Guns Shouldn't Be Commodities
In America, the only barrier to getting a gun is money. That means mentally sick people can access guns while poor people cannot.
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In the latest episode of America’s gruesome Groundhog Day, last week a Maine resident committed a mass shooting that killed 18 people and injured another 13. As has happened before and will happen again, we’re back to the endless debate over America’s relationship with firearms. The Congressman who represents the district where the shooting occurred has apologized for voting against an assault weapons ban, while right-wingers are playing their favorite tune, calling for looser gun laws so that “good guys with guns” can stop “bad guys with guns.”
The story of the killing has only become more heartbreaking as details emerge. As early as May of this year, the killer’s ex-wife and son had reported to law enforcement that he was experiencing severe paranoia. The police bulletin for patrols responding to his address was amended to read: “USE CAUTION IF RESPONDING. PARANOID BEHAVIOR. 10-15 FIREARMS.” The killer was also an Army reservist, who had been institutionalized over the summer for psychiatric evaluation after telling a psychiatrist he wanted to conduct a mass shooting. And yet, he was still legally allowed to access the firearms used in this crime.
While many will take this incident as an obvious need to strengthen red flag laws and other legislation to ensure mentally unstable persons can’t access firearms, I think that’s only part of the problem. It is my belief, which has only been made more steadfast by this tragic event, that firearms should not be commodities.
Whenever discussing potential or existing firearm regulation, I return to two central facts that my proposed solutions need to address:
It is not healthy for society to allow only the police and military to have guns. The history of the United States is one of state violence against disempowered communities. Our police are a de-facto army, equipped with cutting-edge weaponry that, as we saw during the 2020 BLM protests, is likely to be used on social justice movements that threaten the status of police and their capitalist backers. Additionally, there is a long history of state violence against striking workers, such as the 1914 Ludlow Massacre in which state militia killed 21 miners and their family members in Ludlow, CO. Given this history, I find it necessary for the American working class has some means to protect itself against the armed forces of the state.
The American model of guns as commodities is broken, archaic, and causes thousands of unnecessary deaths every year. Not only does America lead the world in gun deaths, but the U.S. gun homicide rate is over 400% higher than the high-income country with the second most gun deaths (Chile). Even more troubling is that American gun violence is surging (measured in both the total number of killings and the rate of gun violence per 100k Americans) while total violent crime plummets.
As gun violence is going up as all violence goes down, that points to something unique about the nature of firearms in America. And, by looking at how our peer nations handle access to firearms, we can see that this uniqueness isn’t a high rate of gun possession, but that guns are readily available commodities.
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