TRUE OPINION: Fascists, misogynists and violent haters with easy access to an array of assault weapons means there’s always only going to be one conclusion in the United States until proper gun control is enacted, writes a pessimistic Tim Kent.
After another two ghastly mass shootings in the Unites States – with misogynists and fascist terrorists causing mass havoc and carnage earleir this month in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio – True Crime News Weekly would love nothing more than to see the most obvious legislature be applied. That is, the profound tightening of gun controls. But alas it is not that simple.
That’s despite largely irrefutable evidence linked to countries with strict gun control laws that it has spared many, many lives.
In the US context it is much more complex than that and I fear the opportunity to pragmatically address the issue was missed many years prior to reaching the crisis point it has.
Gun ownership and the right to bear arms has been deeply ingrained into US culture longer than anyone really wants to think about; going back hundreds of years to the period of its War of Independence from Britain. It is a narrative that contains not only a hunter-gatherer sense of identity but the right to protect oneself, your family and your home at all times.
This time however there are multiple and deadly overlays with the violence being meted out. A US government and President openly whipping up the fever pitch sentiment of anger, driven by racism and bigotry on levels almost unprecedented. President Donald Trump’s rallies in recent times orchestrating crowd chants of “send them back” as well as his historical racist discourse via endless tweeting and insulting jibes have only added the fuel to the fires of hatred. Continued easy access to not only firearms but firearms of the deadliest variety make for a deeply disturbing mix. If there is such thing as complete insanity, this folks is as close as it gets.
The old chestnut has been wheeled out that fits the conservative and NRA narrative like a glove and that is the assertion those with mental health issues are the sole cause of the problem is equally troubling as is the role and function it serves that of distraction. What typically follows is a continued erosion of the rights and stigmatisation of the mentally ill. The fact is the mentally ill are responsible for a only a very small proportion of serious crimes across the world in particular murder. They are more likely to be victims of crime than they are perpetrators. But why not target the mentally ill? The path of least resistance of blame contempt if not importantly facilitates the great distraction.
What is also known and widely researched is the concept of “access to the means” which summed up is when that having a deadly weapon within reach of a person in a state of emotional and psychological turmoil can be, and has been, a recipe for disaster. Many times.
This brings True Crime News Weekly to the next point. In the absence of a long history of known risk factors – such as a felony record, history of violence, long-term and worsening depression – experts the world over agree mainly on one thing: that predicting risk in individuals is no more accurate than a flip of the coin. Let alone those who possess firearms.
The fact is, it is impossible to micromanage or monitor a person’s capacity to responsibly and safely handle a firearm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Especially at a time when that individual may be confronted suddenly with a tidal wave of life crises such as loss of relationships, employment, finances, identity and of course, problematic drug and alcohol issues.
The wide-scale nature of gun ownership and access to the same stretching back as long as firearms existed in the US makes paring this back almost chillingly impossible.
The narrative that supports gun ownership is pervasive, infiltrative and leeches across many mediums especially the media in the United States. Apart from the odd Michael Moore or Louis Theroux-style documentary you would be hard pressed to locate any reference to gun controls. In almost any other reality crime show they just don’t go there.
What you will see are weary and exasperated homicide detectives, for example in true crime shows like the First 48. There they are lamenting over yet another tragic loss of life via a senseless shooting; conflicts over a measly few dollars, jealousy, road rage or a gang payback. But as far as any commentary regarding gun ownership and access to the same it is just about zero. All the deaths are never put in proper context. It is a broad-based censorship applied in regards to speaking to a horrific landscape clearly out of control. Nor is it of any help that high profile showbiz personalities openly declare their fondness for firearms and public opposition to tightening of existing gun laws.
TRUE OPINION: Hate Speech & the paradox of our digital age
An example of how a crime is covered that reinforces the denial involved was the murder-suicide that claimed original Saturday Night Live cast member Phil Hartmann. The comedian was shot and killed in 1998 by his wife before she turned the gun on herself despite police negotiations. The firearm was owned by Hartmann, nothing was said of their marriage being in crisis and her drug and alcohol issues. Having said that her family sued the drug company Pfizer blaming the anti depressant she had been taking. Pfizer settled out of court for an undisclosed sum believed to be quite a few million. The great denial and distraction over easy access to guns reinforced again this time involving high profile personalities.
Famed music producer Phil Spector’s conviction of the shooting murder of a woman he took back to his residence after an alcohol-fuelled night out is another example.
It was widely known for years Spector possessed an erratic temperament and his obsession with guns; it is alleged he had pulled hand guns out on a variety of people in the recording studio’s and social settings. It is claimed he even chased John Lennon around a studio brandishing a gun. The coverage of Spector’s case even via the documentary medium also made zero mention of why he had access to guns in the first place given his obvious and troubling history.
The messages sent to the public in these cases and the denial is very clear.
Even in neighborhood disputes where protagonists are virtually waving firearms in each others faces or engaging in a ‘Dodge City’ like stand-off packing side arms, law enforcement will just wave a finger so long as the firearms are legally possessed. And in most cases, the guns remain in the hands of these trigger happy clowns irrespective of an escalating and potentially lethal crisis. Many a neighborhood dispute such as these have ended with a deadly conclusion. In my view, all too many are preventable shooting murders.
At least here in Australia, firearm retrieval regardless of legal ownership in this context is almost always mandatory, it goes without saying. Despite that there are still moves among sections of the far-right and elsewhere to relax existing gun ownership laws in this nation.
We have all seen footage of One Nation’s James Ashby engaging with alleged US gun dealers. While many of the rural fraternity still believe that they should be entitled to access a broader range of firearms; the Adler Lever Action shotgun a case in point. With escalating socio-economic distress amongst sectors of the rural community, psychological distress brought on by long-term drought, what could possibly go wrong I ask?
The US experience like many others needs to be the supreme lesson learned. Within the great narrative around guns, what we largely see is Noam Chomsky’s model of the role and function of right winged propaganda on show here. Chomsky describes its function as the selling of messages and answers to the masses of disaffected and angry population – answers to their troubled existence. They may not be the correct answers, they rarely are, but they are answers just the same. Even if they are rooted in race hate and bigotry. They will be easily embraced, digested and even acted on by population groups desperate for solutions to their social agonies. In the case of the US, having a gun in hand accelerates the ready made avenue by which to direct that anger in the deadliest of fashions.
Trump and his administration have much to answer for. As does the NRA.
However, if Trump were to be magically deposed the toxic culture will remain as will the white young bigoted males looking for masculine relevance, expression at the end of a gun barrel.
Tighter gun controls would be the first place to start but a culture change will require a long, multi-dimensional and complex process ranging from Hollywood to the media and rural communities. It should be process that excludes the toxic manipulation by the NRA and its business model.
Make no mistake about it. Firearms are weapons of mass destruction. In particular semi automatics and assault rifles which in just a matter of moments can mow down large numbers of people. Just like that. No one in a gunman’s crosshairs stands a chance. The Christchurch Massacre allegedly committed by Australia’s very own fascist, Brenton Tarrant, chillingly showed that to the world in real-time.
Remember the horror of that rampage in Christchurch at the self-confessed hands of a by a true-blue, dinky-di Aussie Nazi. Remember the more than 50 murdered. And remember that very soon after, that country’s government led by Jacinda Ardern clamped down on the ease of access to guns.
Now consider that there have been almost 250 mass shootings in America this year alone. The majority, if not almost all, linked to right-wing thugs or misogynistic haters just like the self-confessed Tarrant. Really think hard about it. People like Tarrant on murderous rampages multiplied by 250. And nothing is ever done. Absolutely nothing.
It is why the US is such a dangerous place to be and it is going to get a whole lot worse I am afraid.