The question is HOW

Last I heard on the car radio about the massacre in Las Vegas, the death toll was 58, and the injury count was over 550. 

It’s like someone heard about the Pulse shooting and said, “Hold my beer.”

I’ve heard the shooter’s name on the radio. I will not use it here. That sorry pig-fucker should not be rewarded with infamy. I don’t care if he’s already dead. People who do shit like this should be forgotten. Their victims should be remembered, their motives should be understood, but the killers themselves should not have a place in the history books. Their names should disappear.

Also, I’ve completely lost interest in debating gun control with people who think we’d all be safer if more people carried guns. I don’t care about bullet usage as a civil right. I am interested in figuring out what kind of gun control measures work at reducing gun violence. That discussion isn’t going to happen with people who don’t want guns to be effectively controlled.

Gun Violence, Correlations, and State Lines

One of the talking points from the pro-gun side is that the states with the strictest gun control laws have the highest rates of gun violence, the implication being that so many people are getting shot because too many law-abiding citizens are unarmed.

First off, I haven’t seen these statistics that show a correlation of strict laws and higher prevalence of violence, so I haven’t run the numbers to see whether this correlation exists. I can totally believe it, though, and I can see how it happens. The problem we’re seeing is, approximately, in three steps:

1. Some states have higher gun violence than others, because gun violence does not happen in isolation from other types of crime, and some states have different social problems than others. For example, the higher the population density, the more opportunities there are for people to shoot each other. Anyway, some states have higher body counts than others due to sociological factors.

2. Therefore, those states with the higher rates of gun violence pass stricter gun control laws as an attempt to get their body counts under control. Unfortunately, these gun control laws do nothing to address the drug wars, gang rivalries, wealth inequality, and other dysfunctions that tend to surround gun-related violence. Situations continue to arise in which people decide to spray bullets.

3. Meanwhile, those states with the strict gun control laws share borders with states with little or no gun control at all. And it’s not like we have border patrols on our state lines, nor should we. The practical upshot is that literally any asshole can buy a gun or several in, for example, Virginia, load them into the trunk of a car, and drive them into Maryland without incident. Sure, there may be penalties if you get caught carrying a weapon without a license, but that’s only if you get caught. Getting the firearm, in itself, is not difficult. Bullets: same thing. Once the ammo is procured, it can be transported anywhere on land.

This is why, for gun control laws to be effective, they need to be nationwide. Transporting anything smaller than large livestock across state lines is no trouble at all.

Therefore, the causation behind the correlation is that higher rates of gun violence lead to stricter gun control laws. It is NOT that the presence of more bullets leads to less shooting.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Bullets Kill People

Thought experiment: if we had sufficient technological advances to make tranquilizer bullets a viable option for human encounters, so instead of injuring/maiming/killing someone with a squeeze of a trigger, you instead just made them take a nap, would that be sufficient to satisfy most American gun enthusiasts’ criteria for “self-defense”? How many current gun-toters would be content with using sleepy-time bullets, and how many would insist that they don’t really have “freedom” unless they’re allowed to possess and carry an easy way to kill many people in a short span of time with minimal athletic ability?

(Of course, making someone take a nap at a moment’s notice is also a minor act of violence that can enable more serious acts of violence, but it still leaves you to go to some effort to kill someone.)

Safety vs. Illusion of Control

I’m sick and uncomfortable, so let’s see if I can do this coherently with a low word count.

The idea of civilian gun ownership as a matter of “self-defense” reminds me a lot of the prevalence of “safety tips” aimed at women for avoiding rape. 

I get that we all want to have something, or do something, that makes us feel in control of a situation. That’s the idea behind “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” It’s about control. We ladies keep going through all these safety rituals, no matter how cumbersome and ineffective they are, because we need to convince ourselves that if we just do XYZ, we’ll stay on top of the situation and we’ll be okay.

And with that in mind, here’s what I’ve learned from years and years of seeing lots of people’s stories of rape and assault, with all the ways they tried to protect themselves, all the ways they couldn’t protect themselves, and all the ways they were blamed and shamed for having failed to protect themselves: sometimes, a situation is simply out of your control. Sometimes, some shitty person decides to do something awful, and there’s nothing you can do about it except try to live to fight another day. It’s not “empowering” to admit that sometimes shit happens no matter what we do, but it’s a lot more constructive than constantly moving the goalposts of what we should’ve done.

America’s law-abiding gun owners have had plenty of time to demonstrate that good guys with guns keep us safe from bad guys with guns, and they’ve failed. This is a testable hypothesis, and the evidence speaks for itself. You don’t get control of an already-chaotic situation by adding more bullets. There were decent people with concealed firearms near the shooting at Umpqua; they couldn’t help. There was one guy who actually did get in the shooter’s way and protect other people from getting shot; he did it by taking seven bullets in his own body. I hear he’s recovering. He shouldn’t have had to do that. There’s no good way for non-police to deal with a bad guy with a gun. Some ways are less shitty than others, and the less-shitty ways involve not trying to shoot anyone else. The more bullets flying in a given area, the more people getting shot. Doesn’t matter if some of the shooters have good intentions. 

I realize this isn’t what anyone wants to hear, but at some point we need to prioritize saving lives over maintaining our illusions.

“But criminals don’t obey laws!”

This is one of those pro-gun talking points that always gets projectile-vomited into the national discourse whenever we want to talk about gun control. We get comparisons with things like drug prohibition, which very obviously doesn’t work. The argument is basically that restrictions on guns won’t do anything to stop “criminals” from getting their hands on firearms, so it would be unfair to deprive non-criminals from legally owning guns. Preferably without background checks. Or any restrictions on things like magazine capacity. The assumption is that ordinary law-abiding citizens keep themselves—and others!—safe by owning guns. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so don’t you dare take away my assault rifle.

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If my fellow Americans could stop shooting each other, that’d be great.

As I was ranting on Twitter earlier today, I see basically two dimensions of an appropriate discussion and activism following a mass shooting (and we have plenty of them): 1. Effective, well-enforced gun control, 2. American culture and how it enables deadly violence.

These are not separate issues! They can be discussed in combination. Some of us will tend more toward the cultural discussion, and others will be more interested in the logistics of gun control.

You know where I’m really, really done, though? I’m so out of patience with the idea of the right to own guns. If I see you responding to whatever mass shooting we’ve had this week, with more screaming about your right to self-defense, and the ebil gummint better not come to take away your guns, then you are part of the problem and I have no time for you. I want to come for your guns. I want you to lose your right to bear arms. Done. Over.