Hello. My name is America. And I’m a gunaholic…

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See? Now you never have to do another one of those again. You just roll that clip after the next gun tragedy. Which will probably be before Thanksgiving.

Jessica Williams
The Daily Show

October 5, 2015

Oct. 9, 2015–

Reports of a shooting on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. One dead, three wounded. This comes 8 days after the “one before that,” on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

That’s all I’m going to say about that, because I’m tired of saying things from the heart when so many others seem to be talking out their asses. And covering their eyes and ears. And pretending guns aren’t really involved.

If the first step toward a cure is admitting you have a problem, then we are still light years away.

Hello. My name is America. And I’m a gunaholic…

Mass shootingsRing any bells…?

Done

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Look at my face!!!

It’s important to me that you be able to connect this face with the following words, because this is a moment in which anonymity only serves to make things worse.

By now you’ve most of you probably heard about the school shooting in Oregon yesterday. Once again, I’m faced with the undeniable need to say…something…don’t know what. I’m losing the will to write about this stuff, since it’s obvious that the right people are not listening.

I could write another poem, with language well-couched and mostly unintelligible, but let’s face it: the ones who need to understand don’t generally devote enough energy to the situation to ferret out my meaning (whatever that may be).

I could be level-headed and politic, but we all know how far that sort of thing gets us these days, and in any case I don’t have the intestinal fortitude for it this morning. I don’t feel level-headed; none of us should.

So, follow the bouncing goddamn ball.

Did the shooter target Christians? Who the hell cares?! Beyond being one more excuse for Christians in this country to go on about imaginary persecution, this redirect elbows out the more important point: he targeted people, human beings, all of whom are and were of great value regardless of their religious inclinations. So let’s ask the question that matters, okay?

Do guns kill people? Or do people kill people? Or are we just making up stupid questions and mincing meaningless words to keep from having to address the real problem? Innocent people are dying, and we’d rather ignore that than risk having some of our toys taken away.

Are these shootings down to mental illness? Sure, some of them. Not unlike the NRA party line. But the fact remains that an environment in which the mentally unstable may so easily obtain what in cases like these can only be called weapons of mass destruction relegates the shooter’s mental state to a position of secondary concern. An insane system obviates the sanity of the individual: whether I am nuts or not doesn’t matter; only whether I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong freaking time.

If you are one of those who values the 2nd Amendment over the lives it has taken and will continue to take, I say this with all the vehemence I can muster: Screw you. It’s not about you. So get over yourself, stop inventing excuses for your own selfishness, and get it through your heads that these “fun guns” you crave were created to kill. Even when they’re used for protection.

We inhabit a cycle of unending and ever-increasing interpersonal violence. It’s not because of The Fall or original sin. It’s not because of mental instability or video games or hip hop and heavy metal. It’s because we refuse to pull our thumbs out and take even the most minimal of actions. It’s because the majority of us, after being briefly outraged, turn a blind eye and wait for the next one to happen.

True, this is a problem that isn’t going away any time soon, but that’s only because we’re too busy sitting the fence (or shooting at it) to do anything about it.

So this is on us. Again.

And again. And again. And again. And…

Second-Hand Bullets

Pinkas-boy-gunso doctor doctor won’t you please prescribe me somethin
a day in the life of someone else
Cuz I’m a hazard to myself

– Pink

Let’s talk about cigarettes.

If you want to slowly flood your system with toxic substances and increase your chances of chronic and/or terminal illness, that is your right. In any case, I can’t really point too many fingers. We all have our poisons of choice. I’m well on my way to a Doritos-related heart attack. But, then, I’m not force-feeding you corn chips on buses and airplanes, or in hotels and restaurants, either. There’s no such thing as second-hand cholesterol.

Therein lies the difference between my poison and yours. Mine is mine; yours is everybody’s. Su carcinogen es mi carcinogen…whether I like it or not.

Guns used to be like Doritos. Outside of violent crime, gun-related deaths were restricted to the home, or at the very least involved only those who chose to own a firearm. While I find all such incidents regrettable, at least they could truly be attributed to the consequences of personal choice. But this is no longer the case (most recently in my home state of Texas). Now, guns are becoming cigarettes.

Except for one thing: in the case of cigarettes, we have moved away from public harm toward public safety. We have chosen to respect the personal choice of those who choose not to smoke. We have restricted the spaces in which smokers may partake of their habit, in order to limit the involuntary exposure of non-smokers. To a large extent, buses, airplanes, hotels, and restaurants no longer present a problem. Because, while we respect your right to poison yourself, we also respect the right of others not to be poisoned by you.

Let’s look at a similar issue: drunk driving. From the standpoint of absolute freedom of choice, an argument might be advanced that an individual ought to be free to do so if she chooses. It’s no one’s business but her own if she knowingly acts in a way that endangers her life. Except it’s not just her life that’s endangered, is it? In this case, her right to act is counterbalanced by others’ right not to be acted upon. So we legislate against drunk driving. This doesn’t by any means ensure that no one will do it, but it does put into place a legal structure whereby we might be able to mitigate a great deal of the risk. We see a danger, and we act to curb it to the best of our ability.

In the case of guns and gun safety, though, we are actually moving in the opposite direction. The Texas legislature just passed an open carry bill (HB910), and Gov. Abbott signed it into law on June 13, at a gun range, of course. This bill, which takes effect on January 1, 2016, will allow licensed carriers to carry their firearms openly in a belt or shoulder holster. OK Corral, anyone? To make matters worse, they have also passed a campus carry bill (SB11), which at its fullest strength would allow students 21 years of age and older to carry their firearms in dorms, classrooms, and campus buildings. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, one may protest: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” But, then, that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s people who decide whether or not to pull the trigger, and so, it’s people who make guns dangerous. And people are notoriously prone to panic-induced chaos. There’s a reason you’re not supposed to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. And, given the ridiculous amount of mass shootings that have taken place around the U.S. in the last few years, we’re all primed to hear the first shot. Which makes it unwise to equip Tom, Dick, or Harry (or me, in case you care to accuse me of elitism) to take the second.

I was recently taken to task by someone who pointed out that if 21-year-olds are responsible enough to vote, join the military, etc., etc., etc., then they are also responsible enough to carry a gun onto their college campus. Setting aside the age of last week’s Charleston shooter (which was 21, if you’re wondering), this is hardly the point. It’s not just about the people with the guns; it’s the message(s) they’re sending.

The last thing we need is for a new generation to grow up under the impression that guns are cool. Back to cigarettes: one of the constant refrains of the anti-smoking campaign has been “Don’t smoke in front of your children, because they tend to do as you do, not as you say.” And then there’s the effort to convince teenagers that smoking “ain’t cool.” But guns are a fashion accessory.

There is also the minor issue of conflict resolution strategies. Do we not understand that these laws, and their “personal safety” justifications, perpetuate the idea that the solution to potential violence is more potential violence? That the only palliative to our lack of social consciousness is less social consciousness, and more social belligerence? Forget “these are your lungs on tobacco”; your brain on bullets…is dead.

Just as there are people who choose not to smoke or be associated with tobacco in any way, there are those of us who choose to neither own nor be associated with guns. In fairness, smokers are generally fairly conscientious when it comes to following the rules: there was grumbling at first, I’m sure, when the limiting trend began, but by and large, they are a respectful lot. Baylor, for instance, joined the ranks of smoke-free campuses at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, and the transition went largely without a hitch. Meanwhile, the gun lobby seems to be going out of its way to force the rest of us into the firing line.

Imagine the gall of suggesting that law enforcement officers be free to ask open carriers for proof of license! Since all 21-year-olds have their age pinned to their foreheads, what could be the use of so overbearing a measure? By all means, ID kids trying to buy tobacco or alcohol, but how dare you infringe upon their rights by asking for legal paperwork on the deadly weapon strapped to their hip? Now, everyone’s up in arms because of possible signage restricting open (or concealed) carry in businesses: in Texas, ├╝ber-respect for the businessman apparently ends when they tell you to leave your toys outside.

If you, in your hubris, want to channel Cary Grant or John Wayne, then for the love of God, do it in the privacy of your own home and leave the rest of us out of it. If you’re going to be an ass, then at least make sure it’s only your ass that’s on the line.

‘Cause second-hand bullets are real.

Toys Don’t Kill People. People with Toys Kill People.

You’ll shoot your eye out!

– Mother Parker

As I was getting ready to leave for work this morning, I was accosted by my television, which told me that Uncle Sam wants me to HAVE A GUN!

This commercial, produced by a local Waco store called (I’m not making this up) Fun Guns, has apparently launched a campaign that is in some way tax refund-related. Thus the Uncle Sam reference. But it isn’t the mechanics of the thing that concerns me. It’s the message it sends about guns and the part they play in American society.

Anytime we attempt to start a conversation about gun control, everything goes sideways. You’ve all had this discussion, from one side or the other: Either A) the government wants to take our guns so we can’t defend ourselves when they come for us, or B) if the government takes my guns, I won’t be able to defend my family from the bad guys. In both cases, the argument boils down to one idea: protection.

I call bullshit.

The store’s name (Fun Guns) is revealing enough. But the commercial’s tagline wraps everything up in a nice, neat, terrifying little bow. Uncle Sam wants you to “get you some!” To the sound of automatic weapons fire.

Come on, folks! All I’m asking for is a little rhetorical honesty. These people don’t want protection. They want toys.

This attitude toward firearms is not manly. It’s moronic. Let’s allow that guns are necessary tools, and that hunting and even home defense are legitimate reasons for owning them. Even if that is the case, in what universe is it remotely responsible to treat potentially deadly objects in the same way one might treat a frozen daiquiri on Bourbon Street during spring break?

It’s not a matter of gun control; it’s a matter of self-control. I find it highly suggestive that even as we demand parental guidance stickers on violent video games, we hawk real-life weapons as if they were stocking-stuffers. By all means, teach little Sally to hunt. But does the pink bedazzled deer rifle really send the message you’re after?

Remember, folks: It’s all fun and games until somebody shoots his eye out…