Posted by Jay Livingston
Guns Galore. The name might be emblematic of the US as a whole, but it’s merely the name of the store where Maj. Hasan plunked down his $1,100 and walked out with his brand new
At first, I thought that gun control was irrelevant in this case because Maj. Hasan was member of the US Army, and no law could deny a gun to a member of that category. But I was wrong. The murder weapon was not an Army firearm. It was privately acquired. Maj. Hasan was able to get his gun because he was a member of another category for whom getting guns is rarely a problem: people in Texas (also a few dozen other states.)
Maj. Hasan may have been a Muslim first and an American second, he may have practiced an extreme form of a foreign religion, he may have been psychologically unstable. But in at least one way, he was as normal and American as Charlton Heston: he believed in the philosophy of the gun.
The philosophy of the gun is simple: if someone does something you don’t like, shoot them. If you can’t shoot that person, shoot someone like them.
If you don’t like abortions, shoot an abortion doctor . If you don’t like an anti-abortion protester , shoot him. If you feel wronged by people at work, go postal. If a woman has rejected you, shoot her. If you can’t find a woman who actually rejected you, shoot several women. Don’t like the kids in your school? Shoot them. Feel you’ve been dissed by someone from another gang, shoot them.
Gun advocates put this in terms of self-defense. If you have gun, you can defend yourself, your property, and your loved ones from people who are doing something you don’t like. Which is just another way of saying that if you don’t like what the person is doing, shoot them. The only difference is that such shootings might be legal.
The question is this: whose decision is it? Who gets to decide whether shooting the bad person is OK? Most societies restrict this decision to law enforcement, to agents of the state. If someone is doing something you think they shouldn’t be doing, something that should be stopped right now, you call the cops.* That’s true to a great extent in the US as well.
But distrust of the government is a theme that runs through US political culture. So we make it easy for any person to take that power literally into his (or her) own hands. The law might punish you afterwards, if you are still alive. But until then, you are the law, and the decision over the use of deadly force is yours. Gun manufacturers might just as well advertise: “We provide, you decide.”
Fortunately, most gun owners never shoot their guns at other people. The vast majority don’t use guns to express their anger or their religious and political beliefs. But for the small minority who do want to use guns in that way, wide open lies the door of Guns Galore.
* Police scholars will recognize this as Egon Bittner’s definition of the police.The title of his article “The Capacity to Use Force as the Core of the Police Role” states it formally. More colloquially, Bittner says that the police are who we call when “something ought not to be happening about which something ought to be done right NOW!”