In the wake of the senseless murder of many innocent people by crazed individuals with high-powered firearms, such as the recent case in Aurora, Colorado, many people naturally wonder why we continue to make it legal for people to purchase such weapons. The pundits debate the question of gun control, with some saying we need more gun control and others saying, famously, "If guns are outlawed then only outlaws will have guns."
What none of the pundits say, however, is that there is something fundamentally wrong with our society, and that this fundamental wrongness itself, rather than the mere widespread ownership and availability of guns, may be the cause of so many horrible gun-related mass murders.
The most unforgivable thing that the pundits--on both sides of the gun control issue--do is this: they only oppose certain mass murders of innocent people while supporting other mass murders of innocent people. They rightly condemn the mass murder of dozens of innocent Americans inside the United States. But they wrongly support (or at least remain deadly silent about) the mass murder of thousands of others (non-Americans and also, as we shall see, Americans) by the American government.
Let's start with the non-Americans.
The War on Terror conducted by the United States government is killing innocent civilians in huge numbers for no justifiable reason--repeat, for no justifiable reason. Even if one believes the far-fetched official story that the U.S. government gives about 9/11, there was no justification for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. All of the American intelligence agencies knew that the so-called "evidence" of WMD was unpersuasive at best. And everybody in high office knew that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, as even President G.W. Bush later admitted. So Iraqi deaths due to the U.S. invasion are as much deaths of innocent people from mass murder as are the deaths of Americans in the Aurora theater. According to a very conservative estimate based on a rigorous scientific method, and published in a prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journal (Lancet):
The U.S invasion of Afghanistan with its related attacks on people in Pakistan was also completely without justification, even if one accepts the official 9/11 story. President G.W. Bush, right after 9/11, told the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. The Taliban said they would turn bin Laden over to a third country to be tried for the crime of 9/11 if Bush would provide evidence that Osama bin Laden was involved. Bush flatly refused. He even refused to negotiate the issue. In fact, the FBI has no evidence linking bin Laden to 9/11 and that is why they do not charge him with that crime on their own FBI web site. Even Vice President Cheney admitted that, "We've never made the case, or argued the case, that somehow Osama Bin Laden was directly involved in 9/11."
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was completely unjustified, and the deaths of civilians that resulted from it are as much deaths of innocent people due to mass murder as are the deaths of the Americans killed in the Aurora theater.
The Asian Tribune gives these estimates of civilian deaths due to U.S. attacks in Pakistan:
According to the United States Congressional Research Service:
Now let's consider the number of innocent Americans who have been killed by the American government.
Because the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were without any justification, the American soldiers placed into harm's way by the American government were wrongly put at risk of harm. Their deaths were caused by the wrongful actions of the U.S. government, and wrongful killing is murder. How many Americans have been murdered by the U.S. government this way?
The United States Congressional Research Service reports that 2,030 American soldiers died in the invasion of Afghanistan ("Operation Enduring Freedom"). The Washington Post reports that 6, 448 American service men have died in "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
All told, the U.S. government, since 9/11, has committed mass murder of at least 667,000 innocent non-American civilians and 8,000 American service men.
A strong argument can also be made that the U.S. government orchestrated 9/11 itself. This would add about 3,000 to the number of innocent Americans it killed. But even without this additional number the point is clear: the U.S. government is mass murdering innocent people by the hundreds of thousands.
Something is very wrong with our society when pundits ignore the mass murder of thousands but devote enormous attention to the mass murder of dozens.
There is a reason for this bizarre fact, but it takes some serious thinking to see it: The mass media, who employ the pundits, are owned by Big Money. Big Money enjoys its power, privilege and concentrated wealth only to the extent that it can prevent Americans from making ours a more equal and democratic society, as most Americans wish it to be. Big Money uses Orwellian wars based on lies to control Americans and keep us obedient to the government, which is essentially a dictatorship of the rich that uses a manipulated electoral process to masquerade as a democracy. Big Money is not worried about the deaths of innocent civilians; what it is worried about is a revolution that would abolish its wealth and power. To prevent people from building a large and popular revolutionary movement, Big Money does everything it can to divert people's anger away from itself and its mass-murdering government and channel it instead against somebody else, anybody else--Communists in the past and today "Muslim Terrorists" and crazed (non-Muslim, American) individuals.
What about Gun Control?
Now that we have some perspective on the scope of the problem of gun-related mass murder, let's consider the pros and cons of gun control.
Here is the pro. If we severely restricted who could purchase a firearm and what kind of firearm they could purchase, then we might (but not necessarily, as discussed below) have greater assurance that when we were in a public place a crazed individual would not have the means to spray bullets at a crowd. That's a pro.
Here's the con*: We would be a more thoroughly disarmed public living under our current dictatorship of the rich, a dictatorship that is lowering the standard of living of most and making people increasingly insecure while making a few obscenely rich; a dictatorship that makes people have to choose between food and life-saving drugs, and that denies millions adequate medical care; a dictatorship that makes 16 million children live in food insecurity; a dictatorship that throws people out of their foreclosed homes; a dictatorship that uses economic inequality as a "poverty draft" to recruit soldiers and wrongly place them in harm's way where many die and even more commit suicide as a result of being unable to live with what they were ordered to do.
We need to build a revolutionary movement. A revolution can only succeed by creating so large a movement against the ruling elite that the conflict develops into a civil war of the great majority of the population against the numerically small ruling elite and those who remain loyal to it. For the revolution to succeed it will need the support of large numbers in the military, so that it will be able to use force, including violence, to successfully defend itself and prevail. In this situation, the public will want all the weapons it can get its hands on.
The Big Money government will want to disarm the public as much as it can. One of the first things Hitler did was to seize the arms of the Socialist and Communist parties before they were able to use them to overthrow the Nazi regime. This is how dictatorships work.
In 1936 the Spanish workers in Barcelona rose up against the Fascist General Franco. Though the non-fascist government of Barcelona refused to hand arms over to the workers or to use arms against the fascist troops about to take over the city, the workers seized weapons from sports stores and from city police officers and they defeated the fascist military. Gun control, in the context of people rising up against dictatorship, only serves the dictatorship.
To embrace gun control, as if most of the mass murdering were being done by crazed individuals, is wrongheaded. It will not make a substantial dent in the number of innocent people killed by mass murderers because it will leave the biggest mass murderers--the ones who call themselves the U.S government--fully armed to the teeth. It will only strengthen the power over us of these mass murderers.
Would Gun Control Even Reduce Violence by Crazed Individuals?
While I don't think the following discussion is as important as the preceding one, it may nonetheless be worth taking a look at some actual data--about gun ownership and gun-related homicides--to see if they support the notion that gun control will lower the homicide rate by private individuals (as opposed to government authorities).
The above plot is very interesting, indeed probably surprising to many people. (The words on the plot may be hard to read. The title is "Firearm Homicides per 100000 People versus Firearms per 100 People". The data points are each a different country, showing the number of firearm homicides per 100000 people on the vertical axis and the number of firearms per 100 people on the horizontal axis.) The data are online here, where one can see the list of countries and supplementary data.
The datum plotted at the extreme lower right hand corner represents the United States, with by far the greatest number of firearms per 100 people of all the countries, but with a relatively low rate of firearm-related homicides.
The four countries (near the top left corner) with the highest firearm-related homicide rates are, in order from the highest rate: Honduras, El Salvador, Jamaica and Venezuela. Yet these countries' firearms-per-hundred-people values are near the low end.
These data certainly to not support the theory that the number of guns per hundred people has anything to do with the number of gun-related homicides per 100000 people. Rather, it supports the theory that other factors play the key causal role.
This means that those who wish to ignore the fact that the U.S. government is the real mass murderer, and who wish to pretend that there is no need to build a revolutionary movement, still do not have a very good rationale for advocating gun control.
Crazed individuals can commit mass murder without guns. In Japan a crazy cult released poisonous sarin in the subways to kill thirteen people.
If one is going to focus only on crazed individuals, it would make more sense to think about what aspects of our society cause such people to commit mass murder, and to try to change those things about our society.
I believe that a society such as ours that is based on inequality and pitting people against each other in very high stakes economic competition creates more mass murdering crazed individuals than a society based on equality and mutual aid. This will have to be the subject of future articles by myself and, I hope, others. It is a reasonable hypothesis. And if true, it is yet one more reason why we should build a revolutionary movement to create a better world, as discussed in some detail in Thinking about Revolution.
* Blacks in the United States, even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, have relied on guns to protect themselves from racists. As noted in "The Secret History of Guns" by Adam Winkler in the Atlantic, "Civil-rights activists, even those committed to nonviolent resistance, had long appreciated the value of guns for self-protection. Martin Luther King Jr. applied for a permit to carry a concealed firearm in 1956, after his house was bombed. His application was denied, but from then on, armed supporters guarded his home. One adviser, Glenn Smiley, described the King home as 'an arsenal.' William Worthy, a black reporter who covered the civil-rights movement, almost sat on a loaded gun in a living-room armchair during a visit to King’s parsonage." Winkler points out that, "Indisputably, for much of American history, gun-control measures, like many other laws, were used to oppress African Americans. The South had long prohibited blacks, both slave and free, from owning guns. In the North, however, at the end of the Civil War, the Union army allowed soldiers of any color to take home their rifles. Even blacks who hadn’t served could buy guns in the North, amid the glut of firearms produced for the war. President Lincoln had promised a 'new birth of freedom,' but many blacks knew that white Southerners were not going to go along easily with such a vision. As one freedman in Louisiana recalled, 'I would say to every colored soldier, "Bring your gun home.”'"
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