Dear Gun Nut: This is Your Fault
Here the fuck we go again — nine down? Ten? It doesn’t really matter. We have plenty more kids, yes? Tons of thoughts and prayers. And hey — can’t happen here, right?
After Parkland, I wrote an article here called Screw the Children that went viral (thanks, Medium!). It got a billion responses: some Amens of course; some of the usual trolls and Gun Nuts quoting tired NRA clichés and throwing the second amendment around as if it guaranteed them the moon and stars; and also some thoughtful responses from gun owners (thank you!). Since then, the Parkland survivors became national celebrities. Gun Nuts tore them apart (because hey, they’re kids who just survived a bigger trauma than you can imagine, so why not?). A few politicians talked the good talk, and they all kept taking NRA money. Not much else has changed, and now, meh, more dead kids.
Yeah, I’m still angry. Extremely. Some of you didn’t like my language before. Really? We’re talking about dead children, still warm, riddled with bullets, I’m scared shitless about my family’s safety, and you’re worried about my French?! Some of you went all anti-gun control on me, even though that wasn’t my point at all (I and most liberals are NOT ACTUALLY AGAINST REASONABLE GUN OWNERSHIP). All I wanted to do was rant about people who respond to destroyed dreams and the slow death of our nation with Don’t touch my gun. Turns out I was actually onto something.
See, before and after I wrote that, I have read every single thing I could find on the topic. Pro and con, good and bad analyses, from liberals, evangelicals, ER docs, Muslims, people of color, people in Stetsons, veterans, you name it. I know there are good reasons to own a gun. I know there is virtually no good reason for a civilian to own an AR-15 or an AK-47 (no, I’m not quoting libtards; I got this from every military man I read plus quite a few gun owners).
What I’ve settled upon is this — the NRA was actually right about something, People Kill People. Problem is, you Gun Nuts are the people, And you have guns. (To be very clear, gun owner doesn’t necessarily equal Gun Nut.) You might not always kill directly, but you’re the core of the problem. Your hands are not clean.
The shooters are white, disenfranchised young men filled with hate and with easy access to lots of firearms, and they got that way because of you Gun Nuts.
To reach this verdict, I thought a lot about history. Where I was born in rural Wisconsin, I imagine that lots of folks had guns; they sure do here in NC. Guns have been a part of the American fabric, for better or for worse, since our inception. School shootings have always existed, but they really ramped up in the past few decades, starting in the late 1980s and increasing exponentially ever since. So is gun control the answer then? Only in part. I mean, sure, the semi-automatics aren’t helping, but the bigger change has been in the people.
Here’s the thing that y’all need to start admitting: the shooters are white disenfranchised young men filled with hate and with easy access to lots of firearms, and they got that way because of you Gun Nuts. And remember, I’m talking school shootings here (although church shootings are similar), so don’t go off topic and babble about Muslims or the inner city. Don’t rant about the mentally ill, because that hasn’t changed in the past several decades and the vast majority of the shooters have had enough presence of mind to plan their actions carefully and avoid being caught beforehand. Yes, anyone can argue that someone who shoots dozens of their classmates is crazy and/or depressed, but most of these dudes were far from full-on loco. Better to ask why so many young white guys are suddenly so angry and depressed — and why they express it with such violence now.
It’s set off by a whole sociological set of circumstances. Bullying, certainly, but that’s always been a reality — kids are mean. Since the ’80s, however, kids have spent more and more time in front of screens and less time engaging with others face-to-face. Social skills have taken a nose dive, people have less value. Lots of kids — especially teenage boys — become obsessed with nasty, brutal online games that glorify guns and death. The good guy isn’t the one who’s nicest, most Christian or most decent, he’s the one with the most ammo.
With the advent of the Internet and social media, there’s been a huge increase in online hate. Because it’s really easy to unleash verbal bullets on some faceless being you don’t agree with, use the language you can’t use in polite society. Another side effect has been fake news (also not new, but now on every desk top, tablet, phone). With the rise of deep data, demographics can be targeted very precisely so that online sources really get under your skin. Conversely, it’s easy to find an opponent to go off on. It’s become bullying for adults, and if you’re not for, you’re against, regardless of topic. All that matters about someone is whether they’re liberal or conservative, and then everything else they say is to be denigrated, and even reduced to name calling. Libtard. Snowflake. “You should be shot.”
The conservatives in these exchanges — really ultra conservatives these days — are typically white men, sometimes white women, they tend to be somewhat lower education and income, they tend to be more rural, and they own guns. Are conservatives the only people who fling nastiness? No, of course not. Liberals can be mean, too. But there are some big differences.
1. Conservatives fear change. Okay, truthfully, lots of people fear change; it can be tough. Nothing can be taken for granted anymore. However, city folks with more education tend to accept it as a fact of life, getting a new degree when necessary and moving for jobs. Rural conservatives fight it, they stay put, they get poorer and angrier—and they buy guns. When Obama was elected? Gun sales went crazy. When there’s another shooting and the second amendment comes up again? Y’all buy more guns.
2. They fear and blame “otherness.” No matter how bad life ever got, white men could tell themselves historically they were superior: to women, people of color, people from other countries and of other religions. They use what’s in the news to confirm their views of people they don’t know (blacks, Latinx, Muslim…), while discounting white crimes as an aberration because the people they do know “wouldn’t do that.” They buy guns to protect themselves against the “others,” who are less than human. Well, these school shooters? You can try to other them all you want, but they are your people and they’re shooting your people.
3. Conservatives have a chip on their shoulder. For a group so rooted in tradition and their demographic place at the top of the totem pole, the Civil Rights Movement and everything since has been hard to take. They’ve felt ignored while seeing more women, more blacks assume positions of power, more brown people move in next door. For Gun Nuts here in the South who’d rather return to the Confederacy, that’s especially tough. They don’t want to recognize that collectively they still have more privilege than most others, and the vast majority of those in power are still white men — the people with the money and control — so they’re really being screwed by their own.
…these school shooters? You can try to other them all you want, but they are your people and they’re shooting your people.
4. They support the NRA, and the NRA deepens the divide. The NRA is an old institution, but it didn’t really become political until the 1977 convention and has amped it up big-time since then. It’s not all that shocking that 1977 is not long after the Civil Rights Movement ended, and not long before the school shootings began. In addition to buying politicians — 98% of whom are Republican — the NRA has mastered and promoted hate speech and the whole “us vs. them” mentality…and you can only protect yourself with lots of guns.
Last but not least, here’s what really separates liberals and a lot of gun owners from Gun Nuts:
4. They think emotions are “weakness” and guns are “strength.” Guns are not a last resort, but a manly, proactive solution. They’re still invested in toxic masculinity, they view it as the final frontier in protecting their homestead, they think they can arm themselves against the government, which — I’m sorry — is laughable. (Our government has far more, and more powerful, ammo than you can dream of stockpiling.) You poke fun at emotions, which are weak and “womanly,” so sons who are bullied or depressed feel like they should “man up” instead of seeking help.
Let me sum up. You’ve taught your kids —and/or led by example — that anyone they don’t like is less than human and it’s okay to bash the crap out of them. That the world is against them and their best response is guns, the more the merrier. That they can’t seek psychological help when they hurt. And then you’ve left a shit-ton of weapons and ammo laying around the house within easy reach. (As the father of the family where Nikolas Cruz lived said (I paraphrase, but accurately), “Yeah, I knew he had issues and lots of guns, but I didn’t think he had the key so, in hindsight, no — I wouldn’t do anything differently.” Huh???)
Y’all could truly man-up and recognize that you’re the biggest part of the problem.
So here we are. According to The Washington Post, more kids have died in schools this year so far than people on active duty in the military. You Gun Nuts are feeling under siege as the second amendment is coming under fire, the NRA is being attacked, and people are scrutinizing their politicians more closely than ever. Eventually the wrong child will be slaughtered, and the apple cart will really get upset.
What’s a Gun Nut to do? Well, y’all don’t do that change thing and about-face very well, so most of you will continue to buy more guns, send more money to the NRA, put on your best MAGA hat, and keep on being angry. Blaming liberals while your own kids are shooting, your own kids are dying.
There’s an alternative, though. Y’all could truly man-up and recognize that you’re the biggest part of the problem. You could consider that liberals, progressives, others are human, too, and set a better example for your kids. You could learn to listen (and hey, liberals, you could too, for that matter); you might not agree with much, but there is middle ground. Life and death should outweigh politics. You could listen to your own children. Stop letting them play Call of Duty 24/7 and spend real time with them, get to know the people they’re hanging with. Make America truly great. Open up your minds. To quote someone famous who you hate, “Hate cannot drive out hate — only love can do that.”*
Or, let it all continue. I care about my kids, and my husband the teacher. For some damn reason, I care about yours, too. Guess it’s the bleeding heart in me.
What do you really care about?
*MLK, Jr. of course