Posted Wednesday morning, November 8, 2017.
Immediately the news from Sutherland Springs came out, gun nutty Right Wingers and the Republican politicians who depend on their votes and the NRA's cash bribes, along with the stooges and apologists and shills in the media who serve the politicians by keeping the rank and file bamboozled, began resorting to their usual illogical arguments the gun nuts rely on to defend their right to keep and bear whatever arms they feel they need to assure themselves they're men and heroes, assurance they apparently require two or three times a day, even more than that when they have to try to get their heads around yet more evidence that they too could die in the dust, randomly and unheroically, frightened and in pain.
Even more terrifying for them to contemplate is that they might die totally unaware without even the chance to scream, cry, say a prayer, or utter a few last brave words, snuffed out of existence like a bug, without its having any lasting consequence. You know, the way thousands of us die every day because human beings are that fragile, life is random and unfair, and the universe and, judging by the evidence, God, if he's there, which, again, judging by the evidence, he isn't, don't care if we live or die. They’re afraid their deaths won't matter because they won't have mattered.
One of the gun nuts' favorite debating points is that mass murders can be prevented by good guys with guns so we should make it easier for good guys to own and carry guns. That this makes it easier for bad guys to own and carry guns too doesn't bother them because they believe that good guys can outdraw and outshoot the bad guys. That the bad guys routinely ambush their victims and a good guy with a gun, no matter how quick on the draw, is as defenseless as anyone if he's taken by surprise and gunned down in a flash before he even realizes what's happening doesn't carry any weight, either.
Good guys with guns are always prepared and they can sense an attack coming. Instinct has them turning to look at the door a second before the bad guys burst in. And bad guys know this and will be too scared to come out of their lairs if they know they'll be met at every turn by good guys with their shootin' irons drawn.
Could happen, I suppose, although there's no proof that it has. There is proof some killers don't let it worry them. The only recent incident I can recall when a good guy with a gun confronted gun wielding mass murderers in the middle of a shooting spree happened three years ago, in Las Vegas, coincidentally, and the good guy with a gun ended up dead. The killers were a husband and wife who imagined themselves members of the Bundy Ranch militia. They killed two other good guys with guns, too, a pair of cops having lunch. This time, though, the gun nuts they think they have their proof: the self-organized posse of two who chased after Devin Kelley as he drove away from First Baptist.
It should go without saying, they didn't stop the shooting. Twenty-six people lay dead or dying. Twenty more were wounded.
And it was Texas. It’s practically a state law you have to own at least one gun if you live there. Texas law allows you to carry a gun just about everywhere, including church. Kelley knew that odds were that there was at least one good guy with a gun inside First Baptist. Didn’t deter him. He went in shooting.
Details. Easily waved away.
The heroes stopped Kelley from killing more people wherever he was on his way to when he’d finished at First Baptist! And who knows how any more that would have been? Why, they probably prevented another slaughter on the level of last month's in Las Vegas!
Kelley was without his main and most deadly weapon. He'd used up all the ammunition for his semi-automatic rifle and had left it behind outside the church.
He did have a couple of pistols. He could have killed more people with those. He may have planned to. This was a domestic crime. Not as in a case of domestic terrorism. As in his own domestic situation. First Baptist was his mother-in-law's church. She wasn't at the service. I don't know if he knew that going in. If he didn't, she might have been his target. The rest of the congregation was collateral damage. If she was his target and if he realized she wasn't among the people he shot as he made his way pew to pew looking for her, he might have been on his way to find her and kill her when he left the church. And kill his wife with her. And anybody who had the bad luck to be with them. The all too familiar pattern of the domestic abuser taking out his rage on the people who will no longer put up with his abuse.
And it's highly likely he'd have met up with other good guys with guns somewhere along the line, professional good guys with guns they'd been trained to use. He'd have ended up shooting it out with them. And they'd have done for him what he probably wanted done. Suicide by cop is another all too familiar part of the pattern. But who knows how many of those good guys with guns he'd have taken with him.
So there's a good chance those two good guys with their one gun between them saved some lives.
There's a better chance that all they saved, or, rather, would have saved if the chase had lasted a few more miles and he’d have time to bleed to death or die of shock, was Kelley the trouble of killing himself. That's the usual denouement. The good guys with guns as deterrents to mass murderers theory assumes that the would-be murderers want to live. The Washington Post reports that the good guy with his gun wounded Kelley in the torso and leg; Kelley finished himself off with a shot to the head. Maybe that's all he did, finish himself off. Maybe the good guy did put an end to his rampage by putting an end to him.
Doesn't really matter, though, not to the gun nuts and not to their politician enablers. It's distancing. The imaginary lives saved are the focus, not the very real lives lost and ruined. Twenty-six people are dead but let's be glad it wasn't more. Let's congratulate ourselves that it wasn’t more, as if we all took part in the heroics, let’s celebrate even, quietly, of course, while keeping our sad faces on and offering our thoughts and prayers in lieu of flowers.
But what's more is that the focus isn't really even on the "people" who were "saved". It's on the heroes who saved them.
And that's what's key in this fantasy. Identification with the heroes, not the victims. It's the gun nuts' way of assuring themselves that they wouldn't have been among wounded and dead if they'd been there. They'd have been with the heroes who saved the day.
They'd have been the heroes.
Instead of having to admit to their own all too human fragility and helplessness in the face of death, the gun nuts are telling themselves that under similar circumstances they would have survived. And so a horrific story of communal loss becomes a story of individual triumph over death.
Pure superstition, of course. The same superstition that underlies most Republicans' thinking about misfortune and the misfortunate: This will not happen to me...
I will never get sick...
I won't lose my job...
I won't die in a mass shooting...
...because I take care of myself. I work hard. I'm responsible. I follow the rules. I’m smart. I know how things work. I keep my eyes open. I'm prepared.
Because God doesn't let bad things happen to good people and I'm good.
Those people, the unfortunate ones, must be bad or at any rate they brought it on themselves by not being as good, as smart, as mindful, as sharp, as well-prepared…
By not being heroes, like me.
Our idiotic national non-policy on gun control is dictated by the fantasies of grown men who want to believe that when the time comes they'll turn into Neo from The Matrix.
The irony that makes the fantasy unconsoling is that the only person who matters in it is the fantasist.
A side benefit for Republicans holding this superstition is it's an excuse not to have to care.
If all trouble is self-inflicted, then why are you coming to me for help?
You brought it on yourself. Your fault, your problem.
That's not rugged individualism. That's not self-reliance. It's self-isolation. It's cutting yourself off from a community of shared problems and mutual comfort and aid.
If the fear is that none of us matters, then this thinking---every man and woman for themself---only exacerbates it. This is why I keep quoting Kurt Vonnegut quoting his son the doctor.
We're here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is, is another way of saying we're here to matter to each other, whatever the indifferent universe or God intends