Further assorted thoughts on gun policy this week

The NRA people act like they’re the most oppressed population in the entire United States, when in fact they control the entire debate and all policy outcomes on anything related to guns — or even tangentially related to guns — at the Federal level. This power continues despite gun-owning households being only about a third of households these days, and probably only a fraction of those being hardliner NRA members who oppose any reform except fewer controls.

Things that are now “tyranny” apparently include

  • locking your gun away from children;
  • selling guns with biometric locks;
  • magazine limits;
  • allowing background checks to try to keep legal guns out of irresponsible hands;
  • keeping track of who owns things intended to be used as a deadly weapon like we do for a person’s car, which is not intended as to be used such;
  • doctors asking if you keep a gun in the house because it’s a known health risk factor;
  • restricting general ownership of military-grade firearms designed solely to kill people in combat; etc. etc. etc.

Here’s another question: If widespread anticipatory gun ownership is the only way to avoid or throw off totalitarianism, how did all of the Eastern Bloc countries and the Soviet Union fall apart without a huge shoot-em-up revolution from 1989-1991?

Even in the middle of World War II and just afterward, the Soviets managed to very effectively suppress a vast array of nationalist/partisan revolts against the USSR in the outlying Soviets and occupied satellites (Ukraine, Poland, etc.) even when those people were quite heavily armed. One of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world as measured by sheer number of successful target assassinations was the Western Ukrainian insurrection against the Soviet government after the Nazi withdrawal. Thirty months and 11,725 assassinated Soviet officers, agents and collaborators later, the heavily armed Ukrainian Insurgent Army was ultimately brought down by infiltration, psychological warfare, and their own alienation of the local population. So much for guns saving the day against a totalitarian occupier.

A half century later, the Soviets were brought down by, essentially, bankruptcy and internal political reform. If you want a realistic fantasy of throwing off totalitarianism, it probably won’t look like “Red Dawn.” No, it probably just involves a lot of spreadsheets, endemic corruption, and ill-conceived defense expenditures.

“Joe” the “Plumber” says aloud what the gun fanatics were thinking

Failed Congressional candidate and inexplicable, accidental 2008 presidential campaign star Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher opened his mouth and said some charming things on the UCSB shooting that all of America’s gun fanatics were thinking anyway but didn’t have the national platform to be caught saying:

“But: As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
“In conclusion, I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.”

You’re why we want gun control

The 2nd Amendment hardliners say gun control is the step right before we lose the 1st Amendment Right to Free Speech.

But I’d venture that a bigger threat to Free Speech is this response to pro-gun control arguments: “U should be shot & killed. Hopefully with an unregistered gun. U r a clown.” (One of many messages we’ve already received today at my job.)

So they want to protect the Right to Free Speech by murdering those who speak out for gun control? Seems legit.

If you are about to write out a comment saying that someone who opposes guns or supports gun control deserves to be shot, just understand that you’re making the case for taking away guns from you specifically better than anyone else ever has.

12 fatal mass shootings in 5 months

I researched and penned this section on a new op-ed from The Globalist on the NRA’s death grip over American policymaking:

There are, in fact, so many mass shootings now — the government has reported a big increase — that only a few, truly elaborate sprees make the national news anymore. The UCSB shooting is actually the 11th fatal mass shooting in 2014, but perhaps only the second to get wall-to-wall coverage.

With the exception of the UCSB shooting and the Fort Hood shooting, barely a dent was made by the killing sprees that left at least four dead in each of the 2014 mass shooting events in these U.S. cities and towns: Spanish Fork, UT; Cypress, TX; Defiance, OH; Alturas, CA; Indianapolis, IN; Glade Spring, VA; Oak Lawn, IL; Jonesboro, AR and Tampa, FL.

The common denominator in all of them is less “did we miss the signs?” on this particular, isolated individual — often a domestic attack — and more about the rampant access to guns and a powerful “movement” that fetishizes killing instruments.

Beyond that are the more than forty dead children under 14 killed so far in 2014 by “accidental” gun deaths, at a pace that researcher David Waldman found matches the 2013 child casualty pace like clockwork. Unlike an accidental automobile death, few accidental gun death cases result in any prosecution.


Update 6/8: The day after this original post there was another domestic incident mass shooting, in Mission Viejo CA, resulting in 4 deaths. The total for January through May ended up as 12 events.

You can hear more on this topic in AFD Ep. 61.

“Loner” attackers aren’t crazy & don’t really act alone

Yesterday I published a brief piece arguing that the Santa Barbara shooting had less to do with solo mental illness and more to do with a bigger ideology or worldview that makes it acceptable to kill someone without seeing that as wrong. I noted that past mass killing events like the Rwandan genocide have been prime examples of a lot of people suddenly coming to the belief that the morally “right” course of action is actually the immediate extermination of a class of fellow humans. Maybe there’s a “mob mentality” / Salem witch trial hysteria element to it, but at its core, it’s not so much that everyone suddenly went crazy but that everyone was primed by received messaging to believe that mass murder was now acceptable because of reasons.

In the grand scope of history, I’d hypothesize that the number of ideologically motivated murders astronomically outnumber those committed in a lunatic haze by someone who is just totally out of it and has no sense of up or down, let alone right or wrong. In fact, I’d even go as far as guessing that in the United States today, more mentally ill people who are confused are accidentally killed by police than other people are killed by a mentally ill person on a rampage. It happens, but not much. Plus, those people basically don’t have any idea what they’re doing. Which is vastly different from premeditating an elaborate killing spree for specific, defined reasons based on ideas (not, say, amorphous perceived threats or imagined voices).

It’s disrespectful, at best, to suggest automatically that a mass shooting is the result of mental illness (and, at worst, contributes to further stigmatization which can only make it less likely people who need help will seek it). But it also conveniently and decisively removes any opportunity to discuss the ideological motivations or worldview that actually led a person (who may or may not have a mental health issue) to commit a violent crime. It requires an ideological component well beyond any mental atypicality to take a socially awkward person and make him angry, hate-filled, murderous person. Not everybody who is awkward or struggles with mental health challenges has that reaction.

A reader posed several questions to me, in response to the original post:

Don’t you think you’re going down a slippery slope here? With that mentality you could attribute every awful thing anyone does to their having a different ideology. Also, he didn’t live in a society where killing girls who aren’t interested in you is OK. If he wasn’t mentally ill, how did he develop an ideology that almost no one else around him shares? I don’t doubt that a lot of guys think women owe them sex, but don’t you think you have to have some issues to take it to the extreme that he did?

I think that’s a fair question to ask me, to the extent that I didn’t fully explain why I was making the argument. So in the interest of clarifying, I’ll answer that in full, for everyone’s benefit:
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He who controls the narrative controls the universe

Ruling topics off limits for anyone to talk about at all and derailing the direction of existing discussions (as a distraction from the main points) are both forms of trying to control a narrative.

People who say there shouldn’t be “finger-pointing” after anything happens are more concerned with making sure the finger doesn’t point back to them than with making sure similar events don’t happen again.

And people who say we shouldn’t “politicize” tragedies are more concerned with making sure their political beliefs go unchallenged and unquestioned than about preventing future tragedies.

Narrative control is not neutral. It’s the most effective and aggressive form of politics.

That which is not discussed is not acted upon, in any direction. That which is not permissible within the acceptable parameters of public discourse is ignored until the parameters are altered to include it.

If that weren’t true, at least on some level, politicians and consultants wouldn’t spend millions of dollars every year testing messaging and talking points and framing.
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Context: Because nothing exists in a vacuum.

It’s convenient to act like there’s not a broader context & pattern when “individuals” / lone wolves make attacks, whether it be racial, gendered, or whatever.

But if you don’t connect the dots between ostensibly isolated incidents — like the Santa Barbara shooting and the kid a few weeks ago who stabbed a girl to death for declining his prom invite — then you don’t see the bigger picture.

It’s convenient the write the individual attackers off as “mentally ill” (no matter how offensive that is to people with mental illness who’ve never harmed a soul).

But do we really now believe that people are “mentally ill” when they follow an ideology that re-aligns their definition of “right” and “wrong”? The Rwandan Genocide wasn’t a case of a whole population being mentally ill. It was the result of an ideology that made it “ok” to kill 800,000 people in a few months.

It’s possible to have totally warped views and still be perfectly sane from a legal and medical standpoint. It’s possible be sane and yet buy into a culture that tells/allows you to regard some people as subhuman.

Writing off individual attacks as individual events, when they are in fact connected by a worldview, ideology, or source incitement (whether a diffused or point source, to use the environmental science terms), is why attacks continue.