The Choice Between Rugged Individualism and Senseless Violence

The vision of a population working toward a better society and communal sensibilities was, at one time, an attainable goal for this country, but a movement in early 2009 brought that noble vision to a screeching halt with the election of the first African American man as President. Instead of a population working to create a society where all Americans enjoyed the equal opportunities and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, the country was divided between those seeking rugged individualism and government by guns, and those still clinging to an ideology that as a nation, we work together for the common good of the country. This alarming drift by conservatives to return to the 1800s where justice is meted out by “armed and dangerous” citizens under cover of the legal system should both embarrass and frighten the population of the most technologically advanced country in the world. Unfortunately, half the population yearns for Wild West sensibilities with full support of Republicans, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and financial backing of the National Rifle Association’s supporters anxiously awaiting a signal to employ “2nd Amendment remedies” to bring Congress and the government under their control to return to pre-Civil war America.

The catastrophic massacre of innocent theatre goers in Colorado should be a wake-up call to all Americans that the proliferation of fire-arms nearly guarantees the senseless tragedy will be repeated again until Americans stand up and demand legislators address the issue of gun control. It is true that these atrocities cannot be prevented with legislation, but they can be minimized if the citizens of this country lose their belief that being an American means having the resources to kill each other over real or imagined sleights. It also requires that certain groups empowered by ultra-conservative legislators be held accountable for attempting to impose their will on Americans who feel their only protection is at the end of a gun barrel.

Shortly after the news of the Colorado tragedy emerged, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg assailed President Obama and Willard Romney for not addressing the issue of gun control. Bloomberg’s questions were prescient to the situation, but any talk of gun control is political suicide. For example, the NRA has a campaign asserting that “the Obama administration and its anti-gun allies have been engaged in a silent but sophisticated long-term conspiracy to excise the Second Amendment from our Bill of Rights by 2016.” It is identical to the NRA’s 2008 campaign and it resulted in an explosion of gun sales and eventually, teabaggers carrying signs reading “we came unarmed this time” at rallies during the health care reform debate.

At gun ranges around the country, NRA flyers decrying the President’s secret plan to strip Americans of their right to bear arms accompanies inflammatory rhetoric from Willard Romney’s supporter and aging rocker Ted Nugent. Before Romney advocated for more guns, he supported bans on assault weapons he claimed were “only good for stalking and killing human beings.” Nugent excused Romney’s Massachusetts gun-control record because, as he put it, “Massachusetts is not in America.” Romney gave a statement of condolence after the Colorado massacre, but it belies his seeking the NRA and Nugent’s endorsement for his candidacy. This is the same Ted Nugent who said President Obama should “suck on my machine gun,” and that Hillary Clinton should ride his “machine gun.” However, it makes sense Romney sought out Nugent and the NRA’s endorsement because his cult’s adherents are encouraged to keep arms and ammunition for the “end times” to defend and protect their hoard of food from intruders.

There is a burden on politicians to start a conversation on gun control, but it is the American people’s responsibility to demand their representatives take action. However, the people have shifted their opinion on sane gun laws over the past four years. From 1993 through 2008, a majority of Americans prioritized gun control over gun rights, with a particular increase in support for gun control after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. A few months after that incident, 62% of Americans said controlling gun ownership was more important than protecting gun rights, but after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, only 60% said gun control was more important. Today it is evenly divided between sensible gun laws and the Wild West. The issue has not been helped by ALEC’s “stand your ground” campaign that led to the stalking and murder of Trayvon Martin, or the notion of rugged individualism and anti-government rhetoric from conservatives that exacerbates the situation immensely.

It is a sad commentary when American individualism is defined by guns that embolden people to kill, prepare for a race war, or rebel against the government so-called patriots are convinced is imposing unconstitutional laws such as the Affordable Care Act, banking reform, or clean-water regulations.  It is unclear why half the population thinks a nation of gun-toting citizens will ensure a safe society, but within hours of the  Colorado massacre the internet was rife with comments that if every person in the theatre carried concealed weapons, the shooter would not have taken so many lives. Never mind the man released two tear gas canisters and was wearing a bullet-proof vest, or that in the fog of the tragedy and tear gas there would be stray bullets flying from all directions, and yet that is the mindset of gun advocates and their instigators; the NRA and ALEC.

America will continue to be dangerous and a violent society as long as Americans feel the need to arm themselves. The violence inherent in gangs is the result of a lack of good jobs and secure future, and the people’s need to protect themselves stems from religious fanatics and bigots intent on imposing their will on the entire population. The constant drumbeat of “loss of liberty” by conservatives and Republicans contributes to the discontent among racists, religious extremists, and so-called patriots frightened that an African American President is robbing them of their dog-given constitutional rights, and they are inciting an ever-growing segment of the population to prepare to wage war against the government for executing  legislation conservatives disagree with.

However, the real problem is the American people who adhere to the notion that might makes right and without a side-arm or assault rifle, they are not “real Americans.” In fact, mentioning gun control elicits outrage from all walks of life and this article is not a call to disarm; it is a call to sanity and reason, because without some serious discourse on the conditions driving people to support the proliferation of guns, there will be a race war, more massacres, and eventually, the civil war Ted Nugent and his ilk dream about.

Yesterday, Sarah Jones asked, “can we talk about gun control and personal responsibility yet?” The answer is probably not; because until there is a conversation about the mindset that makes carrying a gun necessary to be an American, and why there is a need for self-defense, going to a theatre, high school, or a political rally will remain as hazardous as a firefight in Afghanistan, and a conversation about gun control will be political suicide.

11 Replies to “The Choice Between Rugged Individualism and Senseless Violence”

  1. The question is not having a gun is somehow American (that just doesn’t compute and I’ve never heard anything like that before!), but one of safety and survival.

    You people terrify and disturb me. On one hand, you support the good things… helping the poor, the sick, the helpless, and fighting against the REAL enemy (the rich and powerful who are wrecking this nation and the world – and who have ALWAYS been the real problem), and yet you talk about disarming ordinary people who may live in a real hellhole (like here). Most of the discussion of how to deal with the real cause of the problem… regulation and control of the rich and corporations… are the real solutions (if there is such a thing as a truly honest and caring rich person, they shouldn’t fear us or be harmed).

    I know that several people here think that they can solve everything by banning guns… and that most gun owners are the stereotypical “Gun Nut” (the language used is pretty clear at times). That is as wrong and offensive as the conservatives saying that liberals just want to raise everyone’s taxes and then spend the money (and usually say the highly offensive “give it to undeserving parasites or something like that).

    I am literally scared. I am a fairly quiet person, and I try my best to obey the laws and live a “legal” life because I don’t want to attract the attention of the pigs. (I’ve had too many bogus tickets. I should also mention threats… for things like accidentally flashing high beams at them.) Yet this hellhole we live in (and can’t move away from) is so damned dangerous that being disarmed is an invitation to disaster. Even the idea of having the only defense left to me -don’t even go near the bogus “the law will protect you!”- being taken away is horrifying.

    Rather than keeping on pushing for more “gun laws”, why not talk about how we can help the victims? Talk about how we can make society safer so that people won’t need as much protection (disarming them isn’t the answer to that)? Talk about how we can try to prevent things like this… how to identify and help or stop the perpetrators?

    That’s what I’ve been trying to get people to see… that the atmosphere in American society is the problem, not the “tools” used when disasters like the shooting took place. I’d rather see people like the shooter get stopped up front and be put in a situation where they don’t even start down that path, rather than trying the simplistic “Disarm them” and then have to clean up the messes left behind. (Don’t forget, an IED is pretty easy to make, even with household chemicals. If you just limit their ability to get guns, they’ll try harder or something else – like a bomb.)

  2. The right to carry guns, like any other right, is counterbalanced by the responsibility to use them wisely and attempt to avoid as much as possible situations that make it necessary to do so. The idea of “rugged individualism” has been oversold, since we all act within the perimeters of whatever government we live under. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

  3. Why does an average American who wants to protect him/herself need to own a machine gun? Rifles? Fine. Handguns? They are used to kill other people, but if you want to keep one in your home, fine. But a gun that can kill scores of people in minutes? Why does anyone who isn’t in the armed forces need this?

    And I was under the impression that, if an emergency exit were opened, even from the inside, that an alarm would sound. The killer got a ticket, sat in a seat, later on moved to an emergency exit, armed himself, and came back in.

  4. Fully automatic weapons have been against the law for a long time, and with the exception of a few collectors and clubs, are not legal for people to own. I don’t know a single gun owner who would support general ownership of fully automatic (machine guns).

  5. Absolutely true. I don’t know a single gun owner who doesn’t know that.

    The overemphasis on “Rugged Individualism”… on the other hand, is rather ubiquitous in this country. It blinds people to the web of interdependency that is a part of nature and reality.

  6. She was referring to the semi automatic the killer used that killed 71 people in 2 minutes. There’s noI reason you need one of those.

  7. For me, being a guy that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in rural America, I was shooting a gun since I was a kid… We all were back then, but we were also preached about gun safty all the time…

    As far as rugged individualism goes, I don’t see where owning an assault weapon in suburban USA does it… That strikes me as more of an inferiority complex and the assault weapon is to make them feel more adequate about something…

    I have a shotgun, a rifle (30-30) and a pistol (registered with a federal permit) and I guarantee you, that “IN THE EVENT OF AN INVASION”, I could defend myself and my family as good and probably better than the majority of people who own assault weapons…

    So, basically, rugged individualism, has nothing to do with weapons of any kind and people who think they need any kind weapon to be a rugged individual are delusional and need to get a life…

  8. What is wrong with disarming?

    If the individual who murdered a dozen kids and wounded in scores more in Aurora had to go into the criminal underground to get weapons he might well have wussed out.

    If he had to prove his criminal bona fides to a gun dealer who faced s high probability of a long prison term for selling a weapon used in a crime, it might well be no one would have sold a weapong to the college who murdered twelve kids in Aurora yesterday.

    If people on this blog cannot imaging useful effects from serious gun control we are dooming ourselves to repeated, repeated and repeated stories of mindless murder and of young lives cut off without purpose or meaning.

  9. Walkaway, I cannot imagine how you think having more people with guns out there makes you safer.

    I go to a lot of neighborhoods my wife would rather I didn’t to visit people in their homes for my work.

    I am very careful, often to the point of driving around the block and checking things our before I even begin looking for the adress I am seeking.

    There are all sorts of strange people who regularly threaten to kick my ass.

    That is part of life. Old ladies deal with it. Little kids deal with. People with disabilities deal with it.

    God willing, I will continue to be able to travel and work, but it is a sure thing that kids pulling guns and using them to “defend” themselves is going to raise the level of danger I will be exposed to.

    The difficulty with gun advocates is that they always see themselves on the firing side of the gun, they never see themselves in the line of fire.

    Strays, the ghetto term for bullets that go awry, kill and maim far more people, most of them innocent, than all the deliberately aimed bullets.

    Increasing the number of guns in people’s pockets and hands just increases the mumber of strays.

  10. The violence inherent in gangs is the result of a lack of good jobs and secure future,

    Disagree, the violence inherent in gangs stems from American society’s shameless worship of gun power.

    The gang boys see themselves as the tough soldierly types that mainstream society admires.

    If gun selling and possession were a crime with serious, gang members could be presented a set of consequences for armed violence that might outweigh the perceived rewards of being quick with a gun.

  11. According to everything I have seen so far the weapons he had were bought legally…

    As I said, if someone wants an assault weapon for home protection or just to play with, then I think they already have a problem to begin with…

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