Now we execute each other live on the local morning news.
So let’s crank those comment sections to 11 and talk about race, because black shooter/white victims. Mental health too, naturally, plus the demented wrongness of uploading murder selfies to social media where, dammit, auto-play video preferences force you to watch the sickness even if you didn’t want to. Let’s parse headline wording, too: mass shooting or just regular homicide? And sure enough, at least one idiot will manage to post this: “Liberals getting what they deserve — welcome to Obama’s America.”
But let’s not say a word about… you know… those things that don’t kill people.
A month ago, the Washington Post published a piece titled “Change Your Gun Laws, America” by Fareed Zakaria. The author pointed out that the U.S. has spent nearly a trillion dollars on fighting terrorism, which has killed 74 citizens since 2001, but zero dollars on combating the 150,000-plus domestic gun deaths in the same time span.
We could, Zakaria argued, do better.
Comments afterward ranged from “You’re from Pakistan — go back and fix that country, not ours” to “Shut the fuck up, Muslim.” And then the piece went off to die in the Internet archives, where maybe some freshman writers will be asked some time to read it and write an essay of their own about it. Their essays will cite the Second Amendment and claim that God wants Americans to have guns. Their professors will curse themselves for daring to hope that any original ideas could appear in the essays.
For years the gun argument hasn’t changed — and in the wake of a live-on-TV execution, we’re not even having the argument — because the same old language has been used to frame it. One side says “gun grabbers” and the other says “gun fanatics.” One says “gun control” and the other says “freedom.” One shouts “Libtards!” and the other counters with “Conservatives!” (One side has work to do in the insult department.)
It’s all about language and the nature of guns. For all of the weekly and even daily damage guns do to our tattered remnants of civilized society, I don’t hate my guns. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re not evil in and of themselves. They’re kept locked and unloaded. They’re basic devices made of steel and wood and resin. They do a job — they push a projectile through a tube so that it lands on a designated spot somewhere in front of that tube.
But — and I’m pretty sure that no gun owner is supposed to admit this next part — the guns can only do that job under my direction. So the pathetic slogan guns don’t kill people; people do should actually be people pull triggers on guns that shoot bullets that kill people. I mean, if you want to get really technical.
To oversimplify, if I decide tomorrow to take one of my guns to the range and shoot bullets at targets, that’s legal use of the bullets and the gun. But if I decide to take the gun to a live TV interview and use its bullets to murder former colleagues, that’s illegal use. It’s not the gun that needs to be outlawed; it’s the illegal use that needs to be prevented, to the greatest extent possible without restricting the legal use. Even the NRA would agree with this point. Maybe.
“Gun control” shouldn’t be about guns. It should focus on effective measures to prevent the illegal use of ammunition. EMPIUA, for short. An abstract and emotionless acronym. “Senator, we have before us a bill concerning EMPIUA.” No guns in the statement; actual work can commence.
What sort of work? Here’s an example. Let responsible gun collectors keep their machine guns, if they’re licensed to have them and go through the registration process required by law. I don’t care; I trust them to make sure those weapons never end up in criminal hands to spray bullets at innocents. But as insurance for that trust, a jail term of 10-15 years for letting a machine gun slip into the wild would be reasonable.
Thieves broke into the house and stole your gun safe? Then the safe wasn’t installed correctly, or you bought an inferior safe. Either way, you’re responsible. You’re the one who insisted on owning a machine gun. A machine gun is a huge responsibility and a colossal danger to yourself and others — which is why it has to be registered, no matter how loudly the NRA howls about gun registration violating owner freedom — and it should carry an enormous penalty if you let criminals have it, even involuntarily. It has too much potential to throw too many bullets at too many people at once if someone pulls its trigger.
Yeah, the language of that last sentence is pretty convoluted. It would be a lot easier just to say no civilian needs to own that massacre machine. But the NRA doesn’t allow that kind of thinking. Guns are innocent; they’re only tools to do a job. Recite; repeat. Memorize.
No “gun control” will ever be warranted or supported in the United States of Armament. If 50 shooters go into 50 maternity wards and murder 50 babies, nothing will happen other than 50 governors and a president offering their deepest condolences and most sincere thoughts and prayers.
So instead, let’s talk about murder prevention. Then see what happens when the NRA has to argue that murder prevention infringes on a gun collector’s rights, or an open-carrier’s rights, or the rights of any freedom-loving patriot who opposes murder prevention.
Under the current language, if you oppose gun control then you promote gun rights. And guns are legal and constitutionally protected, so what’s the problem? But if you oppose murder prevention, then you’re a sicko who promotes homicide. You’re not a champion of anyone’s freedom or a shill for any industry. You’re just fucking evil.
“Gun grabbers will be coming any second now,” you say after viewing a live-as-it-happens televised execution, and your words sound really strong and spiteful, and gundamentalist acolytes applaud.
But try this instead: “Murder preventers will be coming any second now.”
Of course, symbolic language gestures have an uphill battle before they can change a culture that values antique words on fragile parchment over the lives of fellow citizens. Consider: the same people who abhor birth control because “every life is sacred” have an equal abhorrence for gun control because “Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights,” in the immortal words of Joe the Plumber.
The human brain shouldn’t be able to work like that. There should be electrical fires as contradictory neurons smash into each other on the logic board. But when you look into the eyes of a “pro-life” gundamentalist who won’t let himself get fooled by a cheap emotional gimmick, like a Kindergarten massacre or a morning-show murder, you see no lights on behind those eyes. There’s no recognition of two mutually canceling ideologies. Both of them are simply correct.
Pro-life means anti-death if it’s an abortion. The child comes first. Constitutional rights don’t trump dead kids. The Supreme Court must reinterpret Roe v Wade immediately. Abortions kill people — even people the size of kidney beans.
But six years after a not-aborted child is born, pro-gun means anti-life if it’s a schoolhouse execution. In that case, the gun comes first. Dead kids don’t trump constitutional rights. The Supreme Court must never reinterpret the Sacred Words. Guns don’t kill people.
Both ideologies are correct to the person who holds them; that’s the nature of fundamentalism. It’s True, Therefore It Is True, and nothing can smash through the battlements defending that circular equation.
So maybe murder prevention, for all of its promise, isn’t the most effective language change. Maybe there’s a wedding of words that can blend everything. Abortion opponents want to prevent the killing of innocents, and gun control advocates want to prevent the killing of innocents. Put those together and you get: People use guns to abort people.
Abort: end, discontinue, eliminate, terminate.
Kill: end, discontinue, eliminate, terminate.
People use guns to abort people.
That guy who shot those people on TV? He aborted them. He was an abortionist. He terminated their young lives.
People use guns to abort people.
It’s got potential. After all, if the good Christian conservatives in Congress manage to destroy Planned Parenthood, where will they direct all of their energy next?