What Kind of Conversation?

I really did not want to write about a mass shooting, but I felt like I needed to.

I hope that I can somehow help the families and survivors of the attack on the Pulse club and help them not be forgotten.

I cannot speak for the victims and survivors. I do not know what they would want to say. People who know them well might know. I can only say how it makes me feel.

I am angry that yet another disaffected man has gone on to attack innocent people. I want to talk about the cultural environment that brought this on. Is it really so different when Americans pick up a gun to kill people for their idea of glory or God, as it is when people in any country pledge allegiance to ISIS to brutalize women and attack those who believe differently? Is the desire to reclaim some wounded manhood by shocking acts of violence not part of their motive? Are they the worst kind of reactionaries, acting under more or less organization, going after people who represent threats to the social order they desire?

I find it hard to believe that people with all kinds of views on gun laws are not only sick of the tragedies, but sick of the non-debate that goes on afterward. Gun ownership is integral to my political views of individual empowerment. I am always going to pro-gun and pro-Second Amendment. I am proud to be a gun owner who has taught others about responsible use and ownership of firearms. I am also tired of the scripted non-debate that we always get into. I agree 100% that tragedies can be stopped by individual gun owners, like the Uber driver who stopped a massacre in Chicago. But the fact is, armed citizens are not always going to be around, and pro-gun folks are talking ourselves into irrelevance if this is all we have to say.

The national conversation on gun laws is not a debate. It is an opportunity for cultural posturing. At this point, there are basically two camps pointing to the other, saying nasty things, and getting cheers from the crowd we’re in. The leading national politicians are not having an honest discussion, either because they don’t trust the other side or they don’t think they will get anywhere by talking to the other side. We are just building up more anger that must eventually come back to us.

Some people advocate banning all guns, even though it is politically and practically impossible in America and there are actually very few developed countries that have done so. Some people might prefer gun control laws that are not outside the realm of reason, but then they talk as if all gun owners who disagree with them are responsible for mass murders, and then they wonder where why there aren’t more gun owners who want to talk with them. Some people pretend they want a debate, but they actually are more likely to talk about things like how a gun owner’s penis is.

For the pro-gun crowd, an attitude of no-compromise is required for full membership. The fact that full gun confiscation is a political, practical, and cultural impossibility in America is not given the weight it is due. The actual amount of firepower that is required for the people to defend themselves against government overreach, violent political movements, and violent criminals is not discussed. There is a little bit of discussion on how to best secure gun rights for the largest number of Americans for the greatest length of time, but more often there is the spectacle of a life-and-death struggle against the forces of darkness. When we are in power, they lose, and when they are in power, we lose.

Essentially, there is no trust. I find it hard to believe that most Americans would prefer to do nothing about mass murders. We can celebrate the fact that violent crime is down, that individuals in American society are relatively safe. But things can be improved. The ax of gun control will eventually fall if the political winds are shifted that way, and it will fall more heavily if nobody will talk to each other. Is there any compromise to be made that will make anyone happy?

I know there are people who want all guns to be taken from American civilians, but I think they will stay in the minority if American gun culture does not wall itself off. I am not in favor of weapons restrictions, but I would not actively oppose laws that include a balance of restrictions and guarantees on gun rights. I think it is more important that Americans have the ability to carry guns in more places across the country than for those guns to hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. I would be less opposed to gun control laws that also restricted the weapons that police could routinely carry, as that would remind them that they are supposed to be citizens like the rest of us. I will remain opposed to gun control regimes where gun ownership is an exclusive club for the rich and connected while the poor get frisked. I recognize that my goal of a more libertarian society is going to take some time and trial and correction to get to, and I am okay with compromises along the way.

I recognize that the bulk of this post talked about guns and gun laws, not the culture that violence springs from. Unfortunately, that is the discussion that I am responding to. As the profile of the shooter is detailed in the coming weeks, let’s not forget how mass society is woven with past violence, threats of violence, awe of violence, and brutalizing, humiliating, hierarchy. Oppression that is done most shockingly in mass public shootings will not be undone without serious inquiry.

The cause of mass murder spectacles is not guns. Anyone who refuses to take seriously the inquiry into the cultural ground that perpetrators spring from should not be taken seriously. Similarly, a larger store of firepower is not the greatest guarantor of the greatest liberty; that role belongs to widespread social acceptance of the principles upon which liberty rests. But guns are often the tools used in mass murders and they are tools that give teeth to individual liberties. The discussion about guns should be taken seriously as well.

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