Some excellent commentary in The New Yorker on the Newtown massacre, in particular, Adam Gopnik’s indictment of the gun lobby and its supporters, “Newtown and the Madness of Guns,” which expresses exactly what I’ve been thinking the past two days. Money quote
After the Aurora killings, I did a few debates with advocates for the child-killing lobby—sorry, the gun lobby—and, without exception and with a mad vehemence, they told the same old lies: it doesn’t happen here more often than elsewhere (yes, it does); more people are protected by guns than killed by them (no, they aren’t—that’s a flat-out fabrication); guns don’t kill people, people do; and all the other perverted lies that people who can only be called knowing accessories to murder continue to repeat, people who are in their own way every bit as twisted and crazy as the killers whom they defend. (That they are often the same people who pretend outrage at the loss of a single embryo only makes the craziness still crazier.) …
The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children. They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns, placed in the balance even against the routine murder of innocent children, is of supreme value. Whatever satisfaction gun owners take from their guns—we know for certain that there is no prudential value in them—is more important than children’s lives. Give them credit: life is making moral choices, and that’s a moral choice, clearly made.
Yes, it is not just the gun lobby that, morally speaking, has the blood of the murdered Newtown children on its hands but also those who support that lobby, who own the kinds of guns used in the massacre (above), and who believe that it is their right to do so. These people are moral perverts and with twisted minds. Period. End of argument.
I’ve had numerous exchanges with gun perverts over the years and decades, including on this blog. All of them are on the GOP hard right, which is hardly a surprise, and, as in exchanges on just about every topic, they trot out the same zombie arguments and formulations, and expressed in precisely the same words, mindlessly mouthing something they likely heard on Fox News or right-wing talk radio, or read in the WSJ editorial page or some nutbag right-wing website. E.g. one line mouthed by a few right-wingers with whom I exchanged views after the Aurora massacre, who argued that the solution was not gun control but more guns and in more hands, was that “an armed society is a polite society.” To which I asked: among the most armed societies in the world are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia; so does that mean they’re polite? I naturally did not get a response to that one.
Also in The New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe, writing on “Making Gun Control Happen,” quotes Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners for America, who
suggested that these massacres might be avoided in the future, if only more teachers were armed.
As Pratt’s sentiment should make clear, the United States has slipped its moorings and drifted into a realm of profound national lunacy.
I am utterly certain that many gun perverts out there are echoing Pratt’s words, that if only the teachers had been armed the massacre would likely not have happened. Those who think this way, needless to say, not only have twisted minds but are profoundly sick. Keefe continues
Ponder, for a second, the fact that I cannot walk into a C.V.S. today and purchase half-a-dozen packages of Sudafed, but I can walk into a gun dealership and purchase a .50 caliber rifle of the sort that U.S. snipers use in Afghanistan. In fact, I can buy six or ten—there is no limit imposed by law. Should the gun dealer think it fishy that I might want to acquire a weapon capable of downing a small aircraft (much less six of those weapons) he may report the purchase to the A.T.F. But in most states, he’s not required to.
To some readers, that may seem eminently reasonable. But what about this? The state of Indiana recently enacted a law that enshrines an enhanced version of the “Castle Doctrine,” that quintessentially American notion that you are within your rights to shoot and kill someone as long as they are trespassing on your property. The Indiana statute, which was backed by the N.R.A. over strenuous objections from law enforcement, explicitly extends this precept to intruders who are “public servants,” but who you believe have no appropriate basis for entering the premises. In other words: under certain circumstances, it is now hypothetically legal under Indiana state law for you to shoot a cop.
Yes, an American society that “has slipped its moorings and drifted into a realm of profound national lunacy.”
Another New Yorker piece is by Evan Osnos, “China Watches Newtown: Guns and American Credibility.” His conclusion
It takes a lot to make China’s government—beset, as it is, by corruption and opacity and the paralyzing effects of special interests—look good, by comparison, in the eyes of its people these days. But we’ve done it. When Chinese viewers looked at the two attacks side by side, more than a few of them concluded, as this one did that, “from the look of it, there’s no difference between a ‘developed’ country and a ‘developing’ country. And there’s no such thing as human rights. People are the most violent creatures on earth, and China, with its ban on guns, is doing pretty well!”
It is a strange fact that in refusing to allow rational gun policies in America, the N.R.A. and its acolytes have damaged precisely the treasure they purport to hold so dear: the moral charisma of American liberty.
Right-wingers, as one knows, couldn’t care less how the rest of the world views America. As nationalists—and nationalism being a form of narcissism—they believe America to be the greatest country in the world and are no doubt reveling in the criticism and incomprehension of America at the latest massacre committed by assault weapons legally purchased, and which will no doubt comfort them in their disdain of the rest of the world. How nice it would be if they were obliged to explain and justify America’s gun laws and culture to a group of uncomprehending non-Americans (something I am quite certain almost none have ever had to do). I would love to be a fly on the wall at that one. For the anecdote, last night we had several friends over for dinner, all French (a few of Maghrebi origin), well-educated, on both the political left and right. At the end of the end of the evening the Newtown massacre came up and led to a discussion of American gun laws, and specifically the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which I dutifully called up on my laptop—”Une milice bien organisée étant nécessaire à la sécurité d’un État libre, le droit qu’a le peuple de détenir et de porter des armes ne sera pas transgressé”—, and that gave rise to an animated debate as to its meaning, i.e. does it or does it not guarantee an individual right to bear arms, or can this only be understood in the context of a militia. I argued the latter, though the others weren’t sure. The final consensus was that (a) the amendment contains two contradictory clauses and (b) that however it is interpreted, American gun laws and culture are insane. And that if firearms were as easily accessible in France as in the US—and if this country were awash in them—that the murder and massacre rate would naturally shoot way up. Obviously.
On the NYRB blog, Garry Wills has an essay on “Our Moloch.” He begins
Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture. Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there. Milton represented Moloch as the first pagan god who joined Satan’s war on humankind:
First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire
To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96)
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily—sometimes, as at Sandy Hook, by directly throwing them into the fire-hose of bullets from our protected private killing machines, sometimes by blighting our children’s lives by the death of a parent, a schoolmate, a teacher, a protector. Sometime this is done by mass killings (eight this year), sometimes by private offerings to the god (thousands this year).
Read the rest of Wills’s essay and be angry. At the worshipers of “our Moloch.”