Jason Kottke gathered some of the best reads on gun control. So I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here.
We start off with an article published in the New Yorker which asks us to think about what will it take to make gun control happen:
What does it take? If a congresswoman in a coma isn’t sufficient grounds to reevaluate the role that firearms play in our national life, is a schoolhouse full of dead children? I desperately want to believe that it is, and yet I’m not sure that I do. By this time next week, most of the people who are, today, signing petitions and demanding gun control will have moved on to other things. If you want to understand why the gun debate can occasionally feel rigged, this is the answer: the issue is characterized by a conspicuous asymmetry of fervor. The N.R.A. has only four million members – a number that is probably dwarfed by the segment of the U.S. population that feels uneasy about the unbridled proliferation of firearms. But the pro-gun constituency is ardent and organized, while the gun control crowd is diffuse and easily distracted. In the 2012 election cycle, N.R.A. spending on lobbying outranked spending by gun control groups by a factor of ten to one.
Then Gary Wills, in the New York Review of Books argues that American children are being sacrificed to “our great god Gun”. In the Bible, God said: “you shall have no other gods before me”; he was also talking about Moloch, a God worshipped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites who was associated with the sacrifice of children. For Wills, the gun is America’s Moloch:
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains-“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily-sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometimes this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?
Very pessimistic, sadly realistic. His theory fits the reality really well.
Next up, Firmin DeBrabander writes for The Stone (NYT blog of philosophers who write on timely and timeless issues) and says that an armed society isn’t such a beautiful ideal of society:
Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name – that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.
This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly – not make any sudden, unexpected moves – and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.
Finally, James Fallows a veteran writer for The Atlantic said Americans should be talking about gun safety and not gun control:
I will henceforth and only talk about “gun safety” as a goal for America, as opposed to “gun control.” I have no abstract interest in “controlling” someone else’s ability to own a gun. I have a very powerful, direct, and legitimate interest in the consequences of others’ gun ownership – namely that we change America’s outlier status as site of most of the world’s mass shootings. No reasonable gun-owner can disagree with steps to make gun use safer and more responsible. This also shifts the discussion to the realm of the incremental, the feasible, and the effective.
A more optimistic view.
I’m not American. I live in France and in England. And something strikes me: why aren’t we blaming the recent events that occurred in America on the country’s relative youth? Saying that some countries are younger than others isn’t condescending. European countries made mistakes centuries after centuries and remained unabashed.
The United States of America were created about 230 years ago. And 230 years after their creation, most Western European countries were still killing each other (with swords and the like).
History doesn’t make itself and change will not happen if no one is here to… well, make it happen. But if there’s one thing I’m sure about, deep down, is that one day, the United States will be a land free of guns for sale in shopping malls and children killed by too-easily-gunned-up madmen. The sooner the better.