11.11.2004

meat and potatoes I: Gun Control.

Ok, so deeper political crap is forthcoming. That's my plan anyway. In the meantime, why not delve into some of those damn issues that never really go away. It's time for.... Political Meat and Potatoes.

Recently a ban on assault weapons expired in the United States. I'm not gonna bother linking to it, sorry. If you don't know about it, you need to crack open a damn newspaper. I'm not going to baby you, sucker. Go on. Get out of my sight.
Never mind that this ban was pretty narrow, and only restricted some guns and accessories like AKs, folding stocks, etc. etc. Every time something like this is brought up, it rehashes a debate on guns in general. And it's only a matter of time before a mantra starts up, quiet at first, then louder and louder....
"If Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Guns."

Whoa... there you have it. Bumper sticker politics in its most pure state.
Let's just think about that. Criminals have a way of procuring weapons that are not open to the rest of us. How do they do it?
Incidentally, by 'criminals' it's generally understood that we're talking gang members. I mean, there are a hell of a lotta normal Americans that kill one another with guns that they own legally, either intentionally or by accident. So if the mean ol' guvvmint confiscates all these people's guns, I mean, you're still preventing a lot of death. Of course this trumps the 'Us vs. Them' frame around the whole debate. I mean, y'know, a lot of criminals are also American. Just sayin'.
But okay, yeah, let's pretend that we're restricting ourselves to talking about 'Them'-- gang members, thieves, desperate junkies, whatever. Today on Donahue: "the criminal element."

Q:Where do they get guns?
A:From you.

In the past ten years 1.7 million guns have been stolen from cars or homes. The guns most likely end up on the black market.

"If Guns Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws......"
Y'know, I love when you debate gun proponents, and you get the story of the 80-year-old granny that shot some desperate asshole that forced his way into her house... yeah, no shit. There are a lot of desperate people out there, and they run out of crack, and they noisily bungle their way into the first house they see with no lights on at 11:00pm, turns out there's an old lady that just goes to bed early. And she comes down the stairs when she hears the sound of breaking glass, and shoots this guy dead. Bravo. I guess she must be a hero or something.
And then there's the calm professional that stakes out your house, sees the guns in your basement, sitting in his idling van, and waits till you're off on vacation. And breaks into your house because you own the gun that was supposed to keep him away. Because guns are hot and easy to sell at a premium if you know the right guy... not like secondhand VCRs and jewellery that's too easily traced.
Think about it... $40 for a VCR, $250+ for a gun...
I think it's probably true that guns exacerbate B&Es more than they prevent them...
"If Gun Are..."
Again, in the U.S... 1% of gun stores are traced to 57% of gun crimes. So it's not so cloudy an issue. They get them from the same stores as you do, from that patriotic small business owner that was railing against the 'laws that don't make sense.' Looks like the laws made sense after all, for him anyway, because he could charge an extra 20% premium if he 'lost' that particular item and handed it to you, the criminal element, under the table with a smile and a wink. 20 of the 22 national gun laws are not enforced. Turns out 'Gun Control' is not really even an issue; all it does is put another unenforced law into the books...
I guess I love to slag off the chest-thumping conservatives, because... well, it's so goddamn easy. And I mostly disagree with them on most things. But both camps perceive firearms as tools that they can use to solve social problems.
Conservatives think that you can solve crime by introducing more guns into the environment. This is not so. The excellent rebuttal to that "If Gun Are Outlawed.." line is this:
"No Matter How Many Guns You Own, You Will Always Be Outgunned By The Outlaw."
But these people come by their opinions honestly. In rural parts, the greater concentration of firearms does not correlate into a greater incidence of crime. Crime concentrates itself in urban areas. And here, the argument to increase firearms to fight crime just doesn't make sense.
Liberals tend to concentrate all the negative, "anti-social" traits of humanity into firearms, which are after all only inanimate objects. They, too, come by this opinion honestly.
First of all, they usually don't take into account hunting. Hunting may be hard to understand in the city, but it's about as morally benign as a quarter-pounder. Moreso, since you remove from the meat the cruelty incurred in the factory-farm. No, sociologists study the nearest convenient source of experiment subjects living in the city. Sociologists work in the realm of demographics and variables, which makes it easier to understand societies as 'environments' that you can alter to produce desirous results in the 'subjects', the inhabitants of this environment, aka You. You paint a classroom yellow to improve studiousness by 15%. You paint reproductions of great renaissance paintings on the sides of bars to raise art gallery attendance by 5%. Furthermore, you remove firearms from the environment. Having guns around gives people the impression that they're supposed to use 'em.
This is why I could never become an academic. I think society's too big to understand merely as an experimental battleground for sociologists. There are too many variables. You can't control them all. You cannot make a society 'nicer' by taking away guns. People are not children. Yellow walls won't make them forget their shitty jobs or the hunger in their bellies. It won't hide the wall.
Once at a bar a guy came up to our table and struck up a conversation. He was from Scotland. Somehow the conversation got into the soccer hooligans. Man, he was telling stories about taping razor blades between your knuckles and using 'em on people you didn't even know. Shit, made my stomach turn. But you know what? No guns. But there were plenty of people who didn't have far to go between the factory and the grave. Thus they found ways to kill each other without the benefit of firearms.
Poverty, crime, desperation and anger are interrelated. They are economic problems. I don't mean 'economic' in terms of straight currency. It's not just a matter of fattening up someone's paycheck. It's that goddamn sense of claustrophobia, of being boxed in and used up day after day. 40 hours a week doesn't give you much time to think about anything at all. Only time to sit at home, exhausted. And then get drunk on weekends. And then they take that factory job away from you. And goddamn it, after all that, I can't believe you still ask me why there is this thing called crime.

Gun control becomes a means by which either side can safely debate economic theories in code.
Conservatives can suggest that crime and poverty are best solved with a spasm of vigilante violence. Liberals can suggest that societal problems are best solved through better governmental intervention. Marxists can argue that both sides are missing the point, that what is needed is to radically change how our populations and resources are distributed. Both sides ignore the Marxist. Some of us pop in and say: "hell yes, mister! People wanna be upwardly mobile! At least if you're a criminal you get to be your own boss! Well, except if you work for a gang, I guess..." And both the conservative and the liberal turn to you coldly and ask: "And what are you? A Liberal or a Conservative?" Since you don't know the answer, you are told by the usher to quiet down or he'll have to throw you out of the theatre.
Since conservatives are the ones arguing from a point of negation: ie. 'hell no! from my cold dead hands...', they are the ones arguing from a stronger position. The critic always has a tactical advantage over an incumbent. The conservative can easily twist the debate, remake it... into an emotionally-fulifilling one, the 'lone gunman against the insidious government.' And here's where it gets interesting.
You see, the subterranean current in the debate is one that is inherently anti-government... "Hitler was in favour of gun control!" Yeah, and he was vegetarian. What's your point? "Uh, soo... the holocaust happened because the German people weren't armed!!" Bullshit. There was no popular opposition to the Holocaust. There was no real public perception of it. Guns would have played no part in preventing the Holocaust. There was no popular opposition to the Nazis. Just some students scrawling graffiti and dreaming of setting off bombs; you know, the usual. If the German people had had guns, you would have seen a lot more vigilante shitheads killing suspected Jews.
Again, firearms are pressed into service-- this time, to preserve 'liberty'-- to address a societal problem they cannot possibly solve.
I consider myself a proponent of freedom and an opponent of the alternative. I should be naturally opposed to a state gathering up all the guns for itself. After all... if a government has guns, shouldn't people have guns as well? How is there gonna be a 'revolution'.... without guns?
I guess that history has taught us... mind you I'm no expert in this field, but-- there are very few succesful revolutions that occurred through armed insurrection alone. Well, okay... it seems to work very well for military coups, but not popular uprisings. And of course the military already owns guns. They are professionals.
Actually that seems to be the lesson of the times. Professionals will win against amateurs, no matter how enthusiastic the amateurs may be. Who won in Waco, Texas? Not the amateurs. And if you could take the whole situation in Iraq, and consider only its military aspect-- no politics allowed-- who's going to win?
Guns are not political creatures. People are. People defeated the government of Argentina. Who, exactly? A bunch of unarmed, outraged mothers of disappeared people. Jesus, Gandhi won. Against the fucking British. The Civil Rights movement won. Guess who was armed in that engagement? The sheriffs, the Klan, the vigilantes. The Black Panthers are not remembered today because of their military prowess. Their memory is detoothed by mentioning the daycares they set up, the breakfast programmes. These were their most succesful battles. In a very real sense, guns don't matter.
This is why I'm content not to make up my mind about them. And if we are going to get all Utopian, and speculative, I guess I'll say that any world we build after a 'revolution' is going to own guns and we better know the ass end from the business end. Jesus, if you can build an AK-47 in Palestine in the depths of a crushing occupation, you better believe they're going to exist in a post-industrial North America.
We live in a political world, not a military one. What matters is what people do, how they live.
In closing, I'd like to quote that other killer bumper sticker:
"Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People."
damn right. In fact, that's one piece of bumper sticker politics I can really get behind.
Hee Hee! Get it? Because...
"Keep Tailgating. I'm Reloading."
Uh, okay.

1 Comments:

At 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree.

Just another point.

There are plenty of other countries, people, and states besides the US.

In many of those countries people cannot buy guns as if they were fishing rods.

I have never heard of anyone complaining or setting a political claim for the easier owning of guns.

People simply don't ever feel the need.

This is an undisputed fact. The "right to have arms" debate only lives in places where people feel threatened by other peoples guns.

Of course if half of your neighbours owned one... even a tenth... you might think about it.

Please get over your US exclusive mindset for some time.

Justice doesn't exist as birds exist. Rights are just basic agreements between people. Freedom has a context, people's lifes.

Do you want people to own nuclear mini bombs in their houses? Or maybe rockets and tanks is your limit to personal freedom? Why that limit? Think about it.

Sometimes you north americans would benefit of thinking that other people exist, in other states-countries, with other debates.

Ideologies are less important than results for peoples lifes.

Ideologies in fact only have importance if they bring nice-better living.

Pablo from Spain

(please reply also to pablo2garcia@gmail.com)

 

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