Second Amendment jurisprudence is high on the list of the great national embarrassments foisted upon us by our embarrassing federal judiciary, who continually accept the ahistorical interpretations of people who actually claim that a Constitutional government enshrines the right to armed insurrection against itself. Not even the framers, who had actually and recently fought in a revolution, imagined it meant such a thing, but here we are. America’s quasi-religious fetish for its own Constitution is in any event a strange national obsession. The Constitution is a hash of archaic bylaws whose principal strength is that it’s so vague and badly worded that it can mean whatever we need it to mean at any given time. “A well regulated…”
Well, gun advocates have done nothing if not given us a pithy slogan expressing exactly how incoherent they are: guns don’t kill people; people kill people. This is like saying cars don’t drive on roads or hammers don’t pound in nails. That a tool requires an operator to do its work begs the question. Guns were made to kill things, people chiefly among them. They’re a very good tool for this purpose. It’s possible to nail wood together without a hammer, but much easier with one; it’s possible to commute 30 miles to work without an internal combustion vehicle, but not easy; it’s possible to kill a whole lot of people all at once without a gun, but crossbows and broadswords do lack individual efficiency. Guns are machines for killing, and they kill a lot of people.
Refocusing from the implement to the actor also lends itself to our current absurd scapegoating, in which “mental illness,” never specifically defined, becomes a legitimate target for legislative intervention; Congresscreatures publicly imagine they can legislate sanity, and yet they can’t conceive regulating the purchase and ownership of an industrial product. How a nation that requires a $25 co-pay for a blood pressure and reflex test that you have to wait five months to book intends to provide universal, ongoing, robust psychological care to its 300 million souls, many millions of whom don’t have sufficient insurance and are therefore on the hook for more like $150 if they ever want to visit a regular old doctor, is unclear. Meanwhile, much of the gun violence in the country—not the mass shootings of white people that make the news, but the daily killings of one here, two there in places like Chicago—isn’t a question of mental health, not as the gun debate defines it anyway.
But. There is a kind of moral credulousness on the part of the Nice Liberal critics of our national gun culture, and there’s something intolerably amoral about a politician like Barack Obama assuming a pose of high moral dudgeon to snipe at conservative gun rights advocates while he presides over, among other atrocities, the bombing of a neutral hospital—literally, a war crime. (And the bombing of the MSF hospital is just one war crime among many; we just happen to note it because its victims are Western, professional, media-savvy, and English-fluent.) This isn’t cheap whataboutism; if you ask how we can be such a violent society and exclude sixty years of uninterrupted global warfare from your analysis, then your crass factionalism is showing.
It’s true: blaming domestic gun deaths on America’s violent, aggressive imperialism is a little like blaming it on mental illness; it identifies an approximate rather than a proximate cause and spins its wheels wildly away from a practical mechanism for mitigating the problem here and now. I do, however, wish that those who advocate for stricter gun control in this country would evince a more convincing and universal pacifism, rather than crying out in passionate horror each time some nut shoots up an elementary school but merely regretting each time their president blows one up.