Gun Control Theater, Act 58, Scene 947

Gun control is the liberal equivalent to abortion.

Let me explain: it’s a little difficult to remember now, after eight years of Obama Derangement Syndrome causing the Republicans to allow themselves to be taken over by authoritarian nutjobs who actually believe their own bullshit, leading to a real and genuine threat to (and steady erosion of) women’s reproductive rights, but for much of the 90s and 2000s abortion was largely a fake issue.

Which having said, let’s pull back a bit: there was real debate going on around the edges of the abortion issue, like the availability of late-term abortions, but the core notion that some kind of access to abortion in some form was a guaranteed right of all women wasn’t realistically under challenge. The Republicans would, of course, campaign on opposition to it, but no one except the uninformed expected them to actually do anything outside of the purely symbolic. It was just a guaranteed way for the conservatives to get their base riled up and out to the polls, and liberals let them get away with it because the idea that the right to abortion was under threat was a great way to get their base riled up and out to the polls.

Gun control is the same thing but reversed. Every time there’s a shooting, liberals trot out their opposition to guns, but nobody except the uninformed really expects them to do anything to challenge the core idea that some kind of access to guns in some form is a guaranteed right. They just say it because it’s a great way to get to get their base riled up and out to the polls, and conservatives let them get away with it because the idea that the right to gun ownership is under threat is a great way to get their base riled up and out to the polls.

The only real difference is that the Democrats haven’t gone batshit insane in the last decade, and therefore are still playing the same game, while the Republicans have collectively lost their minds and actually started trying to destroy the right to abortion.

And like all political theater, the goal in both cases is misdirection. The point of the gun control debate is to draw our attention away from real problems, the real underlying causes of violence. Because yeah, if we take away guns we might get stabbings with five victims instead of shootings with fifty, but we’re still going to get killings. We’re still going to have angry men (and it is always men, have you noticed?) lashing out in violence against people they hate, we’ll still have police officers slaughtering the people they supposedly exist to protect, we’ll still have a culture of violence and fear.

Because the real causes are things nobody in power wants changed: The individualist power fantasy of being a rugged loner in a dangerous frontier who depends on no one and nothing. The rampant inequality that puts anyone who isn’t rich in constant fear for their livelihood while also telling everyone who belongs to even one privileged population (which is virtually everyone) that they’re entitled to better. The scapegoating that puts the blame for inequality on its victims, encouraging them to lash out against one another. The authoritarian fear of change and difference. Racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, capitalism, all the mechanisms of sorting humanity into the deserving us who have been cheated and the undeserving them who are stealing from us.

Change those, and the availability of guns ceases to matter. And for all that they seem insurmountable, impossible, unconquerable built-in features of our culture, it’s pretty obvious that trying to push for gun control doesn’t actually accomplish anything, regardless of whether actual gun control would.

So if we’re going to be hammering our heads against the impossible anyway, why not go for broke?

3 thoughts on “Gun Control Theater, Act 58, Scene 947

  1. I find the claim that Republican opposition to abortion was ever fake implausible. Notably, the Hyde amendment was enacted only 3 years after Roe V. Wade. It’s true that Republican majorities didn’t immediately re-ban abortion but that’s because they acknowledged the strategic reality that overturning an adverse supreme court precedent is hard and isn’t something one can do right away. The recent surge in anti-abortion legislating isn’t them losing their mind – it’s them having decades of groundwork laid (i.e. they put a lot of work into judicial appointments and got rulings narrowing Roe’s scope) and a very favorable midterm election.

    It reminds me of a similar claim, favored by Matt Taibbi, that among the Republican elite the racism has been fake – that they use racist dog-whistles to get votes and then put all of their efforts into elite class interests, while leaving black people, and everything else, alone. (c.f. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/r-i-p-gop-how-trump-is-killing-the-republican-party-20160518)

    I don’t buy that either – Republicans really do push policies that hurt non-white people, and even more so they block policies that help non-whites. Chatter among the professional Republican class (by which I mean the group of people who are not elected officials but nevertheless have jobs that can reasonably be described as “being a Republican”) to the effect that their party had to seek Hispanic votes to survive was not an example of a pattern of reneging on their end of the deal, but a plot to do so for the first time – a plot which has been severely rebuked by the voters who actually are the party.

    I take the same view of gun control. Democrats really did pass laws designed to meaningfully restrain firearms while skirting SCOTUS precedent, and really would like to see rulings that make more space for further restraint. Occasionally someone while have a dream of fully reversing the controlling interpretation of the Second amendment, an idea which I see floated more often as time goes on. Republicans, for their part, really do repeal or roll back firearm restraints and really would like to see the controlling precedent confirmed and expanded.

    And this isn’t weird. At the margin gun control really does save some lives and really does curtail the firearm industry’s market.

    I think that we should take care not to flatter ourselves by spinning a story in which the issues we are emotionally invested (robber baron economy for Taibbi, intersection of toxic masculinity with The Class System for you) are the only real issues, and all other issues are fraudulent, spoken of only by con men and their marks. Pretty much everything in politics is a matter of life and death for someone, which means pretty much everything in politics is legitimately worth caring about.

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  2. I don’t believe removing the guns will solve nothing. Australia had similar rampant non-restriction of guns (and a similar power fantasy of the frontier) to the US and a murder rate as high. In the 90s that changed. They instituted a policy of confiscation by mandatory buy-back of the most dangerous weapons. Now their murder rate is a fifth the size.

    I don’t lock my house to dissuade the 5% of people determined to break in. I do it to dissuade the 95% who may be tempted to do so otherwise. The dedicated people will always find ways to kill their victims. But the not so dedicated might not. Last year some guy in the UK drowned his neighbour’s dog because it was noisy. It made headline news. In America he’d have shot the dog and it would be on a back page of the paper. A normal person could snap one day, and if they do, it’s important they don’t get weapons. Not having lethal ranged weapons serves as a deterrent to the average citizen. 86% of all homicides in the US are caused by guns. Take them away and crime reduces dramatically.

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  3. I didn’t say that removing the guns would solve nothing. I very carefully said that trying to remove the guns would solve nothing.

    Making guns harder to get would almost certainly significantly reduce the gun death rate, because the majority of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides and making a popular suicide method even slightly harder tends to dramatically reduce the overall suicide rate. But any attempt to make guns harder to get is up against a combination of the toxic masculinity that drives both the gun industry and mass murder, a near-bottomless supply of professional lobbyists working for said gun industry, and Constitution fetishism. That’s not a combination you can beat in a head-on conflict.

    You’re better off making an end run around it and chipping away at the toxic masculinity that drives the shootings and the political corruption that makes throwing huge amounts of money at a lobbyist firm a nigh-unbeatable tactic. Newtown proved that; if the massacre of a bunch of cute suburban white kids couldn’t produce the political will necessary to change the gun laws, nothing can.

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