The universal in all the sad deaths? Guns.

Damn, I didn’t even know what to say about all this.  So sad.  So many lives needlessly lost.  So many people trying to dichotomize a situation that defies it (of course police should not so easily shoot Black citizens; of course police should not be demonized and become targets– that wasn’t hard).  I was thinking, though, that one thing that really brings this all together– yes, even police shooting unarmed Black men, is our amazing prevalence of guns and gun culture in America.  Fortunately, I waited for Adam Gopnik to address it because he says it far better than I ever could:

The killings in Dallas are one more reminder that guns are central, not accessory, to the American plague of violence…

We don’t yet know exactly by whom and for what deranged “reason” or mutant “cause” five police officers were murdered last night, but, as the President rightly suggested, we do know how—and the how is a huge part of what happened. By having a widely armed citizenry, we create a situation in which gun violence becomes a common occurrence, not the rarity it ought to be and is everywhere else in the civilized world. That this happened amid a general decline in violence throughout the Western world only serves to make the crisis more acute; America’s gun-violence problem remains the great and terrible outlier… [emphases mine]

Weapons empower extremes. Allowing members of any fringe of any movement to get their hands on military weapons guarantees that any normal dispute—political or, for that matter, domestic—can quickly lead to a massacre. Our guns have outraced our restrictions, but not our imaginations. Sometime in the not-too-distant past, annihilation replaced street theatre and demonstrations as the central possibility of the enraged American imagination. Guns allow the fringe to occupy the center…

Once again, it needs stating because it can’t be stated too often: despite the desperate efforts of the National Rifle Association to prevent research on gun violence, the research has gone on, and shows conclusively what common sense already suggests. Guns are not merely the instrument; guns are the issue. The more guns there are, the more gun violence happens. In light of last night’s assassinations, it is also essential to remember that the more guns there are, the greater the danger to police officers themselves. It requires no apology for unjustified police violence to point out that, in a heavily armed country, the police officer who thinks that a suspect is armed is likelier to panic than when he can be fairly confident that the suspect is not. We have come to accept it as natural that ordinary police officers should be armed and ready to use lethal force at all times. They should not be. A black man with a concealed weapon should be no more liable to be killed than a white man with one. But having a nation of men carrying concealed lethal weapons pretty much guarantees that there will be lethal results, an outcome only made worse by our toxic racial history. Last night’s tragedy was also the grotesque reductio ad absurdum of the claim that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. There were nothing but good guys and they had nothing but guns, and five died anyway, as helpless as the rest of us.

All of this so true.  I suspect this will not be the last time I link this post.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The universal in all the sad deaths? Guns.

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    I have thought for a long time that a year of mandatory national service after high school graduation would be a great help to build national unity. We seem to live in social cocoons for the most part and don’t really experience living and working with our diverse people.
    Perhaps part of the year could be in basic police work so that we could all have some level of training and even participation. I’m not suggesting any armed activity but maybe basic principles and observation.
    That way our population can all be somewhat prepared when people no longer sign up voluntarily to join the force because the risk has become just too high. Clearly the dominant risk is either too many guns and/or too many bullets.

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