Well, after all of my writings about the hurtful nature of stereotypes and why people use them, I suppose I had to come to this topic eventually. Recently, an individual went to a screening of the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, and shot dead a number of people. Terrible title aside, I do not know what could have possibly motivated this act. I could sit here and make jokes about how Christopher Nolan‘s godawful photographic style (shaking the camera about like an epileptic on meth, to quote Chris Bauer) being the cause, but that would be wrong and in poor taste.
Not that being wrong or in poor taste ever stops some people. I will not get into the reams and reams of words being printed by the mainstream media about how the perpetrator was apparently “mentally ill” (by their definition) or a *gasp* “outsider”. Such bigotry, mainstream media, the refusal to go into the animal crimes of the norms whilst making front-page news of every infraction by someone who might be different to the expected norm, regardless of how minor, is why you are losing a lot of people to the siren song of the Internet. But let us put that aside for a moment and focus instead on some sick normalists’ attempts to twist the event to their own political purposes.
I am not even going to bother trying to be nice about this. The gun lobby has, in their infinite wisdom, decided that this terrible tragedy is something to twist to their benefit. That is what I will be focusing upon today. Not because I have anything to contribute to the response to the shootings, but because I have grown flat-out sick of people repeating flat-out bullshit and expecting it to be taken as fact.
This image is a classic example thereof. Apart from the neurobigotry on display, every element of this image is entirely wrong. First off of the rank is the fact that nothing in this image has anything to do with the Second Amendment of America’s constitution. A more in-depth dissection of what the Second Amendment means and why the gun lobby has abandoned fighting the issue in the legal system can be found here. But the nutshell is that the Supreme Court, which is basically America’s final say-so in terms of how the constitution is interpreted, has ruled time and time again that the Second Amendment does not grant the right to keep weaponry to individuals, but rather to the “well-regulated militias” mentioned in its first part. The exact wording is as follows:
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Of course, with a clause as non-specific as this, people with agendas are free to go to courts and make all kinds of outrageous claims concerning its proper meaning. The funny thing about it is that when certain kinds of people do make arguments concerning what legal snippets like this one mean, their argument is invariably that it means precisely what they want it to mean.
The biggest reason why the gun lobbyists have abandoned the legal system and are trying to wage their campaign in the court of popular opinion is because, after around a century of legal challenges, they have encountered a perfect track record of defeat in the matter. The Supreme Court has opined time after time, in spite of massive shifts both in composition and of the society they adjudicate, that the authors of the constitution intended this clause to mean that the states have a right to keep their own armed services for defense on a state by state basis. The individual’s right does not enter into it at all. There are a number of reasons for this, the most important of which I will address shortly. But clearly, whomever designed the above graphic cares very little for the specifics of logic, law, or even reason.
Individuals with impaired senses of reason also like to proclaim that the possession of a firearm, or having one in their home, makes them safer. The reality is the exact opposite. As this article points out, scientific studies not only fail to show any protective benefit of having a firearm in one’s home, one such study even shows that your risk of being murdered increases by 2.7 times if you have a firearm in your home. That is 270% for those who are inclined towards percentages.
But how can that be, I hear all gun lobbyists not asking. Well, put quite simply, show me a Human being that does not experience an urge to murder another Human being at least once every so often, and I will show you a saint. Even children old enough to know some society with others occasionally have an altercation with another that will make them think they wish to murder that other.
Firearms make it far easier to murder other people. As the article I have linked states, this can be seen by analysing statistics concerning people committing suicide. Killing a Human being, including oneself, is a task with a level of difficulty that often surprises those attempting it. This means that weapons or tools that make the attempt easier will have a higher success rate. Self-inflicted lacerations account for fifteen percent of suicide attempts in America, but only one percent of all successful attempts. Non-fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wounds are a rarity, but sixty percent of all successful suicides in America involve firearms.
Feasibility is a big factor in murder. If I were to suddenly decide, just for example, that I wanted to kill comedic martial arts legend Jackie Chan, I would have to have something very powerful at my disposal to make it feasible. I will concrete this with a very hypothetic example based on an interview with a martial arts performer I read years ago. In the martial arts world, there are many idiots who would like to be able to claim that they punched out Jackie Chan (or Jet Li, or…). So Chan is known to surround himself with some men who can best be described as rather hard. But with an assault rifle and sufficient ammunition, not only can I strike from a great distance, I can also strike many times in rapid succession without it taking too great a physical toll on me.
Hence, when a person insists on keeping a gun in their household, rather than giving them the ability to shoot dead mysterious intruders, it generally means that normal arguments between family members may turn deadly.
The same applies out in public. The reason why people who decide they want to become police officers or security guards are subject to rigorous background checks is because when you are entrusted to use lethal force to protect the lives and wealth of others, people generally want you to have some control of your temper (hence the point above).
Of course, gun lobbyists will also make such ridiculous claims as that gun control was heavily enacted in Nazi Germany or the like. This is the opposite of what really happened. The Weimar republic had some of the heaviest gun control not only from within but also from without. In the aftermath of World War I, Germany was expected to bend over in so many directions in order to satisfy obligations set down in the Treaty Of Versailles. One such obligation was severe limitations upon its ability to wage war, which meant massive limitations on the size and modernisation of the German army. Which meant limitations upon the availability of firearms not just to the public, but also to all forms of militia. One of the first things that the Nazi regime was concerned with when getting started was removing all of the severe limitations upon its military readiness that foreign powers had put in place.
Other common arguments from the nutty gun lobby proclaim that greater gun control goes hand in hand with greater incidences of rape, theft, assault, and so on and so forth. This is essentially an extension of the claim by Robert Heinlein (among others) that “an armed society is a polite society”. Do not get me wrong. I love Heinlein‘s work in fiction, but this statement is just flat-out fantasy. As is the peculiar belief that being armed will somehow make others afraid to attack you. As statistics on murder and suicide reveal, all that possession of a firearm adds to the equation is the ability of the firearm owner to use lethal force in either their attack or response to the attack. As a deterrent, it flat-out sucks. Statistics concerning the circumstances in which people were murdered in the year 1993 have it that slightly more than thirty percent of all murders in the United States were motivated by “arguments”. This includes arguments concerning money, property, “romantic triangles” (basically, who is putting what in where). Statistics for the same year state that of all the methods used to murder, guns of all kinds accounted for slightly less than seventy percent. And handguns alone accounted for slightly less than fifty-seven percent. This does not paint a very good picture of the whole gun-defense culture in America, to be brutually honest. The peculiar American fantasy that some fine upstanding citizen is going to see one of their fellows being shot, pull out a gun, and shoot the shooter, is the biggest load of bollocks that Americans tell themselves. The majority of people who work in some capacity in law enforcement are already painfully aware of this. When everyone in a society has a firearm, the slightest argument over who cut off whom in traffic has a very real chance to turn deadly.
The rhetoric on the part of the gun lobby that societies where guns are banned or heavily restricted are somehow more violent is also highly disingenuous on the part of the gun lobby. A good look at the societies and places in question reveals the exact opposite to be the case. This is partly why the gun lobby has to resort to distorted historical examples such as a fictional construct of Nazi Germany. The only society I have ever heard named where gun ownership is universal and yet the murder rate is generally lower than in America is Israel. This is because with the numerous enemies of the state of Israel around its borders, the desire to kill things becomes very externalised. And that is partly the problem in places like America.
As I have stated elsewhere, America has a problem with income inequality that can rightly be compared to societies that are facing far harder struggles, such as the former Soviet Union or most of Africa. This has a dramatic effect upon the level of violence in America. When a substantial portion of the populace cannot afford the basics of living, and can see others living well off the sweat of others, violence will ensue. You can see this in societies like Australia. When one is told the places to avoid or be very careful in around Sydney, for example, the areas with the highest rates of unemployment or social malady (aka the landlords having free run to bend residents over a barrel) and the places with the highest levels of crime tend to overlap. Places with high levels of poverty tend to be more violent than their better-off neighbours, irrespective of how readily guns are available in that place.
So the lesson to be learned here is not only that gun lobbyists are idiots, but they are also idiots of the worst kind. Leaving aside their bigotry (as demonstrated in cases like Trayvon Martin‘s slaying) or neurobigotry, the simple fact remains that their acquaintance with facts is, to say the least, very loose.
My heart goes out to the people who were shot at in Aurora, Colorado. To those who died, to their families, and to those who are now dealing with having witnessed the event, I wish to convey my sympathy. But to those who are using this event in this or that manner for their own distorted political ends such as pro-gun rhetoric, or something that I will get to shortly, shame on you.