1/13/11

It's the Guns, Stupid



This was a lovely speech, but why do we keep letting these things happen? With all the talk of this factor and that, it seems to me it all comes down to the gun. Why can't we confront the bizarre way that many Americans make gun-ownership a core part of their identity? It's crazy, and it's one of the reasons why this little girl is being buried today.

14 comments:

amos said...

They should put a 1000% sales tax on guns (in all countries) and use the proceeds for public health care.

Besides that, they should ban handguns for everyone, even for the police.

Faust said...

I agree gun fetishism is bizzare, but unfortunately I don't see that issue as something that is ever going to gain traction politically.

You are more likely to get more funding for mental health facilities than you are for more gun control in this country.

In any case I think it's really NOT just the gun. We have:


1. The gun
2. Lack of mental health care/the way we deal with mental illness
3. Toxic political climate.

It seems to me that if 2. were dealt with and 3. was less toxic then 1. would not be nearly as big an issue.

Think of it this way. If you could pick 2 of the 3 to fix which would you choose? Personally if we could increase funding to mental health programs, and change our attitutde about mental illness a bit, and have a less absurd hyperbolic political discourse I would take that over lowering the number of bullets in a clip (though I'd take that too).

Sadly, changing any 1 of the 3 is highly unlikely.

Jean Kazez said...

Hmm...I guess I don't know much about mental health programs. I don't know what's lacking, don't know what's needed. A guy is acting really wacky, but doesn't perceive himself as in need of mental health care (assume that's so in this situation). What should happen? I really don't know...

But I know he shouldn't be able to buy a glock. So I pick 1 and 3, if only out of ignorance about 2.

Faust said...

You may find this of interest:

http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/involuntary-commitment-and-the-prison-population/

amos said...

I'm aware that sane gun legislation is light years away, but why the gun fetishism?

I went through a stage around age 12 when I thought that guns were cool, as most male children do, but then I got interested in girls and in poetry and in lots of others things. Why don't so many others grow out of the gunfighter stage?

vh said...

I too agree that gun fetishism is bizzare, but I find the american gun policy even more so (is there just one, or how does this work?). Of course I don't know more about this then what I gather from books, movies and the news, but it seems way too easy to acquire guns in your country.

In Norway you need to go through extensive testing, both practical tests (shooting exercises I guess) and theoretical ones, before you get your gun permit. And even then it's kind of hard, or so I'm told. (We certainly cannot go into a bank to open an account and get a gun as a gift as we saw in the Michael Moore film.) Weapons for sale are mostly hunting riffles, though we have pistol clubs in our country too. The rules as to how these weapons are to be kept are very strict. (Split into parts, locked up in officially approved gun-cabinets, and guns and ammo are to be locked safely up at different locations.)

The very few shooting incidents we've had are almost entirely family tragedies involving depressed semi-professional military men -- who are supposed to have their guns on standby at home. (There have been some suggestions to ban that too.)

vh said...

One more thing. In Norway not even the police are allowed to carry armed guns. When they need to load them, they must wait for an approval from their superior. This might seem like a slow process. It is, and that's the point. Some policemen (they are mostly men, as you would expect) are trying to change things, though. Hopefully they won't have it their way. Hopefully they won't need to.

amos said...

Vh:

Does the mass gun fetishism which characterizes the U.S. exist in Norway? If not, the lack of gun fetishism might be one factor in Norway's rational and sensible gun laws.

I live in Chile, where gun laws are less strict than in Norway, but more prudent than in Arizona.
While there are certainly gun fetishists in Chile, no major politician, either on the left or on the right, would associate herself with them.

vh said...

Amos:

I'm sure there's something right in your suggestion. Because we don't have the mass gun fetishism here, our gun laws are very different. Laws usually reflect the society to some degree. But I suspect that this might work the other way around too. That we have such strict laws and therefore guns play no central part in our culture. What strikes me as most alien with the US on this topic, though, isn't the staggering numbers of fetishists, but the fact that ordinary people keep hand guns in their homes. Not many people in Norway thinks of guns as a sort of insurance. That we need guns in order to be safe at home, is something only a madman would say.

(I'm listening to the radio as I write this. Breaking news. There has been a shooting in the central park in a nearby city, in the middle of the day, with families present. Apparently there was some disagreement in the local junky milieu. No one dead so far, but three persons were rushed to the hospital. -- So much for silent Norway.)

amos said...

Vh:

As you say, what is unique in U.S. culture is that the idea that ordinary people need guns to protect themselves becomes part of standard middle-class, as it were, conventional ideology.

People buy guns to protect themselves in Chile, but it's a kind of dirty secret that they don't brag about or show off about. If there is a Rifle Association here, they keep a very low profile and don't interfere in politics.

We have a rightwing government now: hard on crime, as most rightwing goverments claim to be.
It would not surprise me if they propose giving more powerful arms to the police, but never never would they recommend that ordinary citizens buy arms to protect themselves. Not even the most rightwing politician in Chile would pose with a firearm: that would be political suicide.

Jean Kazez said...

vh, The laws vary from state to state. I think people will tell you that people must have their guns because they're important for self-defense, but the truth is that guns have lots of meaning for Americans. If it's hard to fathom the meaning of guns, it's even harder to fathom the combination of "guns and God." You see bumper stickers in Texas putting the two together...

The meaning of guns is...what? I guess it's part of an anti-government sensibility. Obviously the police and arm get to have guns. If people didn't have them too, then they'd be in some weak, compromised position "under" the government. Or something.

Actually, I find it pretty puzzling.

amos said...

People in Latin America fear anarchy much more than they fear big government. Ayn Rand is not a widely sold or even widely known author in Chile.

In the U.S., in spite of always having lived under relatively benign governments and in spite of the fact that the presidents who have most abused executive power, Nixon and Bush 2, have been "against Big Government", many people fear public healthcare more than they do unregulated guns, since guns allow them to protect themselves against a non-existent tyranny of the federal government.

It is puzzling, as you say.

vh said...

I actually meant to finish my last comment with something about the anti-government sensibility, as you call it, or about the american ideal of self reliability that has already been mentioned in this discussion, but I simply forgot.

I don't know if the following is relevant (I've already revealed myself as not very knowledgeable about the US). But this is something I find striking (though, I'm not sure what to make of it). USA is the only country I know of where traveling gunmen -- bank robbers, serial killers and desperadoes -- can become a sort of national hero. Not unitedly praised, of course, but a lot of Americans seem very fascinated, if not proud of them. I'm thinking of Ted Bundy, Bonny and Clyde, Billy the Kid, Baby face Nelson and others. Sure, some Norwegians are bragging about our Viking heritage too -- particularly when drunk and abroad or at sporting venues -- but it's not something our entertainment industry create a lot of TV-series and movies about. In fact most norwegians (who care to think about such matters) are a little embarrassed by the picture of our ancestors as a murderous mob and try not to forget that most norsemen were in fact peaceful farmers -- the Vikings were the Hell's Angels of those days. South America has it's violent heroes as well. Che Guevarra is a romantic figure. You can say many things about him, but he wasn't just a killer, he was an idealist who fought for a cause. Bonnie and Clyde on the other hand, seem to have been elected the US Hall of Fame simply for their anti-social and destructive behaviour.

Does anyone have an opinion about this?

amos said...

Vh:

Che Guevara is more like a George Washington who failed than like Jesse James.

Folk heroes are usually outsiders. in South America the outsider hero is generally someone who beats the system or who astutely gets his (it's usually a male) way, especially in sexual terms, say, a Don Juan. Don Juan, while an outlaw of sorts, is not violent, unless you call his treatment of women to be violent, but in any case, it's another sort of violence.

Maybe it has to do with the puritanism of U.S. culture: mainstream U.S. culture is more likely to applaud the outsider hero as gunfighter than as serial seducer.