The first week of December I sent out these two tweets bellow, which then brought out a good conversation on Facebook. You can click through to see those conversations.
355 mass shootings in a year, though that number depends on how one defines a mass shooting. Even so, the statistics on gun violence are overwhelming. The numbers of dead and wounded and families and friends affected. And all for what appears to be a defense of accessible guns based on a particular interpretation of the 2nd amendment of the Constitution. To the point that is preventable incidences, preventable deaths and preventable injury.
We keep going back to the argument about gun control each time one of these shootings makes the headlines
Gun control is the answer: it gives a sense of what can directly be done to prevent such deaths in the future.
I see and make a connection between the violence of the mass shootings and police violence especially against black bodies and drone strikes.
My comments were an attempt to link up the violence of a mass shooting to other violence in our society and culture: the violence of policing, our military presence and actions around the globe, the violence in our entertainment, and the violence of the coercive nature of the state. These sorts of violence are considered legitimate and necessary (with the exception of mimed violence of our entertainment, though we do seem to consider it legitimate.). The violence of the state is for our protection and safety, except when it isn’t, and for whom it isn’t, thus the #Blacklivesmatter movement.
There is of course the desire to end suffering and with gun violence the obvious target is guns, and for many that impinges on a right they believe they have. And so the back and forth, people are called to give up that right (or it is denied as a right at all) for the sake of safety and ending unnecessary suffering.
Yet, this doesn’t get at the root of the problem. Eddie Izzard had a bit about the NRA’s slogan Guns don’t kill people but people do (something like that) to which he responds true, but having a gun sure helps. He goes on to imagine a monkey with a gun randomly shooting up Charlton Heston’s home.
As we debate guns we focus on one side or the other, the guns or the people, but not the underlying violence that these mass shootings show us. We are living upon a sea of violence and we are surprised when waves of that violence rise up and claim some of us.
President Obama has been talking about needing to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. This presupposes that some should have them. I’d like to see more citizens question the need for weapons, and thus the need for violence. We should question why we deem some violence legitimate and other violence illegitimate. After all the ultimate power of any violence is death, or at least the threat of death. Even if in violence , I’m only injured, that injury shows that the one who has injured me also has the power of death, and is willing to use that power. Coercive power, has little weight if there wasn’t also behind it the threat of death.
Granted this line of thinking won’t stop dead in its tracks the mass shootings and gun violence in our streets, nor the unjust use of that violence by police Yet, anything we do to attend to those things will be only to push back the violence a futile attempt to control the power of death, believing we can use the power of death to our advantage and to keep death at bay. I believe what we are seeing is the consequence of that strategy, a strategy that human beings rarely question. After all we still attempt to use war to bring peace, and then wonder why we continually have war. We say keep us safe and death at bay, by threatening harm and death on those who deserve it, and then wonder at those who defy this threat,even embrace it, and then death overtakes us suddenly and without warning.
I wrestle with this: the logic of legitimate violence and the coercive power of the state does present a certain amount of safety, and can regulate this violence (to a degree). Yet, it means some still will need to die for our safety. Someone will be sacrificed to this system of violence and death held in reserve. After all there are military weapons for sale because the State needs those weapons to act as a state, both to police its own citizenry and to wage war upon other states and “terrorists.”. Sure we prefer the language of defense and safety, because it is always the other who wages war, we only defend ourselves, we never lash out. Rarely will we admit that war and violence is ever our responsibility or initiative, but is caused by the other’s action. Yet, it is rare that violence is done without reason (even if we who, have the power to so judge, deem that reason invalid and illegitimate). Whoever uses violence has a rational for that violence and a belief in its necessity. This is what we need to face, and no amount of gun control will keep death at bay, and keep us free from violence, as long as we retain the right to our own legitimate violence, as individuals or as the state.