Thursday, July 31, 2008

Knoxville and the US Gun Culture.

There is a sense of world weary cynicism that envelopes the news coming out of Knoxville. We have been here before, a demented angry individual creates havoc and tragedy in a small corner of the United States, and we all go through a form of Kabuki theater.

The second Amendment types will roll out the argument that this proves even more people need to have guns. Never mind that statically speaking the only people not packing in the US are toddlers and newborns. There is almost one gun for every person living in the USA. Again, statistically speaking there is one firearm for every adult in America. There are roughly 200,000,000 million firearms in circulation for over 300,000,000 citizens. With only roughly a quarter of the population being gun owners, most of them own multiple fire arms. Seventy Five percent of gun owners own one or more firearms. Firearms are just like Lay’s potato chips you can’t seem to have just one. The issue is not owning the weapons, it is the owners themselves. The NRA types have never given a rational plan for preventing firearms getting into the hands of bad actors. They continue to post the idea that individual citizens go back to the glory days of Deadwood and Tombstone were all adults were running around with six-shooters. They seem to forget that Federal Authority had to step in to those towns and reestablish law and order.

The central myth here is of privatization. It is assumed that individual private citizens can best provide their own protection. It has been tried; the idea has always degenerated into the lynch mob and rampant lawlessness. We have police forces because collective security has always ended up being the better way to go. Unfortunately that means submitting to the bug-bear of the conservative movement- Government. Conservatives hate Government; they hate the commons. Most of all they hate the idea of “We”; as in We the people. They support them selves and no one else. Cut though the rhetoric and what you here at its core is “Me.”

This is not to say that individual do not have a fundamental right to protect themselves and their loved ones. It is to say that such protection is best done as a shared responsibility. It is to say a community has the right to set standards of gun ownership. At the very least a community has the right to bar firearms ownership to mentally unstable individuals and others who present a clear and present danger to that community.

Unfortunately we as a culture are stuck in a John Wayne movie. We are still carrying the myth of the cowboy in our collective head. We forget that in the old west most shootings were done by ambush. Most cowboys got shot in the back or otherwise surprised. The shoot out at the O.K. Corral was atypical, Wild Bill Hickok’s end was a much more normal occurrence. The Old West gun culture ultimately failed because allowing each man to be a law unto himself did not work. It is passing strange that we have failed to learn that particular piece of history. But then we do seem to prefer myth to reality; we voted for Ronald Regan- Twice.

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