January 27, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Mass gun death shouldn’t be a consequence of disagreement
It is, though.
I can’t end the week without mentioning the twin shooting massacres in coastal California. The first was in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles. Eleven were killed. The second was in Half Moon Bay, near San Francisco. Seven were killed.
Both were committed by elderly Asian-American men. They each used semiautomatic pistols. The victims were mostly Asian. The mass shootings were two of 70 this month, per the Gun Violence Archive.
The usual questions arose, wrote columnist Rex Huppke: “Why? What was the shooter’s motive? Who inspired him? Who can we blame?”
For Huppke, as for me, motive is a decoy. Finding the cause of gun violence, he said, gets in the way of recognizing its outcomes: One, that “a human with enough hate to kill” had “a gun that helped that person do the killing.” Two, that “the same thing that keeps happening has happened again.”
Huppke said that if we hold off on reacting emotionally to the effects of mass gun violence until “we can blame something other than the hate in the shooter and the gun in his hand,” we’ll never stop mass gun violence.
I agree but, I don’t think inaction is a consequence of desensitization. Huppke said that “we can’t let ourselves become so inured to America’s murderous rhythm that we need to know more before we let ourselves feel.”
Perhaps feeling the suffering of others will inspire reform.
I wish sadism were that simple.
Angels dancing on pinheads
To the degree that we have become “inured” to mass death, it isn’t a result of getting used to it (though we have). It’s a consequence of having accepted mass death as an outcome of legitimate political disagreement.
As common as asking why people kill other people wholesale is the false equivalence among the newsspeakers and opiniontalkers who largely set the agenda and inform the public’s understanding of mass death.
I’m not talking about “gun rights versus gun control” or “individual liberty versus public safety.” These are not false equivalences, but they are false. The real false equivalence is inferred and subliminal: “mass death versus rights.”
No one believes, in public anyway, that you have a right to kill another person, or otherwise harm another person in direct or indirect ways. No matter how much you love the constitution, your freedom stops at another’s freedom. Rights should be protected. More important, people should be.
Yet when it comes to shooting massacres, this common sense disappears. Instead of admitting that mass death is unacceptable no matter how it happens or why, and then doing something collectively to stop it, we busy ourselves by arguing about how many angels can dance on a pinhead.
As Huppke said: “Was it a hate crime? (How could it be driven by anything but hate?) Was the shooter liberal or conservative? (Does it matter to those mourning?) Was it random or targeted? (Does either answer help?)”
A result of these pinhead-dancing is allowing ourselves to accept mass death as a consequence of legitimate political disagreement, as if the Second Amendment, or any amendment, is a good reason to permit 70 mass shootings in less than a month, in which scores of dozens are killed. There’s no shortage of things to disagree on. Mass death shouldn’t be one of them.
It is, though. That’s why we should face the hard truth. Mass death is a consequence of legitimate political disagreement as well as a consequence of sadists using legitimate political disagreement to mask their sadism.
Truth is, lots of Americans don’t mind mass death as long as it’s visiting “those people.” Even if it’s visiting them and their kin, however, it’s still OK. A few dead Americans are a small price for maintaining the white order.
I’ve gone blue in the face talking about how being pro-gun is being pro-white power. My point today, however, is that desensitization – or being “insured to America’s murderous rhythms” – is not necessarily rooted in seeing terrible things happening over and over. Just as likely is that desensitization is rooted in indifference to suffering or the perverse pleasure of seeing the suffering of “those people.”
It’s very liberal to think that empathy is the road to gun law reform.
Perhaps liberality will win in the end. Who knows?
But it’s naive to suggest that motive-hunting is emotion-blocking is mass death-enabling. Emotion-enabling on a social scale won’t stop mass death-happening as long as there are sadists around who will use legitimate political disagreement to hide their mass death-desiring.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.