. Right?

    Regarding the FBI, a modest prediction: one of these days “false flag” claims will become mainstream enough that they can just wrap up every case with “false flag and we’ll never know,” saving thousands of those report pages and workhours while still providing fodder for the “if only we had more [resources]” narrative.

    “””Make a game called “aryan attack” where you get to blast loads of white capitalist colonialists and I bet there would be pushback.”””

    You may have missed the regular flare-ups of pushback among the lines of, “why are all the villains white men?!?!” This simultanously manages to blank out all the non-white non-male supervillains while also peacefully co-existing with the much rarer outbreaks of “non-white/male supergenius is not believable.” Naturally, all of this is unflinchingly applied to even the most ludicrous sci-fi, magic and fantasy genres. While impossibly armoured orcs and preferably half-naked elves are fine, non-pasty geniuses lacking dangly soft bits quickly overtax the old disbelief suspension. Fortunately these outcries are generally small. I think in the movie business they’re overshadowed by the outrage over non-white non-men appearing in roles traditionally occupied by their pasty, dangly standard issue counterparts.

    “””How about you just hand an instant ban to anybody with a domestic violence conviction?””””

    Isn’t “convicted felon with a gun” another common theme in the US? Anyway, this would be a tiny step towards the prevention that country actually needs*, except it would still fall short. Common-sense restrictions on dangerous items would not take effect until after the violence had started. Apart from that, domestic violence is one of those crimes that is often vastly underreported and – if it’s treated anything like sexual assault** – also tends to “underconvict”. In other words, cases boil down to witness vs witness statement (victim vs attacker) and a legal draw. Abusive assholes usually do fine socially – cue yet more “they seemed so nice” quotes from puzzled acquaintances after [horrid crescendo]. If the people around them can’t be relied on to figure out who and what they are until after the fact, then I certainly wouldn’t count on a legal system to do it for them.

    I guess it would be nice if psychologists had that firm framework Marcus mentioned. You could just do a mandatory screen for everyone when they first move out of their parents’ home. “Well, you can still go to college, but it’ll be a bit different from the one you picked. Very special, very,… ok, somewhat exclusive. Oh, and the 2nd amendment no longer applies to you.”

    *Speaking as a primitive native from one of the lesser countries, I’d start by not having guns, guns, guns everywhere but I know: Something, something, realpolitik, guns (!), guns (!!), guns!!!
    **Which I’d rate as “highly probable”

  11. says

    I find it astounding that you can speak in such a matter-of-fact way about a friend who has enough guns and ammunition to fill a Suburban van. Just speechless…

    Exactly! We are crazy fuckers, here!
    It’s time to confront that fact. I’m not sure what we can do about it, but American gun nuts are a threat to themselves and others. Let’s stop dancing around it.

    I could tell you worse things. I know a guy who bought so much ammunition UPS sent 2 trucks. I know about that because the FBI actually did show up to ask him what the hell he was doing with all that stuff. They probably thought he was planning on attacking some Central American democracy, or something. It wasn’t the same guy who got me to haul his Suburban-load, either.

  12. says

    Odd, I was under the impression that rifles were made to be exceedingly simple so that idiots stupid enough to voluntarily join the army as the rank and file would actually be able to use them.

    You read this blog regularly and have not absorbed The Lesson the The F-35? Why would you imagine that Vietnam-era rifles were not subject to the usual rules of US military procurement; i.e.: they are pieces of shit? The Vietnam-era M-16 had this absolutely absurd gas mechanism that controlled the flow using two split steel baffles that acted like a sort of piston. If the splits were aligned (as could happen accidentally in normal firing) then too much gas leaked out and the rifle would no longer cycle. The repair for which was to disassemble the bolt and adjust the spacing of the baffles. Just the thing to do when you’re standing in a rice paddy with bullets flying around you. But, like with the F-35, the US defense industries kept tweaking and hacking away at it, to justify the massive money spent. The first response to the goofy split gas ring was a “forward assist” which was a little bumper protruding from the action that you could slam desperately with your fist to nudge the rifle’s bolt into the forward and locked position. This is what a respectable engineer would call “an appalling kludge” but the US Army decided that it had some kind of rugged and handsome flair or something, and the damn forward assist is still part of the rifle. At the period when the M-16 was stinking up the battlefield, there were rock-solid designs, like the Belgian-made FAL and the Israeli Uzi. But, goddamn, what do you want, next, French firearms? That crap’s Unamerican. Meanwhile, American attitudes about guns managed to reverse rub-off on the British military, who decided to outdo us in terms of stupid firearms – but at least they eventually managed to get over that mistake. I think they’re using … OH GOD! So that got me curious: what are they using now? It’s fucking M-16 action. “LOL” as the kids say. If you look at one of the things disassembled, it’s an M-16 bolt design, with some frills that doubtless attempt to make it less stupid:
    And, oh god the British managed to make it worse, with some kind of dual-rail recoil spring architecture like the wretched design of the German Walther P-38 (forgiven because: 1938) – absolutely designed to gather dirt and shoot out of troopers’ hands and vanish into the opium fields of Afghanistan, or wherever British battle-rifles are being cleaned. “Let’s out-stupid the colonials!” Oh, yeah? Bring back Brown Bess.

    The .45ACP was a horrible design from its inception, back when the US colonial military was suppressing the Phillipines’ population, but since then it has been tweaked and adjusted until it still sucks but it’s reliable. Think about it: the whole idea of a pistol action where the barrel moves as part of its lock-cycle – well, that’s a guarantee of accuracy, isn’t it, once those locks get some gunk in them. The US’ response was to produce “match grade” .45s which had deeper grooves and were not machined by idiots, and the basic crappy design became slightly less crappy. It was so crappy that finally the US Army bought Italian pistols from Beretta, and a significant chunk of the pistol-using population of the US military had a great big Whaaaaaa-fest. Then, after a while, they went, “hey these Italian pistols are actually pretty good. Dang!”

    even they’re not stupid enough to build and distribute a hand-held fully automatic infantry-equivalent of an F-35 … yet. Right

    The new “advanced battlefield weapon thingie” that the US Army is working on is as if the F-35 design team went into the small arms business. It lacks the $400,000 carbon-fiber virtual reality helmet, but it has some kind of variable-range explosive shell because battle rifles have never needed that; that’s what artillery is for except let’s make every soldier their own artillery park. I’m serious. Go read about the thing and ask yourself if that complainer Marcus is being unfair about the wonderful piece of small arms that US soldiers are going to be expected to lug around behind them, someday.

    [By the way, Brown Bess was not well-machined and the parts were not interchangeable except aspirationally. Like, you know, F-35 parts are interchangeable.]

  13. says

    WMDKitty — Survivor@
    speaking of ${Texas Shooter}, he did leave a note requesting to be autopsied — turned out he had a brain tumor.

    Right. But we still have no idea whether that brain tumor was a cause of his behaviors, or not. He might have gone off the nihilistic cliff because he felt weird and was experiencing cognitive decline, or he might have felt compulsions to go shoot people. We have no idea what he was experiencing. Obviously, it’s hard to fit that to a psychological diagnosis when there is apparently very little information about what he was experiencing and thinking. That’s a general problem with having to come along and label someone “psychopath” after they’re no longer able to say anything to support the diagnosis.

  14. says

    Reginald Selkirk@#4:
    Yeah, unlike toilet paper, they limit per-person ammunition sales in most Pennsylvania gun shops. The crazies come every day to pick up “their” 50 rounds…

    But check this out, from the link you posted:
    “First of all, the government has scared the people,” Wahl said. “Everyone is real afraid they won’t be able to find it so they are stocking up.

    The Government has scared people. Not bullshit politicians and other gun nuts. It’s the gubmint’s fault! Here, step right up and buy your daily 50 round allotment.

  15. komarov says

    Apologies, master, I will strive to do better. *tiny voice* However, there is, technically speaking, a difference between being expensive craps and unmaintainable crap. Just because it’s idiot-proof doesn’t mean it’s good unless that’s your sole selection criterion. At least these rifles can be stripped in the field with (nominally) very little training or expert knowledge.
    The SA-80 picture brought back some memories though (only ever used the simple L98*) and you’re right about interchangeability being purely theoretical. After safety, the next big lesson was always not to mix up rifle parts!!! They only look the same.

    Finally, not buying foreign firearms for your armed forces is in principle a sensible decision. At least right up to the point where you decide to put up maintenance facitilites for your secret airforce boondogle in foreign countries.

    *Full disclosure: My military experience is limited to being a British Army cadet. If I ever get so delusional as to think of myself as a grizzled war veteran, just shoot me with a nerf gun and leave my corpse for the crows.

    A note: the third part of my last post might come across as hostile or at least overly sarcastic. Sorry, that wasn’t the intention. Please consider it my general exasperation at the state of the world. It tends to build up.

  16. says

    Apologies, master, I will strive to do better.

    You’re fine. It’s hard to calibrate some of the absurdity of these things. Especially given that there exist Kalashnikovs, which no self-respecting nation would use except Russia because they are not expensive enough.

    Just so you can plumb the depths of snark this topic affords: a friend of mine and I had a discussion about small arms in which we concluded that the US should ask Heckler and Koch to make a Kalashnikov, then adopt that as the official US Army rifle. The problem is, it would be far too inexpensive.

    Finally, not buying foreign firearms for your armed forces is in principle a sensible decision. At least right up to the point where you decide to put up maintenance facitilites for your secret airforce boondogle in foreign countries.

    Exactly! The F-35 is a shining beacon of wrongness. It is not possible, even theoretically, to be cynical enough to understand it.

  17. publicola says

    As to whom they may be protecting themselves from, it could also be all of us whining, crying liberals when we come begging them for food and toilet paper after the start of the Great Anarchy. (If only we had listened to them!) Too late! Now, the Humongous will drive us out into the wilderness where we will be forced to resort to cannibalism to survive. As for psychology, these people must have some great hole in their psyches which they try desperately to fill with guns and conspiracy theories and aggression. At some point, they reach a tipping point that sends them over the line into violence. Simplistic, perhaps, but there it is. I have to go now. I left my autogyro double-parked.

  18. says

    I used to waste my time talking to “preppers” because I briefly took them seriously. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they’re idiots. After that, I started saying things like, “Wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to learn small engine repair and perhaps how to machine hit/miss motors from scratch? Someone who can make the lights shine, again, will have food and females thrown at their feet – they’ll be worth ten times what another jackass with an AR-15 is worth; jackasses with AR-15s will report to them and call them “milord.”

    They’d blink and sometimes work their mouths, as if to say something smart, but nothing would come out. It really was interesting.

  19. klatu says

    Not even school children being massacred made Americans reconsider their attitude toward gun ownership, so that approach is pretty much dead in the water. You guys literally can’t be shocked anymore. It’s lost its impact. “Oh? Another 20 were murdered? What else is new?”

    And toxic masculinty is off the table, Marcus. We don’t talk about that. Didn’t you get the memo?

    Also, the world needs violent men with guns to protect it (from other violent men with guns). How else are we supposed to stop {INSERT_THREAT}?

  20. Dunc says

    komarov, @ #13:

    Isn’t “convicted felon with a gun” another common theme in the US?

    I believe so, because not even a previous conviction for armed mayhem is necessarily enough to get the Holy Right to Bear Arms permanently withdrawn. In many cases you just have to <a href=""fill out a form saying you’ve changed and things will be different now, honest.

    On the other hand, this is basically just a variant of the “only criminals will have guns” argument…

    Apart from that, domestic violence is one of those crimes that is often vastly underreported and – if it’s treated anything like sexual assault** – also tends to “underconvict”. In other words, cases boil down to witness vs witness statement (victim vs attacker) and a legal draw. Abusive assholes usually do fine socially – cue yet more “they seemed so nice” quotes from puzzled acquaintances after [horrid crescendo]. If the people around them can’t be relied on to figure out who and what they are until after the fact, then I certainly wouldn’t count on a legal system to do it for them.

    All very true. And yet, a substantial proportion of those who do go on to commit serious armed mayhem do have previous DV convictions. As I recall, it’s actually one of the strongest predictors.

    Let’s be clear here: I’m not in any sense arguing that my proposal is anywhere near perfect, or even particularly good. However, I think it’s better than the status quo, and more achievable than Marcus’s suggestions. (Although still not very achievable, admittedly, because America is a giant open-air lunatic asylum run by the worst of the inmates.)

  21. says

    The psychological explanation, facile or not, is probably fetishisation.
    These days sexual fetishes take the spotlight, but a fetish is fundamentally an object imbued with powers it does not possess. A crucifix is a fetish, it will protect you from evil. A gun is the same thing. Think of a person whose house is strung door to door with crosses and rosaries, with shrines in every corner. They’re doing the same thing as the gun nut, just with much less dangerous objects.

    They’re afraid, and they think their voodoo will keep them safe.
    (apologies to actual voodoo)

  22. says

    I believe so, because not even a previous conviction for armed mayhem is necessarily enough to get the Holy Right to Bear Arms permanently withdrawn. In many cases you just have to

    I remember when, in Maryland, after considerable effort, a law was passed that people with convictions for domestic violence could not hold jobs that entailed them carrying a gun. The police union’s winning argument on that one was that something like 40% of Maryland State Police would no longer be allowed to carry guns on the job. Therefore, something was wrong with the law. Not, something was wrong with the police.

Leave a Reply