The hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance surrounding the gun violence in our country has reached a fever pitch this weekend. In the same 24-hour period, in the same city, two incidents of extreme gun violence occurred. The first was committed by a 27-year-old male of European descent who shot a 22-year-old female singer in the head before he turned his gun on himself. This was premeditated as he drove two hours from his home to a city where she was signing autographs specifically to kill her. The second was a 29-year-old male of Afghan descent who entered a nightclub and killed or injured over 100 people. This was also premeditated, as he was apparently upset when he saw two men kissing in front of his wife and child the day prior. What is the difference then? According to many commentators and media outlets, one man was motivated by his religion, and the other man was motivated by…something else, we’re still figuring it out apparently.
This interpretation of gun violence, that a shooter’s motivation is based on a coherent religious or ideological thought, is a bald lie we tell ourselves every time there is an incident. Yes, the nightclub shooter used Islam and even ISIS as an excuse to give his brain permission to commit this act and cast himself as a hero in the celestial struggle between Islam and the evils of the West, but focusing on this as an act of “Islamist Terrorism” is a gross absurdity. It excuses our own thinking and lets us believe if only we stamp out this one brand of radical thought we can be safer.
For some context, in the same time frame there were 43 other incidents in America involving guns, resulting in 28 deaths and 31 injuries. This is in a single 24-hour period. So far in 2016 there have been 23,158 incidents involving guns resulting in 5,931 deaths and 12,144 injuries. Of these, 134 were mass shootings (four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter).
To focus on gun violence only when really big events happen or the motivation behind the violence (racism, homophobia, terrorism, ISIS, etc) makes for an interesting narrative fails to explain the core of a violence that is deeply rooted in our society. Rather than look at these extemporaneous “motivations”, we must understand this core if we are ever truly to reduce the amount of violence we see from guns in America.
From 2002-2012 88% of homicides (of all types, not just guns, but I am extrapolating that this number holds as roughly the same when looking at gun-only homicides) were committed by men. For mass shootings over 98% of perpetrators are male. So if we look at gun violence in America in terms of constants and variables, a certain pattern emerges, particularly in mass shootings. Guns are a means to enhance one person’s physical power over another, whether to inflict death, injury, or simply the threat of death or injury, well beyond their personal strength or physical capacity. By interpreting and focusing on this function of guns, the use of guns by males is then understood as the assertion of their power or dominance (in this case the power of life or death) in a situation they would normally be unable to assert themselves with a balance of power so extremely skewed in their favor.
In an instant a man transforms from a position where their power had been stripped from them into a man who is now more powerful by far than anyone in his immediate vicinity. So if you are a man who had your “power” stripped by a celebrity woman (or any woman) who “thought she was better than you” or didn’t realize you were her one true love or rejected your hundreds of very nice emails or called security on you when you were just trying to see her at her house or apartment you spent a lot of time tracking down, you can take that power back in an instant. Or if you are a man who had your power stripped from you when you were walking down the street of Miami and saw two men kissing in front of your wife and child, emasculating you when you were unable to do anything because you live in a society where this thing you disagree with is accepted, you can take back your masculinity and power by shooting homosexuals who are part of the group who stole it from you. Really, if you are any man who needs to express their dominance for any reason, maybe someone cuts you off in traffic, or they didn’t show you the proper respect when they walked by you, or maybe even its not a specific reason, you’ve just felt powerless for a while and need to feel powerful for once, a gun is always available to you because we live in America.
The manner of the excuse to justify violence (racism, homophobia, religion, morality, etc) is immaterial. Men will always find an excuse and even revel in putting their violence in a larger context (inciting a race war, continuing the cosmic battle between Islam and the West, fighting the American government’s “jackboot thugs” to prevent them from taking over…the America(?), stopping the reptilians from taking over humanity, etc). We must understand that the cause of violence in America is the male quest to retake their power.
And this, the root of American gun violence, is why we must reform our gun laws. Now for whatever reason we have all agreed as a nation that our founding fathers were the most intelligent people who ever lived and would be really good at making laws in 2016 even without having any knowledge of how the world worked in 2016. We also all agree, for some reason, that that they obviously had assault rifles and hand guns in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, so making guns entirely illegal seems to be off the table. Additionally, people still say they feel safer when they have a gun around even because there are all these “bad guys with guns” running around out there (and apparently it wouldn’t be better to arrest them before they shoot someone…?) who are just waiting for you to lose your right to bear arms before invading your home or attacking you on the street. With that being said, I think I have an idea that might satisfy all party’s needs while still reducing gun violence.
Make guns legal, but only for women. Make it literally illegal for a man, who is not in law enforcement, to even touch a gun. And if a woman wants to own a gun, make sure she has to go through extensive training and yearly recertifications so that she knows how to use that sucker like a pro. This means that when a bad guy with a gun comes around, you, the nervous man of the house, can always rely on your female partner to competently protect you. If you’re single and scared, find a woman you can be friends with and rely on to quickly come to your aid should you need it. This would have the added benefit of perhaps also reducing the gender disparity in domestic violence/sexual assaults rates in America.
This, however, is a short term solution. The long term solution is to reform masculinity itself. Unfortunately this is a global, generational issue seen in males in nearly every culture and nation. The current definition of masculinity is toxic to our society and must adapt to modern civilization. Perhaps it served when we lived in sparse tribes who were constantly warring and defending what little they had, but it no longer has a place in our modern culture. It is a vestigial behavior currently responsible for the deaths of millions of people around the globe every year based on nothing more than feelings of hurt pride or the desire to assert of personal power. Changing the way men think about themselves is essential if we want to reduce violence. However, this is admittedly difficult to legislate and requires an overall societal sea change, one I truly hope we are pursuing as a society.
So that’s my idea to help reduce gun violence anyways, what’s yours?
The most important thing to keep in mind is that in the next 24 hours another 50 people will have their lives ripped apart by gun violence. And then in the next 24 hours after that. And then after that. And after that. Indefinitely, every month, every year. If we do not do something, anything, anything at all about gun violence in America, we should stop pretending we care when this happens and just understand it’s a price we are willing to pay for loving guns more than we love human beings.
Statistics retrieved from: http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/