Friday, December 14, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

In Connecticut, twelve days before Christmas, unimaginable tragedy, unbearable sadness. How many more innocent people will have to die before this nation comes to its senses, changes the way Americans think about guns, and institutes effective controls on who can own guns and on what guns can be owned by private individuals? How many more dead children? How many grieving parents?

America has two major problems when it comes to guns and gun violence; woefully ineffective gun control, and most important, the way we think about guns and why we own them.

A strident gun lobby led by the NRA has succeeded in inculcating in the American psyche the idea that guns are necessary to protect our freedom, our person, and our property, and that the more guns Americans own, the safer we will be as a community.

Aided and abetted by profit-driven gun manufacturers, ultra-conservative front groups, and complicit and cowed legislators, the NRA, with the help of “model bills” crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others, has pushed “stand your ground laws” through 25 state legislatures, and successfully promoted laws that permit carrying guns in almost any venue you can imagine, including in bars and on college campuses. If the NRA has its way, carrying a gun will be as commonplace as carrying a cell phone.

The idea that when one “feels” threatened, the appropriate response is to shoot down another human being is preposterous, but the gun lobby promotes, even glorifies this wild west ethos. Their solution to school shootings? Arm the teachers.

When did “turn the other cheek” become an anachronism? Has the NRA and their ilk succeeded in turning us into a fearful, angry, armed and dangerous people, rather than the gregarious, generous people we prided ourselves on being?

1 comment:

Richard Badalamente said...

Here's how Donald Braman - associate professor at George Washington University Law School - and Dan Kahan - professor at Yale Law School - put it in 2006:
For one segment of American society, guns symbolize honor, human mastery over nature, and individual self-sufficiency. By opposing gun control, individuals affirm the value of these meanings and the vision of the good society that they construct. For another segment of American society, however, guns connote something else: the perpetuation of illicit social hierarchies, the elevation of force over reason, and the expression of collective indifference to the well-being of strangers. These individuals instinctively support gun control as a means of repudiating these significations and of promoting an alternative vision of the good society that features equality, social solidarity, and civilized nonagression.

These competing cultural visions, we will argue, are what drive the gun control debate. They are what dispose individuals to accept certain empirically grounded public-safety arguments and to reject others. Indeed, the meanings that guns and gun control express are sufficient to justify most individuals’ positions on gun control independently of their beliefs about guns and safety. It follows that the only meaningful gun control debate is one that explicitly addresses whether and how the underlying cultural visions at stake should be embodied in American law.