I’ve never understood the victim-complex gun owners inflict on themselves. Politicians of both parties pander to them shamelessly, assuring them in the condescending tone of a mother to her toddler that the big bad government would never take away their guns. We celebrate hunting as a fundamental American tradition on par with setting off 4th of July fireworks or mumbling the Pledge of Allegiance everyday before class. It’s as if shooting, skinning and bloodletting an animal for sport and going out in the backyard to throw the old baseball around with dad are qualitatively equivalent. There are over 200 million guns in this country. Gun ownership is roundly accepted. And anti-gun activists are dismissed as hippie-pussies who hate America and want to strip people of their god-given right to shoot shit and are probably communists.
Yet, ignorant of reality, gun freaks have this pathology in which they are convinced that there is a shadowy faction of the American left that’s plotting to come in the night and take their firearms, rendering them defenseless against the make-believe armed gangs that will subsequently slither up from the sewers and take over the country. This pathology has manifested itself in the two weeks since Barack Obama’s election. Reports have cropped up from all corners of the country chronicling a post-election boom in gun sales. From Nov. 3 through Nov. 9 the FBI received 374,000 background check requests for prospective gun buyers, a nearly 50 percent increase from last year. The idea is that once the Big O hits the White House bullets are going to cost five grand a piece and semi-automatic AK-47s will, outrageously, no longer be for sale.
A nightmare. Might as well scoop up the weapons while you still can, the logic suggests.
This gun boom has hit despite the fact that Obama has repeatedly professed his support for gun ownership. In addition, any change to current firearm policy is nearly impossible to enact considering the power and influence of the thugs at the NRA and the fact that only a small minority of Americans want to change our current firearm policy. We live in a country were it’s not only legal but praiseworthy to shoot a wolf with a semi-automatic rifle from an airplane, yet these people are afraid that three months from now they won’t be able to pick up a 9mm. Only the cognitive processes of true psychotics would be so obscured by blatant ignorance.
I’ve been down this road before. Whenever I so much as utter the word gun a troupe of pro-gunners materialize with their own set of statistics and antique talking points that leave my article and me looking silly and stupid and amateurish. Their claims may be baseless and incoherent but the net effect is intimidating nonetheless. The swiftness of their response and emotion they feel for their beloved firearms borders on creepy. Obama’s “cling” is far too gentle a description of the relationship between these people and their guns. They take on a subservient role, defending not guns but themselves. Every argument funnels back to the personal, as they aren’t arguing public policy as much as human rights. I don’t know how or why gun freaks see firearms policy as a human rights issue, but they do. Perhaps the weapon has become a necessary part of their being. And the prospect of having that weapon taken away is the prospect of having a part of how you identify yourself as a person taken away. It an irrational notion, but a very real notion, and it explains the wild passion which informs contemporary debates on firearm policy.
But this article isn’t just about the stupidity of gun owners who think that Obama is going to take their guns away, it’s also about the fact that he should. Take them away, take them all away. Don’t throw the Constitution at me. 200 million guns aren’t making us any safer. Don’t wave the flag of American tradition. little kids who aren’t old enough to spell “gun” are blowing bits of their still-moldable skulls all over their cribs. You want to get the second-rate orgasm you get after going out into the wilderness and killing an animal? Try it with a Bowie knife while looking the innocent beast in the eye.
We’re conditioned to believe that the gun debate is far more enormous and complicated than it seems. There’s this vague notion that’s been pounded into us saying that our intuitions are deceiving us; that the right to bear arms is a necessary component of living in a free society, and besides, guns actually make us safer. It’s all bullshit. Murder in the streets of Philadelphia — you cannot tell me gun control wouldn’t change that. You can throw around numbers and studies and credible sources but you cannot tell me more people aren’t dead in America because of our firearms policy.
I’m not arguing the constitutionality of the right to bear arms; I’m questioning the rationality of a society that gives its citizens a short cut to killing each other in the name of freedom and tradition. What does that say about us? I’ve seen mounds of praise heaped on the goodness and dignity of the American people following the election of our first black president. But how good and dignified is a nation that allows its citizens to kill each other with the movement of a finger?
Tony Manfred is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Absurdity Exhibition appears alternate Wednesdays.