Note: This ended up being about 3 times longer than I had planned, and veered off course a bit. At some point in the next week or two, I'm probably going to break it up into a couple sections.
I've been holding off on this, because of Orlando. I wanted to wait at least a week or two out of respect, and because nothing pisses me off like the 24-hour news cycle immediately jumping on every tragedy as a means to push the politics of fear. Anyway, now seems like as good a time as any. This rambles. I'm going to talk about guns, national defense, manhood, economic disparity, and I'm going to shit all over both sides of half those topics. You'll be offended at some point in the text. Don't worry, everyone else will be too.
After the shooting in Orlando, gun control advocates are up in arms, demanding new regulations on firearms, and it's hard to blame them. The US seems to be having a continuous wave of mass shootings, and we're doing fuck-all about it. Like, literally nothing. Somebody kills seven people with poisoned Tylenol, and now every pill on the market comes with a tamper-proof seal. We respond to high numbers of drunk driving accidents with enough laws, safety regulations, and public awareness campaigns to fill a small library. One guy unsuccessfully tries to crash a plane, and everyone has to take their shoes off at the airport. For fuck's sake, we've waged a decade and a half, over 5 trillion dollars on a war on terror that's killed 4,000 American civilians since 1970- about 1/3 as many people as have been killed by their motherfucking toasters.
And after 50,000 incidents per year, we do absolutely fucking nothing about guns. Even the suggestion of some kind of regulation is met with adamant, unconditional refusal. Yeah, I can understand why people are sick and tired of the NRA and the open carry activists, and ready to start banning guns outright. I'm just as frustrated by this kind of head-in-the-sand idealogical purity by gun advocates. Something needs to be done, and done yesterday.
Which is one of the many reasons it hurts me to tell you just why we need our guns. Just why the Second Amendment is still necessary, relevant, and underutilized.
Short form, both sides of this argument are full of shit and need to get their heads screwed on properly. Who do I lay into first? Let's start with a couple basic facts.
The Second Amendment exists. It is written in very clear language, embedded into the Constitution- the end-all-be-all final word on every one of our laws. If you don't like it, there's a process to change it- And like it or not, that is very likely to be a first step to enacting any real laws regarding firearms. That is just basic fact, and you know what? There's no reason that shouldn't be on the table. If you think nobody should have a gun, say so. Fight to repeal the Second. I'm prepared to argue against it, but it's a hell of a much stronger position than dicking around over magazine capacity and what constitutes an “assault weapon”, which makes you sound like as much of an idiot as those Republican senators sound when they talk about abortion.
The thing is, there was a context to the Second Amendment which both sides are forgetting- It was intended to be in lieu of a standing military. As such, it has always baffled me that the right and left wings of American politics aren't reversed on this issue- Because it's about the democratization of power. We don't have a monarchy because we don't trust a single family to handle the affairs of state. We don't (or shouldn't, anyway), trust 6 corporations with all of the media or a handful of banks and billionaires with all the money. Why would we trust the government with a monopoly over physical force?*
This is where I'm going to argue just when and why we should take up arms against the government. Liberals, strap in. Conservatives, don't worry- I'm going to shit all over you guys too in a few minutes.
Nonviolent protest is awesome. In a civilized society, debate and reason and a reliance on demonstrable fact and human impact should be enough to settle any issue. I really hope we can be a civilized society one day. I have a tremendous respect for those who choose to stand by their convictions and fight for change using nonviolent means. I just don't ignore the context of when those techniques do and don't work- at least in an uncivilized society like ours:
The first situation where nonviolence is effective is when the sheer spectacle of violent authority bringing down it's boot on the necks of it's own unarmed citizens is enough to rally the overwhelming support of the general population. The murder of college students at Kent State, the massacre at Tiananmen Square- They were moments that crystalized the will of the people. The masses saw, and spoke, and voted. They declared that this would not be done in their name.
The second situation is when those nonviolent protests are backed up by the very real threat of a violent alternative.
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr is perhaps the best example of this principle. He preached nonviolent protest, accomplished great things through peaceful assembly and skillful, passionate oration. But you have to remember the backdrop he was speaking in front of: Race riots. Black Panthers. A growing restlessness and random violence breaking out as millions of African Americans openly confronted their oppression and said enough. Black America was on the verge of a full blown revolution.
And Dr King, an educated, well spoken, respected black man, stood between the government and the masses and said “We need to find a peaceful solution”.
And those angry masses behind him? They are the reason the whites listened, and the reason King didn't take that bullet five years earlier. Because then it would have meant a full blown race war, and the people in charge knew that. King was the good cop in this negotiation, offering one final chance to avoid bloodshed.
Deal with the peaceful and rational minister, or deal with the angry black men with the guns, but one way or another, this gets settled now.
This is, in fact, the context of that other great symbol of peaceful protest, Mahatma Ghandi. As he led his followers to peacefully march in protest of the British rule, India was on the verge of a full scale revolution. With nearly a billion angry subjects, their independence was coming one way or another- Ghandi gave the Crown an opportunity to reach this foregone conclusion without massive bloodshed.
That is the context in which peaceful protest works, and that is why I advocate maintaining the threat of violence through the proper application of the Second Amendment. Yeah- I know, I promise I'll dismantle the gun nuts' argument in a few more paragraphs. This first.
Kent State happened in a day and age where four dead teenagers was enough to rally the support of a nation. Today, I doubt it would get more than 48 hours media coverage before ceding the airwaves to the next manufactured outrage. Want proof?
Hell- I can post a couple hundred graphic, blatant cases of police brutality with indisputable recorded evidence that will never even make the nightly news. Executions. Rapes. This shit happens every day in this country, and nobody does a goddamned thing.
He's pepper spraying peaceful protesters who are literally doing nothing but sitting there. If I did that to you, I'd be charged with assault and battery, at least. Know what happened to him?
What he should have received was a bullet to the head. Yeah, I'm going there. We entrusted this man to serve and protect the public, to uphold the law, and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens under his watch. He used that authority to brutalize the people he took an oath to protect.
And why the hell shouldn't he? He's not going to get shot for it. He's not even going to get fired. Hell- He's going to get a year's pay and early retirement.
And the public outrage?
This is where that “defense against tyranny” argument comes in.
When the right wing gun supporters bring up the idea that the right to bear arms is to defend against tyranny, the typical response is:
You really think you're going to hold off the entire US military and all their nukes and Predator drones and B2 bombers and tanks with you and your ammosexual buddies and your stash of AR-15s in some paranoid Red Dawn fantasy scenario?
That's a valid argument. Nobody kills motherfuckers dead like the US military. Half our economy is built on it. You don't stand a chance if you're in the crosshairs of their full and deliberate efforts.
We're not talking about that. Let's be honest- If it ever comes down to a full blown civil war or invasion on US soil, all bets are off. It will be a bloodbath, every side will be the losing side, and nobody can predict what will or won't happen. It's also something we're really, really not likely to see in our lifetimes.
What I'm talking about is the difference between this:
That top picture is of Scott Olsen, Iraq war veteran, and peaceful Occupy Wall Street protester, who had his head cracked open by a tear gas cannister fired by police into the crowd. The second picture is of the protest at the Bundy Ranch, where some entitled tax-evaders decided they should be able to help themselves to public lands, and the police did fuck-all about it.
That's what we're talking about.
There are hundreds of reports of police brutality against peaceful unarmed protesters. Against armed protesters? Nope. And this has nothing to do with right or wrong, or why anyone is protesting in the first place.
If there are no consequences, then why the hell shouldn't police snap someone's neck, or crack open their skull just for the hell of it? Why not rape someone when you know the system will protect you?
But if there is a very real chance that your initiating a violent act will result in massive escalation, that firing that tear gas cannister or slamming that kid's head into the pavement will get you or your fellow officers killed? That it could easily turn into a bloodbath that even the corporate media won't be able to brush off in time for the commercial break? You're damned right you'll think twice about your next course of action.
Do you escalate the likelihood of violence, or do you do everything in your power to prevent it? Don't for one second pretend that has anything to do with morality or ethics or law- It has everything to do with whether there will be consequences for your actions.
And no, I'm not saying you should go out and shoot cops. I'm not arguing for vigilante justice. I'm not saying that all, or even most cops are violent assholes- Most of them just want to do their job. What I'm saying is that in a conflict where one side has the shirts on their backs, and the other has military grade rifles, body armor, chemical weapons, armored vehicles, and more or less legal immunity, then one of those sides is going to get splattered on the pavement while the other gets to sleep peacefully in their own bed that night. When both sides have a risk of casualties, then both sides will try to avoid that outcome. It's a matter of simple self-preservation, and it's one of the most powerful human instincts.
There's a saying that democracy is kept in four boxes: The soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box, and the ammo box. I have made it one of my life's duties to remind people that those boxes are to opened in that order.
We speak out. We vote. We use every remedy that the law affords us. But we don't give up that one final protection. We don't send the message that they can ignore our voices and our votes and our laws and still abuse us without consequence. We draw that line in the sand, and liberals are disgracefully fucking bad at not doing that. They forget the context in which Gandhi and Martin Luther King fought, and expect that a cop who literally fractures someone's skull and laughs about it to suddenly develop a conscience just because their victim is unarmed. That's not how it fucking works. They like to hurt people who can't fight back. They only stop if their actions have consequences.
So, that's where liberals need to get their heads out of their asses. The government only protects you when you hold them accountable, and sometimes voting isn't enough to do that. We need to preserve the right to bear arms. It has nothing to do with hunting or sports. It is about yes, having the ability to end a human life, or a lot of them, when necessary- Because that is such a terrifying and powerful ability that it must come with checks and balances, and the awful truth is that the only final check on that power is the equal distribution of it.
Now, you can sit back while I heap a ton of shit on the gun nuts who are fucking it up for everyone who actually understands the Second Amendment.
First, and maybe this should have been directed at the liberals, but it's more apt here: Another quote: "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal".
Guns are the great equalizer of force. A handgun puts a frail child on equal footing as an adult bodybuilder. The ability to take down any size opponent, to eliminate a threat, is determined not by your relative size, strength, or skill, but by the simple ability to point and pull a trigger. And it's not merely the ability to thwart an attack, it's the ability to end a human life. That is a massive degree of power.
This is great if you're a slightly built woman who worries about walking through a bad neighborhood without getting raped. It's great if you're a scrappy, ragtag band of freedom fighters up against an evil empire bent on world domination. It's great if you're a security professional charged with guarding persons and property against a credible threat.
But if you're a grown man who feels the need to carry that power with you every time you take the minivan down to some suburban Walmart, then you are a weak, cowardly, pansy-assed, little fuckmuppet who needs to grow a fucking dick. If you seriously need a killing machine to make you feel equal to every little girl and senior citizen you encounter, you are a fucking worthless, useless, pathetic excuse for a human being, and YOU are the reason the Second Amendment is going to be overturned and all of us are going to get fucked. Take your gun, go far, far away from other people, put the barrel in your mouth, and pull the fucking trigger so the aggregate worth of our species goes up a few points.
I'm sorry, was that clear enough?
I've got a good friend who spent a good couple decades as an Army Ranger, and even longer as a martial artist. He holds multiple black belts in multiple forms, and is a certified instructor. In fact, one of his last assignments for Uncle Sam was training the new Afghani army in hand to hand techniques. He's done tours in active hot zones, can kill a man twice his size with his thumb, and is 99.95% more likely to be more of a nails-tough badassed motherfucker than you will ever be.
And for the record, that has nothing to do with why I respect him as a person. A lot of it has to do with a story he told me once- Forgive me for the poetic license of phrasing it to the best of my recollection**:
“We were guarding a checkpoint at the border, and had been warned that insurgents had been rigging vehicles with IEDs and driving them into targets. A family came through our checkpoint and we pulled them over to search. While my squadmates searched the car, I held the family at gunpoint. [Again, this is a security checkpoint in an active war zone] Looking down the barrel of my gun, and seeing the fear in their faces, I had a realization- The difference between a good person and a bad person is whether in my place, they would enjoy that power.”
Sure, there are gun enthusiasts who simply appreciate the artistry or engineering of the thing. That's totally valid. There are plenty of responsible gun owners who understand the responsibility that comes with owning something designed to kill- Most of my friends who hunt, or who served in the military, for example.
I'm not talking about them- I'm talking about the dickless shitburgers I keep seeing on the news. The wannabe armchair revolutionaries who talk about defending America from tyrany instead of actually going to an Occupy or BLM protest and doing it. These are people who get off on the power a firearm gives them. They're people who covet that power because they have none of their own. They're the ones who bring a loaded AR-15 to Chipotle. The ones with their own private arsenals that would put Burt Gummer to shame. The ones who are usually found railing against Obama the great dictator something something Hitler something. They're people who do all that while ignoring the very real tyranny I spent the last two pages on, because it's not happening to good white Christian folks.
They're the loudest, most adamant, most visible defenders of the Second Amendment- And that scares the living fuck out of me. It's as if the only people arguing for the freedom of speech were NAMBLA and Westboro Baptist.
These are people I wouldn't trust with a can opener, let alone a gun. And I'm the one that was arguing for more guns in the hands of civilians.
Fuck these motherfucking stanklappers with Charlton Heston's giant rubber dick. You witless, cock-deprived twatwaffles are making the rest of us look bad, and you're putting our rights at risk. Man up, and quit fucking this up for America.
I'm sorry if I can't phrase that any more clearly than I already have.
Now, for the rest of you mostly responsible, intelligent gun owners and Constitutional supporters out there: People are pissed about gun violence, and if we keep fighting them on any kind of regulation just on principle, they're going to muster up the strength to repeal or circumvent the Second Amendment outright. We need to bend on this, or we're going to get broken. I really, really want us to come up with a viable solution before it comes to that. Please. This is too important to fuck up.
Okay, now that I've shit on both sides of this argument, it's time to come up with something real and tangible that we can actually do to fix this shit.
First, understand that we don't have a gun problem. Yeah, I know, I know. I'm not arguing that we don't have an epidemic of violence. I'm saying that that's not a problem, it's a symptom of several larger, systematic problems.
The pro-gun crowd likes to say that if a shooter couldn't get a gun, they'd just use a knife or a bomb. Yes, guns make violence easier- remember what we said about making people equal- and there are a lot of suicides and crimes of passion which simply wouldn't happen if a gun hadn't been available; but when it comes to mass shootings, they're right.
The problem is that someone would even consider killing a bunch of people. Seriously. Back up, forget the method, and let's really address this before we go any further. How many cracks does someone need to fall through- How many complete failures at every level of society does it take before this is even a fragmented thought in someone's mind?
The problem isn't the guns, it's the sheer (terrifying) number of angry, desperate, hopeless people with nothing left to lose, looking to lash out. This is a product of systemic failures from the family unit to macroeconomics, and I want to be absolutely clear on this next point:
If we fix these underlying issues, the gun violence will dissipate on its own.
If we do not fix them, then nothing we do about the guns will ever help.
It's that “simple”. We need a massive overhaul of our entire economic model, we need to strengthen peoples' ties to family and community, we need serious improvements to our schools, and we need quit glorifying violence, toxic masculinity, and quick fixes to complex problems.
We need a social safety net. In our form of capitalism, money equals survival. When your basic access to food, clothing, and shelter is dependent on your financial status, every micro and macro economic event has the potential to trigger our deepest animal survival instincts. As economies become more centralized and unequal, less dependent on traditional labor, more and more people begin to realize that their very survival is at risk. You do not engage a threatened animal- That's how you get bit. Enhance Social Security. Institute a universal basic income. Create a massive jobs initiative. Whatever you do, just make sure that people aren't fucking starving in the streets. Don't let an illness mean complete financial ruin. Don't trigger people's survival anxiety.
Americans value rugged individuality, but it's a thin line between that and antisocial isolationism. Yes, being independent is a noble and worthwhile trait, but humans are social animals. We are, above all things, tribal. We care for our own, and a significant amount of our own secuity and self-worth comes from our interpersonal ties. We cannot continue to treat these connections as worthless, or as subservient to our own narcissim.
We need to raise people to function in tomorrow's world, instead of training them for factory jobs that disappeared half a century ago. It's not enough to create a new economic system or praise our shared experience, we need to give people the tools to thrive within them. We need to empower people to create new opportunities and niches instead of forcing them to conform to a narrow measure of success and failure.
We need to learn to communicate, to stop polarizing every argument, to understand that there is always nuance and context and complications to every issue we face. Our problems cannot be solved by 10 second soundbytes, “debates” that consist of empty rhetoric, or idealogical purity. The world is complex and messy and contradictory, and we need to grow the fuck up, put on our adult panties, and actually pay attention to whatever the fuck it is that we're talking about at the moment. We need to learn that not every problem is a nail, and we have a hell of a lot more in our toolbox than hammers.
AND, we need to raise better men. That's another 5,000 word essay in and of itself, but the key is not in some feminist fantasy of making us more like women, nor is it in some return to some mythical past where men were men and blah blah blah separated the men from the boys blah blah. As always, the truth is far more complex and nuanced than that. Our ideas of masculinity (and gender roles in general) are largely based on traits that evolved for the good of the survival of the species. They worked for thousands, maybe millions of years. They exist for a reason. They are not bad things- BUT, they have been made largely obsolete by our modern technology. That violent territorial instinct which ensured enough hunting and gathering grounds to keep the tribe alive doesn't help negotiate peace treaties and trade agreements. The ego driven male ambition which led us to explore the world and create entire civilizations is autocannibalistic- Turning on itself and becoming destructive when deprived of a worthy goal. Gene Roddenberry recognized this- Star Trek was based on the premise that our desire to accomplish and conquer could create a golden age if turned towards exploration instead of warfare.
We can do better- not by being lesser men, but by turning our evolutionary strengths to noble ends.
Back to offending the right- If you want to keep your guns, you'd better come around on the socioeconomic end of things. I know you're afraid of socialism, but we can have both capitalism and a social safety net, with well protected gun rights to boot. To the left, yeah, I know other countries have done away with guns- We're not other countries. It's apples and oranges.
Okay, down to brass tacks. Let's talk about my glorious plan to regulate guns, improve national defense, save money, and reduce violence. I'm brilliant- and humble- Read on.
First, universal basic income, a dramatic overhaul of our educational system, an economy built for an automated post-scarcity world, and building better people. Simple.
Now, what to do about the guns:
Remember that the point of the Second Amendment was to eliminate the need for a standing army. We reduce the military by 95%, and make National Guard service mandatory upon graduating high school. Everyone is issued a service weapon and sidearm which they are responsible for hereafter. Foreign involvement is now relegated to volunteer armies- Not “volunteer” as in “the Army was the only job I could find”, but as in “A small African nation has requested military aid to stop an ethnic cleansing- Anyone who wants to go fight, the plane leaves at noon.”
Regulate guns the way we do driving. You take a course and pass a written and practical test (like for a car), which enables you to buy, carry, and possess a shotgun or certain rifles. If you want a handgun or other type of rifle, you take a more advanced class and more difficult test (like with a motorcycle or 18 wheeler). Military hardware, a much more advanced test and class. Each level comes with its own background check and increasingly stringent criteria. Licenses can be revoked when necessary.
Aside from the fact that this makes it easier to buy and sell guns (just check their ID), it assures that everyone with a gun has had proper training. It gives the police the ability to stop and check anyone openly carrying in the same manner as a traffic stop, while still protecting a citizen's right to do so. It gives us a way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, while still making them readily available to responsible citizens.
But again, everything hinges on fixing the rest of our society. Good luck with that.
Thus I have spoken.
*Although, oddly enough, it was Ayn Rand who argued that this was indeed the only legitimate role of government....
**JP, if you want to rewrite this in your own words, I will happily edit it in, with or without credit as you wish.