Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Hi from Canada

At the curious intersection of American gun culture and progressive Twitter... motifs?, the following narrative has emerged:

The problem isn't guns, or not mostly/most urgently guns, someone will say, but rather something amorphous in society. Toxic, aggrieved masculinity, say, or "white male entitlement." White men. Or just: men. (The first link brings up a thread where that very question is debated.) This is about men being the worst. And also, maybe, whiteness, if not in the act itself, which sure seems to correlate with maleness, then with which killers get which treatment in the press, from law enforcement. The problem isn't guns but societal unfairness.

Make a pronouncement along these lines, and you will get nods of agreement from some, trolling from others, but you know what you probably won't get? You probably won't get the gun nuts I got in my mentions (and in my employer's inbox...) for weeks after writing this.* Those taking this stance are people whose politics on this I share, I guess, kind of? But something seems off about the priorities, or maybe just the pragmatism?

Anyway, here's how I see it: racism, sexism, structural injustice, all of this is real. It's all important. It's important, too, that every time one of these idiots goes and shoots some unfathomable number of people, whichever motivation gets attributed (attribution of motive being its own web of problematicness), lo and behold he - virtually always he - has a history of domestic violence against one or more women. It all matters. It should all be addressed. It's not zero-sum, not at all.

But all these societal problems are intractable relative to having fewer guns. When addressing the specific and I think rather important issue of how to make it so people aren't constantly getting killed or seriously injured as a side effect of human awfulness, sure it's a good idea to look at the "human awfulness" angle, but also: guns.

Put another way. I want to live in a world without racism, sexism, domestic violence, or self-destructive urges, without white male entitlement. But I can picture a world without ready access to guns.

Guns are physical objects. Countries with different laws don't have this issue. It's not that there aren't obstacles - legal** and cultural - to shifting away from a gun culture. But consider those obstacles relative to abolishing racism and sexism. Especially to abolishing unconscious racism and sexism. Yes, a world with a bit less general awfulness would also have less gun violence, less violence of all kinds. But it should not be possible to kill, as guns allow, on a whim.

*A strange thing about having written that article is, even nearly two years later, there are these rounds of, a mass shooting happens, the piece again starts circulating (without my sharing it), and I again get the furious tweets, emails, etc. The moment I see something in my inbox with the subject heading, "You live in Canada," it's like, yep, that time again.

**Yes, I am aware of the Second Amendment. Whether the answer here is new interpretations of it or a repeal, others would know better than I would. I'm certain the issue is guns, but am not the policy strategist who's going to figure out how to get rid of them.


Andrew Stevens said...

Speaking as an Iowan for the last twenty-odd years, I can tell you that guns is one of the major factors in "why you got Trump." Democrats have been losing on this issue for decades now and they're not suddenly going to win any time soon.

In the last thirty years, I believe gun ownership per capita has doubled but gun violence (along with all other violence) has declined significantly in that period.

Mass shootings have not declined and definitely rose between 2007 and 2013, but that's obviously the mass media's fault. It is also the mass media's fault that people are terrified of mass shootings even though only a tiny number of people die in them. In the same way, people think there are epidemics of child abductions, kids dying in hot cars, black men being killed by cops (there is a very real policing problem in this country, but it's everyone's problem, not just black men's), and so forth, even though virtually no one in the country knows anyone who has been affected by any of these issues.

What is the likely motive of the killer in Las Vegas? Most likely he wanted to set a record and the media has obliged him by trumpeting his record as a new mark for the next guy to shoot for. It is one of the more sickening spectacles of love of money trumping love of humanity that it's possible to witness and it happens all over the spectrum - MSNBC, CNN, the broadcast networks, Fox News, all of them.

By the by, while it is almost always men (though there was of course Brenda Spencer), white men and black men both commit mass shootings in rough proportion to their share of the population. Asians are quite overrepresented and Latinos are underrepresented. The media just doesn't care that much about mass shootings (or serial killings) committed by people other than white men, unless it's a record like the one in Virginia Tech.

Andrew Stevens said...

I said "gun ownership per capita" above, but I should have been more precise and said "number of guns in private hands per capita." Gun ownership rates have actually declined a bit in that time, though there are still at least 35% of people in the country either own a gun or live in a house with someone who does. Hopefully no one was confused by my lack of precision.

Andrew Stevens said...

Actually checked your links. I was very amused by "Rachel" in the Twitter thread posting a graph purporting to show that mass shootings are "obviously" a white thing when the graph, in fact, shows the opposite. (According to her graph, 5/9 of the last 90 mass shootings were by white people, but the country is 72% white. If I had been using her data, I would have had to say that black men were overrepresented and white men were underrepresented, but I'll stick with my prior data.)