I don’t want to spend the day crying, but here are two interesting articles on gun culture and family responsibility that you might find interesting. First, sociologist Randall Collins says in Lessons from Newtown for Gun-Owning Parents what I was trying to say in this post, only with actual knowledge and a sociological perspective. He writes about the murderer and his mother:
How could she be so blind? Everything her son did, she interpreted as a manifestation of his illness. The windows taped shut with black plastic were to her just a sign of sensitiveness to light—even though he could go outdoors when he wanted to. The possibility that he was hiding something in the rooms she was forbidden to enter was masked in her own mind by the feeling that she must do everything possible for her son. He had drawn her into his mental illness, building up a family system where he was in complete control. She may have felt something was wrong, wronger even than having a mentally ill son she loved. Though it seems unlikely that they quarreled in an overt way, some signs of tension came through. According to the report, “a person who knew the shooter in 2011 and 2012 said the shooter described his relationship with his mother as strained” and said that “her behavior was not rational.” He told another that he would not care if his mother died. As usual, when one person loves the other much more than is reciprocated, the power is all on the side of the less loving.The mother entered into and supported his obsession with weapons, while carefully staying out of his clandestine world. In this, as in the rest of their arrangements, they tacitly cooperated. The mother lost her capacity to make independent judgments. This is very close to the classic model of the mental illness shared among intimates, the folie à deux.
Next, Joan Wickersham buys three gun enthusiast magazines and analyzes what they’re selling their readers–mostly fantasies that combine total powerlessness (due to end times, the collapse of civilization, or maybe Barack Obama’s evil stormtroopers) with the belief that a lone gunowner can offer heroic resistance:
Post-Newtown, post-George Zimmerman, when so many people are baffled by America’s gun culture and the failure of Congress to push back against the gun lobby, maybe we can learn something by looking at the gun periodicals and the stories they tell, both explicit and implicit. The gun books are full of the fantasy of being the aggressor, of wielding power (the Kalashnikov upgrades, the silencers). But there’s also the fantasy of being the protector. There’s talk about hunting and competition, but the real story is about an America whose currency is violence and whose message is shoot or be shot. In this story you are Clint Eastwood, or Rambo. You need to be prepared — for a burglar, for someone else’s road rage, for an attack that will require you to ricochet bullets across trunks, for the end of civilization (“My wife has more freeze-dried food than I do, and my son has more ammo,” says an article titled “What Gun is in Your Bug-Out Bag?”). One of these days someone is going to threaten to use deadly force against you or your loved ones. Maybe you’ll need to use your AK-47 or Sig Sauer P226, or maybe brandishing it at the guy who is pointing his AK-47 or Sig Sauer P226 at you will actually prevent a gunfight.
These magazines should be illustrated like comic books: maybe some of their readers would get the joke. However, given the pathetic state of white American masculinity, I don’t think that’s likely. Do you know what is more likely? Your gun will be used by you or someone in your home in a homocide or a suicide. Wickersham writes, “The only person I’ve ever known who died of a gunshot wound was my father, who shot himself with a handgun he’d had for 20 years; he bought it to protect his family. The really dangerous fantasy is thinking that despite, or even because of, all this deadly firepower, no one will get hurt.”
At the end of his article, Collins makes an obvious but still very important point: gun safety starts at home, and so does preventing another school, university, or shopping mall murder spree:
My recommendation is to gun owners themselves. The issue of gun control in the United States has been mainly treated as a matter of government legislation. That pathway has led to political gridlock. That does not mean that we can do nothing about heading off school shootings. Simply put: Keep alienated youths from building a clandestine arsenal where they nurture fantasies of revenge on the school status system, or whatever problems they have with their personal world. Gun-owning parents are closest to where this is most likely to happen. We need a movement of gun-owning parents who will encourage each other to make sure it doesn’t start in our home.
Except they’re the parents who are likely buying and reading these comic-book fantasies/illustrated catalogs for gun manufacturers, who honestly think that End Times or the Obamacare Stormtroopers are more of a threat than the home arsenals they’ve assembled. I don’t think it’s probably wise to trust their judgement, but at this point, that’s all we’ve got.
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