Every society develops characteristic features based on values, accepted social practices, and patterns of knowledge shared by people in a place or time they pass on to succeeding generations. Culture includes customary beliefs, social norms, and material traits of a group that identifies a society whether for good or bad outcomes. Over four years ago, conservatives and gun-rights advocates began taking advantage of hatred for an African American man the people elected as President to advance the culture of guns by claiming Americans should fear the President ‘s secret intention to disarm the nation. In part, the right promoted the concept that individualism and freedom to express that individualism through gun ownerships has helped divide the nation and prevent communal principles that are necessary for a successful society. The mindset among so-called individualists that their right to keep and bear arms defines what it means to be an American was embraced early on by conservatives guilty of promoting the idea that there is a movement afoot to rob them of their individualism by taking away their guns.
The tragic and senseless slaughter of 20 children and six adults in Connecticut yesterday is a reminder that America’s culture of guns, when coupled with the antagonism from conservatives that gun ownership is under threat, contributes to divisiveness preventing America from moving away from the Wild West mentality plaguing our culture. A firearm is an inanimate object, and not in-and-of-itself guilty of crime, and the shooter in Connecticut obviously suffered from a mental disorder to open fire on innocent 5 to 10 year old children, but if he had not been heavily armed, the tragedy may have been prevented.
The concept of a well-armed populace is being pushed across America and reinforced by ALEC-inspired Stand Your Ground laws with fervent support by the National Rifle Association, and despite the rise in gun violence, a contingent of conservative gun rights groups promoting individualism is contributing to the proliferation of guns in America. The move to arm every man, woman, and child in America has inspired legislators to transform so-called “gun free zones” into war zones based on an individual’s right to keep and bear arms; even in innocuous environments like elementary schools and churches.
Shortly after news of the tragedy in Connecticut, evangelical maniac and alleged follower of Christ, Bryan Fischer, commented on social media outlet Twitter that “Shooters attack an elementary school in CT. – another “gun-free zone.” Makes children sitting ducks.” Leave it to a sick bible-thumping, conservative mind like Fischer to politicize a tragedy, which is precisely the argument conservatives use to attack gun-control advocates in the wake of tragedies like the one in Connecticut on Friday. Instead of addressing the proliferation of guns in America, every new tragedy inspires gun advocates to expand public areas where Americans can carry weapons. It appears their goal is to eventually eliminate gun free zones to get America back to its rugged individualistic roots as a “gunfighter nation” making any attempt at reasonable gun-control legislation impossible. For many, many Americans, and especially to 2nd Amendment devotees, any gun-control is acutely un-American.
Gun-rights activists point to the 2nd Amendment as proof it is a right to be armed and dangerous at all times, and in all places, however, they omit the phrase, and reason, the founders included the amendment in the Constitution to begin with; “A well regulated Militia,” that for over two hundred years has meant the Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps, has shifted to mean an unregulated gun-toting populace. It is an unfortunate omission that has reinforced what so many in this nation believe; their right to own and carry arms supersedes reasonable restrictions on weapons typical of battlefields, but are becoming prevalent in homes, cars, and public places and if conservatives have their way, schools, churches, and shopping malls as gun-free zones will be eliminated to make every American a member of an unregulated militia.
Has America’s culture of guns and violence reached the point that no area is safe from an armed populace? Apparently that is where this country is heading and it portends that no American is safe regardless they are children in first grade or choir members in the local church. The truth is that no American needs to be armed twenty-four hours a day, and especially as they frequent public places like shopping malls, movie theatres, churches, or public schools, but our culture has digressed to the point that even questioning the wisdom of armed citizens is reason for many Americans’ indignant response that their “personal rights” to carry guns is being infringed upon.
There have been no less than seven mass shootings over the past year, and each time gun rights activists point to the disturbed individual as the culprit, and they have a point, but it is indisputable that if the mentally deranged individuals were unarmed, the number of victims would be far less. However, it is not just mass shootings America suffers from, and a dangerous armed populace has borne fruit as evident in Stand Your Ground killings. In fact, mass shootings like the one in Connecticut will embolden the NRA and conservatives to increase their argument that more guns equals less crime until every school teacher, choir member, and yes, even children have the right to carry firearms in schools, churches, and movie theatres.
The pointless tragedy in Connecticut will not change gun laws in America or allow a conversation about the mindset that promotes an armed populace. Groups like the NRA will revert to their typical argument that “guns don’t kill people, only people do,” and devastated parents and relatives of the slain will question why their children were gunned down in a gun free zone, but when the dust settles, and 20 children are laid to rest, Americans will cite the shooter’s mental state and argue their individual right to carry firearms cannot be impeded by the actions of one disturbed individual.
However, as they cling to their concept of individualism defined by their right to bear arms, and cautious legislators weigh the political price of supporting any gun legislation, America will continue arming its citizens and clinging to its gunfighter mentality. Americans can expect more gun tragedies that will inevitably lead to handwringing, a bit of reflection, mass funerals, and empty calls for change that go unheeded because until this nation addresses the culture that encourages individualism defined by the right to bear arms, more innocent lives will be lost and each incident will give gun-rights advocates ammunition to strengthen the nation’s love affair with guns as the symbol of American individualism. For 20 precious children in Connecticut, their chance at individualism was ended by an American exercising his Constitutional right that conservatives and the NRA will excuse, defend, and use to strengthen the gun-culture that informs that America is still, at its heart, a nation of Wild West gunfighters and rugged individuals.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.