Point Austin: We'll Always Have ... Mass Murder
On not surrendering to pro-gun mythology
Leave it to the Head Frother of Fox News, Bill O'Reilly, to contribute a singular inanity in the aftermath of last month's mass shooting near Santa Barbara. Excoriating anyone who might try to explain the misogynist, murderous actions of Elliot Rodger as anything other than those of a lone madman, O'Reilly concluded, "Again, no matter what society does, there will always be mass murder – always." Even on the scale of the ignorant nonsense O'Reilly regularly spews, that outburst ranks fairly high, raising the persistent question: Exactly why does this man host a prime-time TV show?
The answer, of course, is that there are plenty of people in TV land who think O'Reilly is just (choose your own outdated cliche) the bee's knees, even as his designated demographic and his network's ratings fade. Like O'Reilly, there are plenty of others on the right who insist that neither woman-hating or ridiculously easy access to guns had anything to do with the Isla Vista murders, or indeed any of the other recurrent U.S. massacres. The fact that all other developed nations manage to maintain levels of gun violence much lower than ours remains, alas, an unfathomable mystery – maybe it's the fluoride in the water.
Meanwhile, in Texas, those charming folks vigorously promoting "open carry" of weaponry wherever and whenever managed to provoke even the professional nutters at the National Rifle Association into a moment of relative sanity. In an unsigned NRA press release, someone actually pointed out that it's not actually neighborly behavior to go mobbing around in public places – family restaurants, hardware stores, wherever – heavily armed as if readying for the next Civil War (this is Texas, after all).
While congratulating Texans on their "robust gun culture," the release continued, "Let's not mince words, not only is it rare, it's downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one's cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates."
Burgers and Bullets
The writer was clearly more worried about the public backlash than about more dramatic consequences (e.g., it's only a matter of time before one of these hot-dogging episodes turns into an "accidental" shootout, with sane bystanders caught in the crossfire). But even some of the NRA's gun-worshippers apparently have limits for what the statement called a "lack of consideration and manners."
Not to worry. A few days later – after open-carry fanatics started burning NRA membership cards – NRA spokesman Chris Cox backpedaled, saying that a misinformed staffer had issued the statement, and that the only issue among these allies is tactical. Describing fellow gun-promoters as "weird" or "somehow not normal" was a mistake, Cox said: "Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners."
The NRA has consistently made it clear that its job, in dutiful service to the firearms industry, is to promote the possession of guns everywhere and at all times, and all in the service of "self-defense." If in Texas that means AR-15s with your burgers and fries, by all means go for it.
Where There's a Will
Far be it from me to obstruct a pissing match between the institutional and free-range gun-nuts. Open Carry Texas (while claiming it has "changed its tactics") called the initial NRA statement "disgusting and disrespectful." It later welcomed the NRA capitulation, as well as its prospective assistance in getting open-carry for handguns enacted in the next Legislature. That way, this relative handful of vainglorious chest-beaters will be able to stroll through Little League games and fast-food joints terrifying bystanders, provoking 911 calls, and (most importantly) showing everybody just how tough they are.
As I've written before, I expect little progress on rational gun control in the near future. There is simply too much money in gun manufacturing and promotion, too much gun-promoting money pouring into candidates' campaigns, and far too many credulous citizens willing to believe the NRA's nonsense. Moreover, since the entire country is thoroughly awash in guns already, it would likely take years for new restrictions to have any substantial effect on reducing the availability of firearms to people – such as the mentally ill Isla Vista shooter – who shouldn't have access to them.
Nevertheless, whenever these professional con-men insist that rational regulation of weaponry is unconstitutional, that "registration" is a euphemism for "seizing all guns," that the only answer to recurrent, casual gun violence is more and more guns, or that – most ridiculously of all – "there will always be mass murder," it's the responsibility of reasonable citizens, especially Texans, to stand up and say, "That's pure-dee bullshit." This madness will end when there's sufficient public will to end it.