Andrew Sprung (@xpostfactoid1) tweets up a reaction to discussion of yesterday’s atrocity in Connecticut:
heretical (and not very well informed) thought: if guns were banned, would US serial killers cook up ieds?
— xpostfactoid (@xpostfactoid1) December 15, 2012
Sprung later amended his language: He meant mass murderers, not serial killers, but we understand what he was getting at. The responses seem obvious: In other Western or so-called advanced democratic societies with strict gun control, we do not see bomb attacks by deranged “loners” on schools and movie theaters, or on civilian versions of typical insurrectionist IED targets like military vehicles. We also recognize that the “first person shooter” generally desires “a blaze of glory,” and quite frequently “goes out” with it, the main exceptions being killers like Jared Lee Loughner and James Holmes: already mentally “gone,” only just barely present enough to aim and pull a trigger.
So, at least on the level of first impressions, the semi-automatic weapon represents a particular and unique problem, and thus ought to be easily addressable. We can therefore imagine that through strict controls, we might reduce the incidence of mass killings by gun without a lossless transfer of lethal potential. The spree killer might still kill, but not be able to collect so many victims so easily.
Unfortunately, the kind of compromise laws even an heroic effort is likely to produce in the U.S. today may not eliminate events like the Sandy Hook shootings. Any such expectation may even be as superficial as the rather literally sociopathic counter-suggestion from the far right – that the answer to gun violence is yet more guns; that, if schools are being targeted, the answer must be to arm teachers. The fact that our neighbor to the south has very strict gun laws, yet currently a very high incidence of gun violence, points first to further complexities, but eventually to the deeper problem. The gun control advocate might point out that the situation in Mexico is one of criminal violence of a different type, relating of course to the narcotics trade, but moving a link further in the logic chain reminds us that Mexico’s massive criminal violence problem is in great part a spillover, an export of our own societal infirmities.
Yet with eyes open to precisely these problems, we can still choose to support gun control. Sprung’s heresy uncovers the political character, or quasi-political social character, of the “school shooting.” The IED is a political-military act against the invader culture, the same culture of the first-person shooter, the same culture compulsively failing to instruct itself about itself, about its missing pieces, despite one very hard lesson after another – one mass murder after another indicting it through its schools, its malls, its movie theaters, its temples, its Congress on the Corner. It’s instructive that the federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed in 1994, an era of optimism on matters of war and peace, but was simply allowed to lapse ten years later in the new era of pre-emptive war on terror. Maybe, in ways impossible to trace definitively, we are suffering, have become, collateral damage of our own warmaking.
A constitutional democracy expresses and validates its moral decisions through its lawmaking, but not if the decisions the laws are meant to embody have never actually occurred. If the law instead represents an actual moral commitment, a turning to each other that also crosses current cultural and religious divides, then we can let the wonks of the future tell themselves that it was really the Semi-Automatic Weapons Control Act of 2013 or 2017 or 2027 that finally put an end to the Auroras and Sandy Hooks and Oak Creeks and Tucsons, but it will have been, as it will have had to have been, something more important than any piece of legislation.