Sunday, July 22, 2012

Colorado and gun control laws, the good and the bad

First off, the shootings in Colorado happened after the individual amassed an arsenal in a short period of time, which should not have been allowed to occur. It wasn't just one gun, or two guns, but a huge mass of weaponry that he bought in preparation for the shooting. Plus, he acquired explosives and other devices.

But, that said, while putting some common sense gun control laws back on the books would very much help to stop incidents like these in the future, I believe the whole discourse about gun control in the United States is flawed. To rip off the NRA, guns don't kill people, macho bullshit kills people.

Michael Moore was absolutely right in "Bowling for Columbine" when he looked below the surface of our gun culture to see what was really going on, and pointed to cultural features of American society as the real culprits. Here, guns are connected with instant gratification and masculinity, with having the power of life and death in your hands in a way where any moron off the street can wield it. It's an unhealthy type of masculinity, too.

Folks who object to the frat boy "Fear Factor", "Jack Ass", jock culture in the United States are sometimes accused of wanting to feminize all of life, to try to turn men into women, etc...but the thing is that even in patriarchal societies like Rome and traditional Islam, what men were and are taught is how a man should ideally act was grossly different than the idiot caveman type of behavior advocated in our culture. In these societies, at their best, men were taught to behave themselves with nobility and rationality.

The lack of that attitude, combined with any sort of common sense notion of self restraint and critical thinking on the part of American society as a whole contributes to a culture where people use guns for stupid reasons on a fairly regular basis.

Stand your ground laws are a wonderful example of this. My understanding, based on experience with martial arts and other situations dealing with de-escalating conflict, is that actually using lethal force is really almost never required. There are many different ways of dealing with a situation short of shooting someone, yet these "Stand your ground" laws empower any asshole with a pistol and a chip on his shoulder to swagger around willing to kill someone instead of trying to defuse the situation in other ways.

 Zimmerman is a great example of this. Why should he, as a neighborhood watch person, have been armed in the first place? If he hadn't been walking around with a pistol what would have happened is that he and Trayvon Martin would have gotten in a fight, someone would have won, and events would have proceded from there, maybe with the police being called, maybe with Martin going home to the house he was staying at and calling the police on Zimmerman.

It's the culture and the cultural significance of guns in the United States that are the real problem, and papering over it with gun control laws that are ultra-strict won't do much to change that, but will instead provoke huge conflict over the legislation that will turn it into a political football, advancing one direction in one administration, the other in the next, with no actual progress made towards stopping actual gun violence from occurring.Short of stopping people from arming themselves from the teeth in the space of one month.

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