Today’s post isn’t about Russia, but as a responsible ex-gun owner I felt I have to comment on recent events in America. Hopefully this will satisfy some of those “WHY COME YOU NEVER WRITE ABOUT THE WEST?!” folks.
I found out about the recent shooting in Oregon only because a friend here in Russia asked me about it on Facebook. I can’t really say much about the details because honestly I no longer pay much attention to these stories anymore. It’s just something that happens again and again, with the same results every time.
I remember a few days after the Aurora, Colorado cinema shooting I went to see a film in Moscow. The news of the Aurora shooting was fresh in my mind. The lights in the theater began to dim, and I thought about how great it is that I can just relax and enjoy a film without ever considering that a mad man armed with a military-style weapon might burst in and start killing people. In my entire time in Moscow, I have walked down streets late at night, visited 24-hour shops, and never once felt that I might risk walking into a robbery in progress and getting shot. What a luxury.
Nowadays I can barely stand to look at the coverage of mass shootings. I know each one will be followed by a tsunami of idiocy from “gun people,” “ammosexuals” as some people call them. These days it’s much worse, because many mass shootings are now accompanied by conspiracy theories which only compound the flagrant disrespect to the victims and their families. And of course, thanks to social media, a legion of gun folks has to invade every discussion and talk about what they would have done.
Usually I try to write with a more flowing style and avoid creating listicles, but when it comes to something like this I’m so goddamned tired that by now I’m ready to chuck all prose out the window. Here are my short and fast thoughts about the danger of mass gun violence in America.
-One marvels at the way many of the same people who insist we can’t do anything to control the proliferation of firearms, claiming “criminals will always get guns,” tend to be the very same people who want tight if not total control over abortion or if not that, immigration. I never hear them say things like: “I’m opposed to abortion, but criminals will get them anyway so I guess we can’t regulate it.” Ditto or illegal immigration. No, when it comes to those issues, not only is “big government” the solution, but it’s also perfectly competent to do something about it.
You could take it further. Take any law at all. Drinking age? Teenage drinkers will always get alcohol. Drugs? Kids will always get drugs. So naturally the answer in these situations must also be: do absolutely nothing.
And that’s just the point. There are a lot of ways to regulate guns and ammunition, ways which don’t necessarily involve confiscation, which could actually help. Will they eliminate gun violence entirely, so long as so many privately owned guns exist? Probably not. But what is the harm in reducing gun violence? We can’t stop kids from drinking but we still require cashiers to card under 35 because the fact is that this does make it really difficult to get alcohol when you’re underage. Trust me on that.
-These people also tend to be the same ones telling us how we should respect policemen for doing such a “dangerous” job. First of all, being a cop is nowhere near the top dangerous job in America. But when cops die in the line of duty, what is it that kills them? Oh right- guns.
Of course that’s not the only contradiction these people hold. They also tell us that guns are necessary to defend ourselves from a police-state, and yet at the same time they tell us to give cops our utmost, reverent respect. How is that supposed to work, exactly? Please let me know when we’re allowed to start shooting at cops en masse. I don’t have time to follow this twisted logic.
-No, I do not give a shit about “what you would do” in this situation with your concealed carry weapon. I’ll tell you what you’d most likely do- run the hell away (good choice) or freeze and either get pulled out of danger or get shot.
Do I really need to point out how many shooting sprees happen without some civilian hero coming to the rescue? Even this one involved a trained veteran with a concealed firearm who, quite correctly, made the decision not to engage the shooter. He had an advantage; he at least had the chance to snap out of whatever he was doing and rationally weigh his options. You may not be so lucky. In fact, count on it.
You see, just yesterday, back in 1993, 18 US servicemen were killed in the line of duty executing a raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. These men were mostly Rangers and Delta Force, essentially some of the best trained warriors in the world at that time. They knew they were going on a raid, that had rules of engagement, and in spite of that, some of them still didn’t make it home. Granted, they were facing hundreds of militia from all directions, but it’s not meant to be a perfect analogy.
The point is that when you encounter an active shooter, it will not be in a warzone where armed confrontation is the daily norm. You are not serving in the armed forces with a mandate to kill if necessary. You’re buying ice cream for the kids’ birthday party and trying to remember if any of their friends are allergic to anything. You’re wondering if you were supposed to pick up the dry-cleaning or if your spouse said they would do that. You’re thinking about a million other things that have nothing to do with being in a gun fight when suddenly POP! What was that? A backfire? POP! POP! Those are gunshots! Where are they coming from? Now people are screaming and running in every direction. You have no idea if the cops are already responding. If they are, you could be mistaken for the shooter. How many shooters are there? Could they have body armor? The shooter almost certainly outguns you- he planned this shit. Now that your head is filled with all these questions as your brain wakes up to the fact that you are now a part of tonight’s top local news story, are you sure you’re going to pull out your Glock and be a hero? Are you sure you’re going hit only the target and not any innocent bystanders? Trained police miss most of the time.
As you can see, it’s not exactly going the way it does in your head when you write your Monday-morning quarterback strategies on your favorite gun forum. That’s how extreme situations are- extreme. You don’t experience them every day, so when they happen it’s really hard to predict what you’ll do. Things like the normalcy bias work against us, preventing us from acting even if we could do something. Remember those open carry morons who were running every day errands while strapped with Kalashnikovs and AR’s? What would you do if you’re that “good guy with a gun” in a restaurant and an overweight, white, neckbearded man walks in with an assault rifle dangling from a tactical sling? This could be your chance! Draw down on him? But wait, if you do, you’re now a threat to him, and he has the right to open fire on you. He’s going for his weapon, now you have to put him down. If you keep your weapon holstered, he might actually be a spree-shooter.
Violence is often shocking because of the normalcy bias and the awkwardness that precedes it. We live in societies where people aren’t supposed to do violence against one another and we’re expected to behave in a calm rational manner most of the time. When someone appears to be getting upset, it might not be clear what they’re really feeling and thinking. Take a look at this brilliant martial arts video, for example:
When the “victim” understands he’s part of a demonstration, it’s easy to apply a knife disarm (my best recommendation when a knife is involved- fucking run). But then the instructor disarms the victim by seeming to change moods. His victim, and maybe a few of the bystanders seem to be wondering “Is he serious? He was joking just a second ago.” Then BAM! He attacks. The victim has no chance. Again, go back to our scenario with the man open carrying a gun into a store or restaurant. As soon as you brandish that weapon against him, he now has a decent self-defense case himself. Someone has to commit, and they’d better be right. They’d also better be on target too.
-Please, stop talking about how your guns secure your liberty. Once again, most of you people tend to be the same folks who are telling us we should do what police tell us to do and respect them for their dangerous job. True, privately held firearms would be problematic for the US government if they ever decided to go full-on dictatorship for any reason (which is un-fucking-likely), but if you think you’re going to take on the US military by going Guevara in the woods you’d better start reading up on the combat capabilities of Reaper drones. What is more, if you really believe that the government is going to do this, you should be preparing right now. Go off the grid, don’t go on Youtube. Believe me, anything less and they’ll be all over you. Put up or shut up.
Just one more favor, by the way, stop bringing up the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto uprising to justify why we should have no reasonable restrictions on guns at all. It’s just downright offensive, not only to Jews, but to anyone of basic intelligence. The fact is that lots of populations in Europe had far more firepower than the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, and this did not stop them from getting slaughtered en masse at various times by the Werhmacht or Axis anti-partisan units. You are not in a war. You are not persecuted.
I realize this post might not come off as articulate as usual but what can I say? I’m getting sick of this shit. I survived an uneventful time in the army only to be robbed at gunpoint by two young gentlemen who appeared to be no older than 19 on my third day of work at a Circle K. I drove a pickup truck across state lines all the time and managed to avoid getting in an accident, including one time when I nearly hit a couple cows walking across Route 66. I’ve lived abroad most of my adult life, spending time in a front line town in Ukraine that got shelled every day, including while my colleagues and I were there. The country I’m living in is getting more insane and unstable by the week. And in spite of surviving all of this, I can’t help but feel concerned about finally being able to accomplish my goals and build a sound life in the US and then one day losing it all because I happened to be in the wrong shopping mall. Or the wrong gym. Or the wrong restaurant. Or the wrong fucking movie theater. If not me, it could be my wife, our future kid, or someone else close to me. So much can be lost in an instant because of some total fuckwad who’s upset because girls don’t like him or he blames black people, Jews, liberals, or anyone but himself for his own failures in life.
I want some kind of competent restrictions for gun ownership. I’m willing to undergo mental health screening. I’m willing to demonstrate my proficiency with firearms and their safe handling- I’ve basically done so several times in my life. So how about you, self-proclaimed “responsible gun owners?” Are you sure you know how to handle those things properly? Why wouldn’t you want to be certified?
I want more restrictions because while I’ll freely admit that I would still enjoy popping off rounds from a Kalashnikov, I want to make sure that’s the only thing weapons like that are used for in the States. I’m not “afraid” of guns. I’ve handled firearms since nine, “owned” them since 16. I’ve fired everything from a .22 rifle to the M2 Browning .50 cal heavy machine gun. But like I said, I was robbed by a punk armed with a Ruger just five minutes before closing. I’ve lost two friends to suicide with firearms. I don’t claim to know exactly what kind of restrictions or legislation can reduce this violence, but it’s time to start discussing what can be done and what needs to be done. I’m willing to accept a little “infringement” in the form of less convenience when it comes to shooting cans of starter fluid with a Romanian AK if it means fewer Sandy Hooks or Roseburgs. The dead have no rights.