Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Right-Wing Ideology that Opposes Gun Control

Since the assault on Dawson College in Montreal, there has been a great deal of public discussion about what causes certain young men to become deranged mass killers. Every time there is a school massacre in Canada or the United States, the same arguments follow. We hear psychologists, psychiatrists, cultural analysts and others discuss if it is possible to spot the danger signs in advance of a mass shooting and perhaps prevent it. Which ones of the lonely, quiet, marginalized, social misfits having fantasies of wiping out those who oppress them, should we suspect and detain preventively?

The problem is that the profiles of the eventual killers fit too many young men to be of much use. It may be a good idea for secondary schools, colleges and universities to establish programs to keep an eye on the misfits, to try to counter social exclusion that drives some of them to the edge. Some unhappy young men can be coaxed back into a healthy life this way.
The problem is that this method of anticipating the identity of the killers is sure to be a crap shoot most of the time. Next year or five years from now, we’ll go through the same agony in the aftermath of a mass shooting at another school.

Perhaps the shooter will be a student of that school, but maybe not. The warning signs in the behaviour of the killer that should have been obvious, will go innoticed because there is no way to monitor the nation or the whole planet that closely. The governments don't have the budget for that and the planetary dictatorship necessary to accompliish this would never be accepted by the population. So, we have to admit that in most democracies, there is little or nothing to do, to prevent the next mass shooting.

One way to get at the problem would be serious gun control, but although it will perhaps bring better results, it is not perfect. The shooter could always purchase the gun illegally on the black market. There is always this possibility. Even if we vote a law that would mandate the confiscation of every restricted weapon in the land, there will always be ways to evade such a confiscation or avoid the restrictions of the gun registry. The Dawson school shooting was not halted by the gun registry, therefore it is useless and should be scrapped. All the played out rhetoric about guns not being responsible for how they are used will be heard once again. Sensible people will respond to past tragedies by saying that we need the Gun Registry more than ever and perhaps a ban on handguns. Surely, we could be suspicious of responsible people who hesitate at registering their guns. Guns kill, so why do shooters of the nation insist that to register their guns hurts their basic freedom?

The Canadian gun culture is influenced by the gun culture in the United States. In the U.S., the National Rifle Association and millions of gun owners cling to their right to own guns, a right protected in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. American gun advocates have an interpretation of history from ancient to contemporary times whose moral is that an armed citizenry is a free citizenry. They accuse those who want gun control to promote an unduly expansion of the power of the state, and ultimately facilitate the coming of a dictatorship. The gun lobby speaks for a highly defined constituency of overwhelmingly white male gun owners and their sympathisers, who advocate a right-wing foreign- and domestic politicy. The lobby defends the right of citizens to own and carry semiautomatic weapons and armour-piercing bullets.

The political idea that underlies the American gun culture is that the only way to sustain a free society is to ensure the right of people to own and carry guns freely. Any infringement of that freedom will lead to the confiscation of guns and the choking off of liberty by an all powerful state. Allowing the state to assemble a list of gun owners (a gun registry) poses a threat to freedom. It is said that some day, the state will come and snuff out freedom when they take the guns away. So, clearly for these people: GUNS ARE FREEDOM. But a dangerous freedom one might add, a freedom that can kill other people or enslave them. Canadians have no need for such an ideology of gun culture. The American Revolution and the Second Amendment are not our founding myths and they have no place in our society. We have to deal with the very real threat posed by allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of potentially deranged people. Therefore, we have no time to deal with references to a rancid ideology that has nothing to do with our history. More gun control, alas, is perhaps what Canada needs.

But Marc and Cho were so good looking dashing with their guns and firing, Clint Eastwood was so cool with his .44 magnum, and what about this dream .475 Wildey Magnum, a wet dream for the likes of Marc Lepine! All quite true my friend, what we would gain in practicality and safety, we would lose with less mythology, less colorful, less dashing and less iconic. Safety and comfort can be so boring! But never fear, we will always have television, and Gozilla and John Wayne to entertain us!

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