Guns: Monsters in Our Midst
by Robert Koehler
"It was loaded with meaning and death."
Oh lethal, ticklish topic. So many people love guns and swear by them -- many of them people with whom I am otherwise in essential political agreement. And it's not like I relish a debate about "gun control," a tug-of-war about limits that offends most gun lovers and causes weapon-buying sprees after every mass murder.
But the topic is unavoidable. The gun industry is part of the military-industrial complex and its advertising war aimed at the American reptile brain is centered around a permanent state of fear and, even more significantly, helplessness. Most people, or at least most gun owners, think "disarmed" means "disempowered" and the debate, such as it is, ends there.
The quote above is from an extraordinary essay by poet
"The Gun as steel metaphor carrying the human urge to dominate and lay waste to an enemy or perceived threat. Guns as import and export.
"The Gun is oh-so-social as it erases human inequality. Anyone can obtain one and point . . . shoot . . . kill."
The gun is not neutral, a mere tool that can serve, like a knife or virtually any object with sharpness or bluntness, either a humble, utilitarian function or the most egregious of human impulses. If it were, there would be no gun lobby. There would be no NRA. A gun's mere possession changes human possibility. We're not going to get rid of it.
But according to numbers from gunpolicy.org, an organization that promotes the public health model of firearm injury prevention,
As I wrote a year ago, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings: "Before we need a gun debate in this country, or on this planet, we need a sensible discussion about the nature of empowerment, and we need to wrest the concept from the hands -- if necessary, the cold, dead hands -- of gun-industry shills, who claim that unarmed means disempowered, and who forget, among much else, to warn us that it's possible to be both armed and disempowered, and that this is perhaps the most dangerous state of all."
That is, one can be armed and angry, armed and panicked, armed and confused, armed and lost or depressed. A gun in the hands of someone in one of these mental-emotional states will not change the situation for the better. It will magnify the darkness exponentially. And this is what's happening in our country.
After Sandy Hook,
But we won't contain them by shooting them. The fate of this country is not in the hands of
We need a serious national conversation about all this, but we can't seem to manage it. Instead, we get politics and stalemate and more of the same. For instance, the post of U.S. surgeon general has been vacant since last July and President Obama's nominee, Dr.
"With public health professionals engaging more forcefully on the gun issue, the NRA has a pressing interest in muting their calls for stronger policy,"
The monsters in our midst are woven into our national identity. American society was built on a foundation of slavery and genocide: aggressive racism, Eurocentrism, a right to dominate others. We haven't faced these monsters; we've simply armed them. We have 300 million guns in private hands, and counting.
We are a society at war with ourselves as well as with much of the world. Gun control in various forms may contain that war, but only a shift in consciousness will end it. That shift must include the realization that power requires more than the means to point, shoot, kill.