Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hodgepodge 339/365 - Guns

I wasn't going to write about this, but this is what's on my mind today—and then a poem came through my FB feed that hit me, that I want to share. So: yeah, guns.

The Las Vegas shooting (this after the Pulse nightclub, after Sandy Hook, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora and Columbine, after Fort Hood, and on and on) has left me numb: 59 killed on this single occasion, some 515 wounded. I want to know why nobody even noticed this guy carting ten rifles through the lobby of the Mandalay Hotel (and of course they wouldn't have seen the dozen-plus handguns). Did they look like golf clubs? Does no one pay attention anymore? Is it "none of our business"?

There's a line of reasoning that the arms industry-slash-its mouthpiece the NRA uses relentlessly: The hundred or so daily deaths in this country by firearm (mostly murders and suicides, some accidents) are "inevitable"—which means the world is a dangerous place, and so we should be afraid . . . and so we should protect ourselves. With what? With guns! It's a circular (il)logic, but the NRA repeats it endlessly. And I find even friends of mine—who use their guns to hunt with, or maybe do target practice; who have never come close to encountering a home intruder or someone they needed to "defend" themselves from—spouting this nonsense. "If only the victims at the [you name it nightclub] had had weapons, they could have saved themselves." As if.

The more I think about it, the more discouraged I get. There's the absolutely meaningless 2nd Amendment (especially as it's currently interpreted—why in God's name should there be an individual right to bear arms, if a "well-regulated militia" was the point?), which in the past forty or so years has become sacrosanct to the gun owners of this nation, thanks in large part to the NRA. There's the estimate of 300 million guns in this country (or up to 600 million, as one gun site gleefully crows), owned by about a third of the population—which is itself just over 300 million, so do the math. There is the fact that there are too many of us, and we're very diverse, and some of us are pissed off about that (even though it's been happening for a couple hundred years now), and others are a little angry for other, perhaps more reasonable reasons (like being targeted for their race), and . . . I think the white gun owners just wish they were still in their isolated little valleys in the Alps or the Pennines or the Harz or the Dolomites or wherever, where they could shoot their evening meal and not be bothered by . . . discomfort, I guess. Resentment.

[10/5 addition to this post: A recent survey concludes that just 3 percent of gun owners in this country own a full half of the national arsenal. Which the study reckons amounts to seventeen guns apiece, on average. The survey also concludes that 78 percent of Americans do not own guns, and that there are "only" 265 million firearms in this country—the first number higher, the second lower, than other surveys have found. The number of handguns, intended for self-defense, has risen, with "fear" being a big reason. The study is based on 4,000 responses.] 

I don't own a gun, and I never will. I go out into the world (granted, my corner of California isn't too fraught, but there are shootings hereabouts not all that infrequently) without fear. All those beautiful people who went to the concert on Sunday in Las Vegas went without fear. And a gun, or even hundreds of guns, wouldn't have saved them.

Guns are made for killing. The bullcrap that "guns don't kill people, people do" is belied by Sunday's tragedy: a man in a room at the Mandalay with just a knife, or even twenty, couldn't have hurt, never mind killed, more than a few souls.

One comment on a blog post I saw today suggested that, although the 2nd Amendment touts the right to bear arms, it says nothing about ammunition. What about registering all ammunition purchases and setting up a 1000 percent federal sales tax on all ammunition and making some calibers and types of bullet (e.g. armor piercing) illegal? That could be a start, if any politicians (i.e., Democrats) in Congress were courageous enough.

I am sick of the mass killings, and I feel so helpless against them. I honestly don't expect to see any progress made on this issue in my lifetime. More lives will be lost in mass shootings. Probably tomorrow, or next week. It is a tragedy for our society.

And on that note: here's the poem I promised. I'm sorry for the downer post. But dammit. This is real. (I intended to keep this short. Sorry, too, that I went on. But dammit.)

Okay. Take a breath (iiiiiiiiiiin . . . ooooouuuut). This poem is worth reading slowly.

The Gun Joke

by Jamaal May (originally published in the Indiana Review, 2013)

It’s funny, she says, how many people are shocked
by this shooting and the next and next and the next.
She doesn’t mean funny as in funny, but funny
as in blood soup tastes funny when you stir in soil.
Stop me if you haven’t heard this one:
A young man/old man/teenage boy walks into
an office/theater/daycare/club and empties
a magazine into a crowd of strangers/family/students.

Ever hear the one about the shotgun? What do you call it
when a shotgun tests a liquor store’s bulletproof glass?
What’s the difference between a teenager
with hands in the air and a paper target charging at a cop?
What do you call it when a man sets his own house on fire,
takes up a sniper position, and waits for firefighters?

Stop me if you haven’t heard this one:
The first man to pull a gun on me said it was only a joke,
but never so much as smiled. The second said
this is definitely not a joke, and then his laughter crackled
through me like electrostatic—funny how that works.
When she says it’s funny she means funny
as in crazy and crazy as in this shouldn’t happen.
This shouldn’t happen as in something is off. Funny as in
off—as in, ever since a small caliber bullet chipped his spine,
your small friend walks kinda’ funny and his smile is off.


  1. Came here from Greg's blog and appreciate the rundown of the various arguments and conversations over the issue. Thanks, too, for sharing that poem.