Beyond Control: America’s Unrivaled Fetish For Guns

Politicians instinctively understand that limiting access to any gun is un-American and indeed it is. To be armed is to be American; to shoot first and ask questions later is how this land was acquired; which is why it is nonsensical to the average citizen to relinquish their personal desires to imitate their favorite episode of Bonanza or Gunsmoke or video games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto.

[The Whole Truth]

Violence has always been America’s favorite pastime, and the gun, her preferred toy.

It is no secret America was established by use of the gun in threatening, provoking and murdering vulnerable populations, and since her birth as a nation, her image in the world has been colored by these deeds. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution speaks to America’s unrivaled fetish for steel and gun powder.

Americans and their guns are not easily separated, and any reasonable efforts to stem the proliferation of violence due to the ease in which military-style assault weapons of mass destruction are acquired appears futile. What is left is ignorance singing falsetto in most gun discussions.

Our nation has so worshipped the gun as symbol of freedom and shooter as Messiah that any common sense effort to stymie propagation of assault-style weapons has been attended with little more than a yawn by lawmakers since the ban on assault weapons expired in 2004. Upon observing the political climate today one wonders how Congress was ever able to pass such legislation, a sad testament to how polarized American politics has become.

Politicians instinctively understand that limiting access to any gun is un-American and indeed it is. To be armed is to be American; to shoot first and ask questions later is how this land was acquired; which is why it is nonsensical to the average citizen to relinquish their personal desires to imitate their favorite episode of Bonanza or Gunsmoke or video games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto.

The cowboy and bandit, epitomized in film by John Wayne, with his admonitions of Indians and White supremacist attitudes, and Jesse James, with his choice of robbery as vocation, represent what can only be described as pure Americana; both images are worshipped and revered — both are killers.

These American ideals reflect what the average citizen sees when he or she looks in the mirror, and although some of this history is rooted in myth passed off as authentic retelling of human events, the country, in the main, embraces these images as a “purer” time and a more wholesome era in American life in relation to the present.

Many Whites have always looked backwards in this fashion to shape their attitudes concerning racial and political differences. But now, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama wants those who have historically been one of the most victimized by gunfire, Black Americans, to believe he’s prepared to do something about it.  However, Obama won’t move to boldly challenge the issue of gun control because to do so would require a level of moral courage never displayed in American politics; the courage to tell the whole truth.

President Obama’s impassioned plea to the White middle class regarding his intention to move swiftly to abate further gun related deaths is more of the same simpleminded false sincerity that has masked itself as an American virtue for far too long. This type of immaturity and clinging to innocence approach has been directed toward the White American, but expressions of this kind, although making for high grossing Hollywood films and potent sedatives to help White liberals sleep at night, has never significantly curved gun violence, nor any other form of physical violence. 

Moreover, the republic has never appeared particularly interested in the protection of all of its citizens – only some. If this were not so, perhaps the mental health services and police protections bandied about recently by pundits and politicians would’ve actually worked to significantly address the areas of the nation where they are most needed, among the poor in inner cities; where the faces are mostly Black and Brown and where all forms of violence suffocate the hopes of the dispossessed and disenfranchised.

It is not surprising that many Blacks, especially those occupying these enclaves of despair; look on with mock scorn as the media attempts to turn humanity inside out to make sense of White shooters murdering innocent middle-class White people. Rather than focus on the larger problem of gun violence across socio-economic and racial divisions, pundits and politicians strain to unearth any morsel of justification to explain the growing list of White mass killers. Mental illness is thoroughly explored.

The living conditions of the White gunman and his personal relationships are investigated for any signs of discomfort. The shooter’s background is sifted through to pinpoint any substantial indicators of neglect, anger, pain or abuse he may have experienced to account for his murderous rampage. These are accommodations rarely afforded Black killers and or criminals of color in general.

I’ve never witnessed any elected official or member of the mainstream media suggest that a young Black teenager arrested for involvement in a drive-by shooting would benefit from a psychological evaluation or inquiry concerning the youth’s life experiences.  Additionally, I have never observed or read about any American president taking the time to recite the names of the countless dead Black bodies found on streets, mostly due to gun violence, in places like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and Los Angeles as President Obama felt obliged to do in his national address to the nation in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre – the victims were nearly all White.

If mental illness is truly what causes White males to murder school children then why is this same diagnosis not afforded to violent Black youths who riddle entire city blocks with bullets? Why haven’t, for example, Black and Hispanic gang members been psychologically analyzed so we may prevent the next spilling of blood in the ghetto? Crimes by Black people against other Black people have always been dismissed by lawmakers as merely the begrimed activity of a subhuman population.

No further inquiry is necessary; just law and order legislation to warehouse as many Black and Brown bodies as possible.

The impression left as a result of this circumstance is that it is only useful to examine the behavior of White killers for their behavior departs from the purported well-established white norms of dignity and civility.

The myth that violence perpetrated by Whites is done for righteous reasons or is a function of the killer’s psychological imbalance is the dangerous prejudice hiding beneath the façade in most law and order discussions. It is these racially biased attitudes which account for the disparate treatment between Black and White criminals – a circumstance that has always prevailed. 

The Klansman burns down the homes of Black families and lynches pregnant Black mothers because he sincerely seeks to maintain a racially segregated society. The White police officer beats the Black teenager to death with his baton because he wants to protect his community from thugs. The White gun owner shoots the Black father to death as he walks the neighborhood he lives in because the White gunman believes hooded sweatshirts are the official outfit of Black criminals.

At some point in the history of this country all of these examples have represented virtuous action by White citizens against Black outsiders. Similar crimes continue unimpeded and unaddressed by law makers. There are fundamental differences in how violence resonates in the American experience between Blacks and Whites, which makes any conversations concerning who is entitled to safety a convoluted exercise.

This is why Chicago’s murder rate continues to break records while President Obama and Congress pander to middle-class Whites by declaring a national discussion on guns; but when all the talk is finished, none of the solutions will solve the crisis faced by those occupying these war zones. Blacks will continue dying while President Obama fiddles. I suppose not even mild regard extends to the poor – especially those Black and Brown.

If American concern with respect to gun violence is indeed genuine then any solutions to the problem must address the violence all Americans face; the poor as well as the wealthy; the ignorant as well as the educated; Americans of color as well as the White American. Both victims and victimizers must be treated justly by law makers, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system if we aspire to heal the country from the deep wounds which afflict us.

The dilemmas we presently face as a nation are not dissimilar to those we have endured since the founding of this republic. The republic has yet to resolve whether it desires for all of the people within its borders to be free. America in 2013 remains stuck in neutral, undecided on the fundamental ethos which undergirds its very existence, and until that most important self-evident truth, espoused in the founding documents of this country, that all people are created equal, is finally realized, the entire country inches closer to the complete crumbling of this would-be American democracy.
Timothy Dwight Smith is a nationally published journalist. He may be reached at [email protected]

“Speaking Truth To Empower.”

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