Beyond Guns

Mariner received feedback on the post, “The Gun Situation.” Some agreed with the premise that the gun issue will be resolved only when guns are removed from easy access. Others stood their ground and took the position of Charlton Heston: “From my cold, dead hands.” A reader or two said we can’t go back to walking policemen; the world has changed, and one said old people always want it the way it was.

Mariner is pleased when his posts provoke dialogue. He hopes to respond adequately to these comments.

The mariner knows many gun rights advocates. Most are hunters. Surprisingly, most hunters do not own hand guns; they own rifles. Many are occasional hunters, have rifles and one or more handguns. Many are paranoid about authority in general – especially government authority. A subset of these is the individual who fears the public in general and carries a weapon at all times. Another subset is the collector who fears weapon recalls – especially military weapons.

Finally, the largest group of gun rights advocates simply wants the right to own a gun or two just for emergencies like attempted rape or robbery and car napping. It is this group that kills inadvertently simply because a gun is handy. The Blade Runner is a member of this group.

Collectively, gun rights advocates are politically conservative. If well-to-do, they have an attitude that they are privileged to own guns and prefer that government keep its nose out of their personal life. If working class, they are infused with a paranoia toward society in general – perhaps appropriately so.

Advocates that are financially comfortable prefer not to incite violence, while anyone who is deprived of financial stability, untrusting of bureaucratic harassment, and disadvantaged in daily life is prone to act out with rage or criminal intent when social pressures become too great. A gun is a quick equalizer for sure.

Older folk are blessed to have lived through a golden age of the United States. From the forties to the mid sixties, the American culture was on a high; the middle class was surging; jobs were available at every level of income; higher education was affordable; democrats and republicans weren’t polarized; it was an age of cultural unification and national pride. It was an age of civility and protective policemen. Sociologist David Riesman observed the importance of peer-group expectations in his influential book, The Lonely Crowd. He called this new society “other-directed,” and maintained that such societies lead to stability as well as conformity.

However, the cold war, the Vietnam War, and inflation added a taste of vinegar to our society. The world was not perfect – not even in the United States. Middle class resistance groups began to emerge, the prominent one being Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that advocated populism as a solution to military spending and economic reform. When Ronald Reagan became president, he made a list of objectives that would quell anything that smelled of populism – even unions – and moved the government away from the influence of local politics, replacing the void with “free market capitalism.” Eventually, plutocrats managed the government and ideas of caring for citizens vanished – replaced by an oligarchy that controls our culture today. Economic class differences increased making the upper class richer, the middle class paying the bills with less income, and the lower class forgotten.

As the stress of imbalance between classes increased, many poor felt abused as opportunities for them disappeared, as salaries became stagnant, as family life took the burden and too frequently was shattered. Alternatives to stable employment led to a growing drug culture, theft, and, finally lashing out, violence. Still under the influence of conservative policies, governments responded by replacing benevolent policemen with cruisers, superior-force attacks instead of protection, out-arming the armed underclass and blaming entitlement programs for creating lazy people who would rather live off a government dole.

Looking back, one can understand how a gun culture grew. The omniscient news media continuously reminded everyone of every criminal incident, every drug bust, and every gun incident. Our culture became saturated with a need for self protection. Better to have a gun to protect oneself from whatever happens.

To move toward banning guns, other issues must be addressed:

Deal with class issues. Every economic class has norms and expectations that, if provided, restore a sense of security.

Give the government back to the voter. Limit campaign contributions to the district of jurisdiction; overturn Citizens United. Remove redistricting from political influence.

Restructure tax legislation for the upper class. The nation needs their excessive income for the national good. Reign in corporatism at least by imposing appropriate tax reform.

Create a bottom-up educational system tied to employment. Opportunity through education easily mollifies a feeling of entrapment.

Legalize marijuana to undercut the black market. Tighten drug inspections at borders and increase penalties for distributors of illegal drugs.

Once the above list is underway and showing progress, perhaps gun registration and a paid-for-recall gun program may be possible.

Oh, and reinstitute the cop on the beat swinging that shillelagh. We need protection, not street wars.

Ancient Mariner

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