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Furthermore! – A Tipping Point on Gun Safety

December 19, 2012

Furthermore

Furthermore! – A Tipping Point on Gun Safety

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s veto of the guns-in-schools bill, and House Speaker John Boehner’s call for House Republicans to “have a discussion on guns” hint that the Newtown tragedy may be a tipping point on gun safety. (More)

Squirrels are quick learners. For example, we can navigate even complex obstacle courses to get food. What’s more, we watch other squirrels and learn from them. That’s a useful trait, because life is dangerous and learning how to avoid problems keeps us alive.

I realize humans are limited by having big brains that allow you to imagine and believe things that aren’t true, but this week I have hope. After the horrific mass slaughter in Newtown, there are signs that even long-time gun industry supporters are seeing the light.

For example, yesterday Michigan Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill that would have allowed concealed weapons in churches, stadiums, schools, and even daycare centers. The bill was passed by Republicans in the state legislature on Thursday, but before the latest mass shooting in Connecticut. It was spurred by conservatives’ acceptance of junk science pushed by the gun industry. While More Guns, Less Crime is certainly a catchy book title – and good slogan for gun industry profits – the data disagree and even Republican spokesperson Brad Dayspring says he’s “pretty sure the most effective way to avoid tragedies like this is not to start an arms race among teachers/students.”

Nor is Megan McArdle’s suggestion that we train elementary school students to carry out suicidal charges at armed attackers:

I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once.

Jonathan Chait rightly called that “the single worst solution to any problem I have ever seen offered in a major publication.” The problem in Newtown was not cowardly six-year-olds. The problem was a murderous twenty-year-old with a semi-automatic rifle and vest full of 30-round magazines.

No, these tragedies are not exclusively about guns. As gender violence educator Jackson Katz writes, a big part of the problem is the social role of white manhood in American society:

And then in the wake of repeated tragedies like Newtown, we turn on the TV and watch the same predictable conversations about guns and mental illness, with only an occasional mention that the overwhelming majority of these types of crimes are committed by men — usually white men. Even when some brave soul dares to mention this crucial fact, it rarely prompts further discussion, as if no one wants to be called a “male-basher” for uttering the simple truth that men commit the vast majority of violence, and thus efforts to “prevent violence” – if they’re going to be more than minimally effective – need to explore why.

Part of the problem, Katz argues, is that maleness is the ‘default’ gender and whiteness the ‘default’ race in our society. Had a rash of mass shootings been committed by women, the media would be abuzz with conversations about the shooters’ gender. I’d bet a macadamia that at least some conservatives would argue that the stress of being both breadwinners and mothers was too great for the female psyche, and that’s why women were ‘snapping’ into violent outbursts. And David Sirota offered an excellent analysis on the almost certain media response had the Newtown shooter been non-white or Muslim.

But because maleness and whiteness are the privileged defaults in American culture, a series of horrific attacks by white men must be about mental illness, video games, or teacher’s unions and sex in the media and bureaucrats … or anything but the sense of aggrieved entitlement that is – for too many – the essence of contemporary white masculinity.

But these rampages are also about access to military-style weapons with large magazines that make it easy for untrained and unhinged young white men to wage war on moviegoers, Sikh worshipers, mall shoppers, or school children. So I was relieved to read that Speaker Boehner’s call for House Republicans to respond the Newtown massacre included a mention of guns:

Boehner said the GOP’s strategy would be to examine the reasons that the mass shootings of recent years have been carried out, almost exclusively, by young, white males with mental illnesses, according to the lawmaker in the room.

“We need to have a discussion about guns,” the lawmaker said, relaying Boehner’s remarks, “and that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden we abandon the Second Amendment or the NRA [National Rifle Association] or anything like that. But there needs to be a discussion and everybody needs to participate and we need to depoliticize it.”

Of course, private strategy statements and even President Obama’s powerful moral charge at the Newtown vigil Sunday night does not guarantee meaningful and effective legislation. But polls show overwhelming public support for one critical provision: banning high-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) will push for such a ban, and President Obama has indicated he will support that effort.

That alone will not stop the slaughters. No single law or policy will. But banning high-capacity magazines will make rampaging killers stop to reload, giving our children more opportunities to flee and giving unarmed adults more opportunities to swarm and disarm the shooters.

Governor Snyder’s veto and Speaker Boehner’s challenge to his caucus, like the investment firm that will sell the firearms conglomerate that makes the Bushmaster rifle used in so many mass shootings, and the Discovery Channel’s decision to cancel the American Guns and cut ties with NRA spokesperson Ted Nugent, signal that the Newtown massacre may finally have been the tipping point … and signal that perhaps humans actually can learn.

Good day and good nuts.

  • addisnana

    Well said, Squirrel. I too hope that this is indeed a tipping point.

    If I was in a violent situation with Megan McArdle I’d let her try her “rushing the shooter” strategy first. “Please proceed, Ms. McArdle.” comes to mind. (Borrowed from Obama’s “Please proceed, Governor.”) What a sad excuse for an opinion piece.

    • addisnana

      The National Review has a piece up by Charlotte Allen that gives Megan McArdle a run for the honot of “most stupid pundit.”

      There was not a single adult male on the school premises when the shooting occurred. In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist” — were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers.

      Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.

      Charlotte Allen is author of The Human Christ.

  • winterbanyan

    Great rant, Squirrel, and straight to the point. I guess we will discover over the next month or so whether we are finally growing some brains.