By Wayne Allensworth
The horrifying Uvalde, Texas school shooting on May 25, which followed quickly on the heels of the supermarket massacre in Buffalo on May 14, and a less bloody shooting at a meeting of Asian churchgoers on May 15 in California, has predictably spurred on the usual arguments for and against gun control.
Gun controllers say that it should not be so easy to purchase firearms (the 18-year-old in Uvalde bought his weapons legally), especially semi-automatic weapons, and that such massacres underscore the dangers of America’s obsession with guns.
Gun rights advocates say guns don’t kill, people do, that there are millions of guns in the country and even tighter controls would not stop the illegal acquisition of firearms, including by mentally deranged would-be gunmen.
There are a few other relevant points that pertain to the argument about the Uvalde shooting:
First, the shooter had reportedly not previously been treated for mental illness, though he had been displaying bizarre behavior (cutting himself, including on the face, for instance), which the gun controllers say should have been a red flag. True, but without any history of treatment for mental illness, ferreting out such people would mean something approaching totalitarian surveillance and intrusion into the private lives of millions of Americans. Yes, it makes sense to try and prevent mentally disturbed people from acquiring firearms, but defining what constitutes mental illness (would a bout of depression qualify?), and the fact that not all mentally disturbed people have been treated complicate the matter considerably. That’s one of the problems with Red flag laws.
Second, again, millions of Americans own about 393 million guns. Anyone who is determined to acquire one probably could, even with tighter gun laws, though making gun purchases more difficult might discourage someone like the 18-year-old Uvalde shooter, sidetracking his plans.
Gun rights advocates can always fall back on the sound argument that cities with the tightest gun laws tend to have more shootings. Another practically unspeakable argument might be that America has a problem with mass shootings, to be sure, but our real problem is not guns per se, but blacks with guns. The rise in “gun crime” in recent years is almost exclusively a problem of black crime. And the cumulative number of killed and wounded in such incidents, often gang related score settling, far outnumber the casualties in mass shootings.
Nevertheless, there is something especially horrifying about the mass murder of children in a school, or churchgoers in a sanctuary, or shoppers in a supermarket (Who were mostly black in the Buffalo shooting, so the public outrage following the shooting was not a matter of the white majority caring only about white deaths). In practical terms, the total number of dead may be fewer, but the psychological impact (Is no one safe? Is there no safe place to go? No peace to be found anywhere?) in an already unnerved society is far greater.
Gun rights advocates also say that a madman could kill with a knife or plow a car or truck into a crowd. Are we going to restrict purchases of knives (as indeed, the U.K. has)? Cars and trucks?
Nevertheless, a sober assessment of the number of killed and wounded in knife attacks, which are becoming more frequent in Britain, where guns are much harder to come by, indicates that there are far fewer dead than in American shootings. It’s simply harder to kill mass numbers of people with a knife. There have been cars-as-weapons incidents, and maybe there would be more if strict gun control laws are enacted, but the gun has been the preferred weapon of mass murderers in this country. Psychopaths have sometimes used bombs but building a bomb and planting it is far more complicated than firing a semi-auto into a crowd of people–and may be less gratifying to twisted, angry people who tend to either shoot themselves as well, or keep shooting until they are taken out by law enforcement officers, as the Uvalde shooter was (in his case, Border Patrol agents).
Let’s be honest with each other for a change.
Yes, the ready availability of guns, especially semi-autos, enables mass killings. For supporters of gun rights, trying to get around that fact has them making some rather contorted arguments to justify purchases of Glocks and AR-15s. The practically unmentioned elephant in the room is that America is a sick society, one in which isolation, atomization, the collapse of the family, the decline in religious belief, and the frequent waves of moral panic fed by media-driven hysteria are likely inflaming the despair and nihilism that often motivates mass shooters. The Columbine shooters, for instance, were evil, not insane. They were the children of post-modern derangement and sociopathic levels of resentment.
It is no accident that a world the most vociferous leftist proponents of gun control seem to have wanted is exactly the one we have, and that mass shootings are one consequence of that vision being realized. Gun rights advocates frequently note that in the past, easy access to guns did not mean more “gun crime,” much less the madness we are presently witnessing. But that was in a more culturally, racially, and ethnically homogenous America, a high trust society with loads of “social capital” without a leftist cult of victimhood and the celebration of criminals as “victims of society.”
Those of us who want to keep our guns and protect our right to use them in self-defense and in the defense of our homes and families have plenty of reason to fight against gun control. There are monsters out there. Violent crime rates are increasing. And the state is not acting as our defender, wielding the sword of justice, but has frequently, in “anarcho-tyranny” mode, facilitated mass violence–the “mostly peaceful protests” of the summer of George Floyd being a case in point–as police have “stood down” and let mobs burn down cities and commit “smash and grab” robberies. An infuriating aspect of the Uvalde shooting was that police apparently stood by while the shooting continued, even as parents pleaded with them to enter the school and stop the killing.
The “swamp” apparently views “deplorables” as potential domestic terrorists for political reasons, and it’s fair to say that we need to keep our arms to defend our remaining freedoms. There’s a reason the gun controllers fantasize about rifle toting rednecks as the most dangerous figures in their ideological dream world. The swampsters want to disarm us deplorables, not inner city “youths” or even madmen, most of all.
I’ll keep my guns and take my chances. Given the craziness out there, I’d be crazy not to.
Wayne Allensworth is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood.