Society problems

Is American society moving towards full adherence to the culture of murder?

Once, many years ago, I was taken hunting for a day in the Pacific Northwest of America. With a shotgun in his arms. It was one of those guns that had to be reloaded after every shot, and it had a terrible kick when you pulled the trigger. Due to my inexperience, I didn’t know how to hold it straight, and three or four hits left my arm black and blue for days.

But I still remember the feeling of power I felt holding that thing. And the feeling of shame afterwards. I’ve been averse to bloodsports all my life, but nearly converted easily when given the chance to shoot a flock of harmless ducks.

Parents and other community members mourn when a teenager shoots and kills 19 children and two adults last Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Photo: William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News/AP

So I kind of understand, as repulsive as it is, the lure of guns. It’s still a struggle, however, to understand America’s passion for guns and its blind refusal to make the connection between guns and death.

I think I know America well, even though I haven’t been there for years. I associate Americans with generosity and warmth, as that has been my experience many times over the years.

It is a place of glorious countryside and beautiful and unforgettable towns. It’s easy to see, when you spend time there, why they come to see themselves as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But they are killing each other, day after day, with unspeakable weapons. The weapon of choice is a gun – or rather a range of guns – called the AR-15. These are not shotguns that need to be reloaded every time the trigger is pulled.

I’ve seen a doctor describe an AR-15 as a gun that has three main features. Its high-velocity bullets pass through a child’s body so quickly that they destroy tissue six inches around a bullet entrance. It’s semi-automatic, which means it will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. And it has high capacity magazines – the doctor said more than 10 bullets in a magazine weren’t necessary unless you wanted to kill humans.

It’s a killing machine. Neither a hunting machine nor a defensive machine. The sole purpose of an AR-15 is to kill other people. There are different types of AR-15 (the most popular is apparently made by Colt, a company whose website features the slogan “Legends Never Die”). But they all do the same thing: they fire volleys of bullets at extremely high velocity at their targets. And increasingly, those targets are other people.

They were banned for a time, under temporary legislation led by Bill Clinton. Most of the comments I’ve read suggest that a temporary ban only gave the weapon mystique.

Following the Uvade school shooting, a protest rally was held outside the annual meeting of the US National Rifle Association in Houston, Texas last Friday.  Photo: Michael Wyke/AP
Following the Uvade school shooting, a protest rally was held outside the annual meeting of the US National Rifle Association in Houston, Texas last Friday. Photo: Michael Wyke/AP

In the aftermath of 9/11 and with all the heightened sense of patriotism the attack engendered, sales of the weapon skyrocketed as soon as the ban was lifted.

Some people think that the letters AR in the AR-15 line mean “assault rifle”. Others associate the letters with one of the original makers, Armalite.

According to the National Rifle Association, however, the letters only mean one thing. “America’s Rifle”.

The NRA brags that there are maybe 20 million of these things in civilian hands in America. They publish many articles about the joy of owning one and the sense of security it can give owners and anyone vulnerable to attack. Much of the material they publish about these killing machines is under the title “Let Freedom Ring”.

But they never, ever refer to the other side of the AR-15. It’s not just a gun that hurts or kills. He destroys. It tears through human flesh and organs, especially at close range or in a confined space. It can make a victim nearly impossible to identify, and it can do it in less than 10 seconds.

And he did. In Uvalde. In Boulder, Colorado. At Parkland Florida, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Las Vegas, Tree of Life Synagogue, Sutherland Springs, Texas.

These seven locations alone had seven emotionally damaged or psychiatrically challenged men, most of them young. And more than 170 victims, many of them young children, some old and vulnerable. And seven of America’s Rifles. Seven AR-15s.

In the vast majority of democratic countries in the world, there are strict gun controls.

Most of us would consider it simply unthinkable that weapons with an unlimited capacity to annihilate human lives should be readily available to any deranged man – and 99% of these mass killers are men – who want shoot and kill everything in their path.

The US is a global exception in terms of domestic gun ownership, and an average of 124 Americans died each day from gun violence in 2020, up 15% from 2019. Image: Graphic News
The US is a global exception in terms of domestic gun ownership, and an average of 124 Americans died each day from gun violence in 2020, up 15% from 2019. Image: Graphic News

In all of politics left and right, there is no division on this issue. But in America, it’s one of three things that define the difference between left and right, along with abortion and tax breaks for the rich.

The NRA describes itself as “America’s oldest civil rights organization”.

It is, however, the only “civil rights” organization that pays millions of dollars directly to politicians – and if those politicians don’t behave well, it funnels millions more to unseat them. Some American politicians therefore live in fear of the NRA, while others decide at the start of their careers to bend to them forever.

Look, for example, at the speech given by Donald Trump, the great right-wing and far-right impostor in the United States, when he spoke at the NRA convention days after the Uvalde massacre. .

We all know now that Donald Trump doesn’t believe a word of his own. But that doesn’t stop him from saying things like, “Whenever a disturbed or demented person commits such a horrible crime, there’s always a grotesque effort on the part of some in our society to use the suffering of others. to advance their own extreme political agenda.”

He went on in his deranged and cynical speech to say (as a solution): “Obviously we need to make it much easier to confine the violent and the mentally deranged to mental institutions.”

And then he advocated turning schools into impenetrable fortresses. He called for metal detectors, armed security guards at the sole
entrance (all other school doors must be locked). And armed teachers, trained if necessary to kill.

Speaking to the NRA in Texas days after the Uvalde shooting, former US President Donald Trump claimed the campaign to limit gun ownership was exploiting
Speaking to the NRA in Texas days after the Uvalde shooting, former US President Donald Trump claimed the campaign to limit gun ownership was exploiting “the suffering of others” to pursue a ” extreme political agenda”. Photo: Michael Wyke/AP

Of course, anyone who has followed Trump’s career knows that he never cared about the damage caused by his words. But try to imagine a situation where the American educational system is modeled on this kind of approach. Schools — the places where children should be able to play, grow and develop,
experiencing the freedom and joy of childhood – becoming heavily armed prisons instead.

Try to imagine the damage this would cause to children’s social and emotional development. Try to imagine the adults they could become. Try to imagine the world they could create.

In the end, there is a simple choice. Make it impossible for dangerous people to have access to dangerous weapons. Or force an entire society over time to adopt a culture of murder.

Only in America, it seems, can the second alternative even be considered.