It’s time to Break It Down!
“I’ll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands.”
If there is an anthem for the gun lobby, undoubtedly, that is it. While many attribute the origin of the meme to Charlton Heston, he really just became the most persuasive, not to mention, most well-known vessel for what has become the quintessential message of the movement. The quote is a variation of a slogan mentioned in a 1976 report from the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency: “I Will Give Up My Gun When They Peel My Cold Dead Fingers From Around It.”
The original version was not Heston’s; nor was it proffered by the NRA, whose ad campaigns made it famous. A citizen’s group, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, based in Bellevue, Washington, devised the slogan, along with the also popular slice of gun mythology, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Together, these two battle cries serve to keep the most avid of gun rights supporters perpetually energized.
About 10 days ago, Charlotte and Harriet Childress penned an Opinion piece for the Washington Post linking mass shootings in the United States with white men. The Childress’, who are identical twins, are researchers and consultants who study social and political issues. They are also co-authors of “Clueless at the Top: While the Rest of Us Turn Elsewhere for Life, Liberty, and Happiness.” The book takes a look at what the sisters call “Outdated hierarchies in American culture.”
Needless to say, anyone putting forth such a premise is likely to face some pretty serious scrutiny, and more than a few ad hominem attacks. This was certainly the case with Charlotte and Harriet. Of course the classic and ready point of reference for critics of their argument is, “What about all the gun-related homicides that are not mass shootings?” First off, it is important to say, point well taken! However, having conceded the noted exceptions, what about the rule, to which they speak?
As the NRA, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the collective gun lobby make clear on a daily basis, a significant segment of the American populace loves its guns. Judging by the ads one sees on TV, and by the Childress’ Washington Post Opinion, a key demographic of that segment is white men.
In Chicago, a city which has had mind-numbing numbers of homicides in the past several years, over 500 in 2012 alone, much of the carnage is attributed to young African American males, and to the gang violence to which many of them contribute. This is a fair assessment, and appropriate discourse should ensue, and suitable remedies should be devised.
But, let’s not be obtuse, nor feign oblivion to the preeminently compelling fact of the matter, which is, the vast majority of perpetrators of mass shootings in America are white males (men or boys). Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, & Newtown all spring to mind, with Newtown, where 20 five and six year-olds were murdered this past December, standing out as the touchstone for current efforts to fashion new gun law initiatives.
In their Washington Post article, the Childress sisters pose the inconvenient counter fact; “Imagine if African American men and boys were committing mass shootings month after month, year after year.”
Now you might argue, correctly I would add, that the majority of shooters in Chicago have been African American; and they have been, year after year. However, and I know this may invite its own element of tension; the victims in Chicago have also been mostly black. Say what you will about ours being a color-blind society, or this being a post-racial America; the color of the victims, especially in the case of mass shootings, does make a difference.
Most of the victims of these horrendous acts have been white. To take the what if narrative from above a step further, imagine if black men and boys were killing whites in a steady stream of mass shootings. I am not sure we would get to year after year before the subject garnered more serious and intense scrutiny.
As the NRA has set out to establish an agenda to defeat “any” new gun laws, its focus has been placed largely on mental health issues. This tact seems designed to deflate, if not flat out disparage any efforts to enact new legislation, no matter how logical, or well-intended they may be.
So why single-out white men? Well for one thing, as the Opinion notes: “Women and girls with mental health issues are not picking up semi-automatic weapons and shooting schoolchildren. Immigrants with mental health issues are not committing mass shootings in malls and movie theaters. Latinos with mental health issues are not continually killing groups of strangers.” And just to be clear, neither Native Americans, nor African Americans have a history of committing multiple mass shootings either.
Childress and Childress submit if life were equitable, white male gun-rights advocates would be forced to address a series of serious questions about their credibility and objectivity, including:
What facets of white male culture create so many mass shootings?
Why are so many white men and boys producing and entertaining themselves with violent video games and other media?
Why do white men buy, sell, and manufacture guns for profit, attend gun shows, and demonstrate for unrestricted gun access disproportionately than people of other ethnicities or races?
Why are white male congressmen leading the fight against gun control?
The sisters suggest that if we ask the right questions, we will get the right answers. It is their belief that the answers to the above questions will encourage white men to examine their role in their own culture and to help other white men and boys become healthier and less violent.
All this is high-minded, sounds good, and may even be the right course of action to take. Alas, right questions notwithstanding, I am unconvinced that we as a society are anywhere near stemming the tide of gun violence in general or mass shootings in particular. What we have, in my opinion, is a failure to adequately grasp the essential isness of one of America’s most deeply ingrained natural laws: “Gun Rights: An American Love Story!”
I’m done; holla back!
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