Every time there’s a gun massacre somewhere in the United States, every time there’s an occasion for them to finally start addressing the gun-crime connection, this happens: Right on cue, the NRA rolls out its paid-off bottom-feeder of the moment — invariably, some Republican politician or other — to announce that it’s “too soon” to talk about guns. And boom! Just like that, debate is shut down. Effectively censored until the next time there’s a massacre, only to be censored again.
When nine black people were murdered in their church in Charleston, South Carolina, that was a great occasion to debate how the hell someone like Dylann Roof — white, racist, with expressed ties to other racists and fascists — could get his hands on a gun. It was absolutely striking how easy it was for someone like him to enter a black church, armed and loaded for bear, and gun down black people, seemingly at random (but not really, because he most certainly selected his targets by race).
But right after it happened, it was Too Soon to talk about that. Too Soon to talk about racism. Too Soon to talk about guns. And for damn sure it was Too Soon to address the fact that this young guy was a terrorist with fascist sympathies and some downright arcane racist ties. No, better to just portray him as “mentally ill” and a “lone wolf”. That way, no one would have to question the many social structures that supported Dylann Roof in his homicidal plotting. And no one would have to address them, either.
And now the bodies from that month-ago massacre are all buried, the immediate shock of mass grief has somewhat abated — and STILL it’s Too Soon to talk about that. Or so we’re told.
And now, just a few days ago, another shooter entered another peaceful space down south, killed a bunch of people who were just in that theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana, to watch a movie, not shoot it out barrel to barrel with a gunman. For inevitably, it was a gunman — again white, again racist, again with fascist ties. This one, on top of all else, was a raving misogynist. And all his victims were women.
Oh sure, they were randomly chosen — he didn’t have his sights on anyone in particular — but they were all, just the same, selected in a non-random manner: namely, by gender. Because they were female, and had come to take in a movie starring a famous female comedian whose main schtick is sexual promiscuity, they were scum in the eyes of John Russell “Rusty” Houser. And so they had to die.
But of course, it’s Too Soon to talk about THAT, too.
In the United States of Amnesia, there have been as many mass shootings this year as there have been days in this year. No wonder it’s always Too Soon to talk about gun massacres. Not a day goes by that there isn’t one happening somewhere in that country.
And because it’s always Too Soon, the common denominators of all those seemingly unrelated “isolated incidents” (was there ever such a callously fraudulent phrase?) will never be addressed. Bigotry in all its various guises: that’s one. Lust for power: that’s another. The ultimate one is, of course, the too-easy availability of guns, the culture built around “freedom” as conveyed by guns, the way every problem looks like a target at the firing range when the only thing you’re allowed to do about anything is, you guessed it, to carry a gun.
That’s why no one’s talking about the shocking gun-crime statistics in the United States. They’d rather blame Mexicans (who apparently all belong to drug cartels, don’tcha know) for their high gun crime rates, their high gun murder rates, and even their high gun suicide rates. Anything but point the finger at the real crime cartel: the NRA, an industry lobby group whose sole reason for existence is to gin up panic and hysteria over all manner of Others — women, non-whites, LGBT+ people, foreigners — so that the dominant social class, namely native-born white cis-het Amurrican men, will have all the reasons they need to stock up on lotsa guns ‘n’ ammo.
Oh sure, there are also armed women (most of whom are white, cis-het, blah-blah). And armed minority members (not all of whom are necessarily in gangs). But let’s face it: The NRA’s target market (pun fully intended) is that very specific band of white men, the same that commits the bulk of massacres. And the reason for that is not hard to guess, either: They are the very group whose monopoly on power is eroding under the efforts of women, minorities, LGBT+ folk, and foreign immigrants of all kinds. They are taught to fear what will happen if All Those Other People get too uppity. They are being pushed to “defend themselves” against All Those Other People. It stands to reason that they will do all in their power to maintain the old monopoly, or die trying.
And their power IS eroding, but it’s not for the reasons they’ve been led to believe. It’s because they’re all working harder, and getting less and less to show for it. In that sense, white cis-het Amurrican males are just like everyone they have been carefully taught to hate. But since they can’t fight capitalism (and won’t, because it’s the dominant ideology which they were carefully indoctrinated to believe in as surely as if it were God), about all they can do when confronted with the futility of their lives is get a gun and start popping off a pitiful few “random” targets which may reflect their own cluster of bigotries, but who have nothing to do with their real problems. Which is why, as far as the gun lobby is concerned, they are sitting ducks. When a gun’s the only power you can still reliably get your hands on, by God, you just go get your hands on a gun, son.
So people are dying in droves for an illusion of power that their killers will do anything to maintain. An illusion of white supremacy, male supremacy, cis-het “Christian” (note the quotes) supremacy. Whatever your delusion, the gun lobby is more than happy to sell you an illusion — and a quick-fix false solution. It doesn’t matter to the NRA how many blacks, women, LGBT+ folk, etc., are dropping dead. All that matters is that gun sales keep going up, up, UP. Capitalism is king, y’all! King and God and government all rolled into one.
That’s why we keep hearing so many inane bullshit “solutions” being pushed by the NRA and their lackeys. The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — remember that? Since criminals carry guns, the best thing to do is push guns into the hands of law-abiders and enable them to carry those guns wherever and however they like. Concealed carry! Open carry! Carrying in a bar, a church, a store, a movie theatre. Any place where a bad guy could be packing, there must the good guys pack also.
The only problem with the “good guy with a gun” trope is that there’s no proof at all that it works, but ample proof that it fails. There has has been a massacre for every day in 2015. Good guys with guns have been conspicuously MIA from the scene every time. Turns out, the only guys packing and pulling and shooting in all those instances…were the bad guys.
And the worst part is, those bad guys thought they were the good guys. Dylann Roof thought he was cleaning up the scourge of those danged uppity blacks. Rusty Houser no doubt thought he was cleaning up a scourge, too, namely women. And the fact that both littered the Internet with their intentions before carrying them out should not be overlooked, either. Both men were operating under the presumption that they were “taking out the trash” — the “trash” being innocent people, complete strangers, those who hadn’t transgressed against them in any way, except to accidentally embody something that the bad guys were dead set against.
And their legal right to carry, no doubt, was all the justification either one needed. Might makes right, and guns make might — so runs the myth. In a South dominated by the Castle Doctrine, these guys no doubt felt they were just “standing their ground” against the respective phantom menaces that posed such a danger to the unearned power and privilege — however limited, however illusory — that they felt was their birthright.
But of course, it’s always Too Soon to say that, isn’t it?
No. It is never too soon. In fact, by the time the massacre has happened — yet another massacre, yet another day — it is already far too late. This is a debate that should have been settled long ago, in favor of the right to life of those who don’t have powers and privileges, however paltry, to defend at the point of a gun. Because in the final analysis, a society is only as good as how it treats its least powerful, least privileged, and least defended members. Where guns and gun ownership are privileged over people, gun massacres are not only more likely, they are inevitable. And those with an eye to seizing power, via terrorist coups, will not stop trying to do so as long as they can get their hands on a gun.