Mined from the notebooks, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Originally posted Sunday night, March 11. Re-posted Sunday morning, March 25.
“The Time is NOW!”: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High senior and shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez (center), co-founder of the gun control advocacy organization #Never Again, who at age 18 is one of the “children” presuming to tell the supposed grown-ups in the Florida State Legislature what to do, giving the speech at a rally at the Broward County Courthouse that brought her to national prominence and made her a leader and spokesperson for gun control, February 17, 2018. Screen capture courtesy of Democracy Now.
This is peak Republican. Petulant grown-ups governing by temper tantrum because how dare the kids tell them what to do…
"We've been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework? No. The adults make the laws."---Florida state representative Elizabeth Porter during a debate in the state legislature over amendments to a proposed school safety bill, Tuesday, March 7, 2018.
The Republican-controlled Florida state legislature has passed and the Republican governor has signed into law a “school safety” bill that includes some mild gun control measures. It’s being reported by the Washington Post and the New York Times and other outlets as a victory over the NRA, which, considering the NRA opposes on principle any limits on any of its members and other preferred white people being able to buy any sort of guns and the requisite ammunition whenever the urge to increase their personal arsenals strikes them and making sure this principle is enforced is why it buys Republican politicians, is a defeat or at least a setback for the gun nut lobby.
The legislature banned the sale of guns to anyone under the age of twenty-one. The Pulse shooter was thirty, but never mind. (The Sutherland Springs shooter was twenty-six. The Las Vegas shooter was sixty-four.) They imposed a three day waiting period during which background checks can be completed. Good, although it still represents the notion that mass murderers suddenly snap and stop off at gun stores on the way to their rampages and don’t already own their guns legally before they do and don’t have plans.
Legislators debated arming teachers but settled for letting school districts decide if they wanted to arm certain school personnel---coaches, counselors, librarians, as if they don’t have anything better to do than spend their work days as armed security guards patrolling the hallways and watching the doors and trying to remember in which pocket they keep the bullet. Money for training and equipping these Barney Fifes was allocated but even those law enforcement officials and experts who think it’s a good idea are saying it’s not near enough money to cover every single school in the state.
My own feeling is that any amateurs who volunteer to carry a gun around children all day are announcing they shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun under any circumstance. But that’s just me. And the parents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are as unusual as their kids. I suspect a lot of parents around the country like the idea of their kids’ schools being turned into forts. In many schools in many places the daily threat of violence is very real and the threat doesn’t come from outside.
There are schools already in which armed security guards---even actual police officers and sheriff’s deputies---are as much a taken for granted downside of student life as homework, detention, cliques, and bad cafeteria food.
The bill calls the provision to put “marshals” in the schools the Aaron Feis School Guardian Program, after the coach at Stoneman Douglas who died shielding students from the killer. His family might very well be proud to have him memorialized like this. I think it denigrates his heroism and his sacrifice. It puts an imaginary gun in his hand after the fact and has him triumphing in a fantasized shoot out with the killer. It assumes that his instinct would have been and should have been to reach for his gun if there’d have been a gun for him to reach for instead of moving to get his students out of harm’s way. Never mind that he wouldn’t have had time to go to his locker or to the school’s weapons closet and he’d have had to have been carrying his gun with his holster unbuttoned and the gun’s safety off to have had a chance to shoot back let alone first, and, odds are, even if he’d been ready to draw and had time, he’d still be dead and so would the students he sacrificed his life shielding. The story they tell themselves about a minimally trained amateur with a holstered handgun caught by surprise by a determined murderer armed with a rifle being able to do what only heroes in action adventure movies of the most fantastic sort can do is a central parable of the gun nut religion.
Owning a gun is a superstitious act for the gun nuts. Guns are magical. They’re like the St Christopher medals Catholic travelers used to wear. (Still wear?) Just having a gun in the house protects those inside from harm. Wolves, bandits, zombies, jackbooted thugs sent by the Deep State instinctively know to stay away. It follows then that carrying one in public staves off harm. No cops have ever been killed in the line of duty. No soldiers who know what they’re doing have ever died in combat. Much of the opposition to even minimal gun control measures comes from people reacting as if you’re advocating banning garlic, crucifixes, and holy water in Transylvania.
But most of it comes from people who are simply mad at the idea that the government can tell them what to do. The government exists to tell those others what to do. It’s not that they love guns all that much---although they do love them---it’s that they love the power to tell those others what to do guns represent.
We live in a terrified country. It’s been that way for our entire history. Fear of those others rising up and fighting back is a fundamental nightmare of our collective unconscious, which is only to be expected in a nation founded on land grabs, slavery, and genocide. And there are no more terrified people than the middle class Republicans of Trumpland. And Trump is hell-bent on terrifying them and keeping them terrified and then looking to him to save them from those others terrifying them.
Gun nuts like to think of themselves as independent patriots and heroes, new minutemen and minutewomen standing at the ready to defend liberty against whatever guise the modern Redcoats take. What they really are are volunteers in the authoritarian militia, clinging to their right to tell those others to march to their drum and ready to follow, marching in lockstep, whatever strong man on a horse who beats that drum loudest.
This isn’t gunnuttery. It’s Republicanism.
The Republican Party is the party of racists, know-nothings, bigots, and yahoos. The party of self-pitying, self-entitled, self-centered grievance-mongers. But it’s also the party of authoritarians. It’s the party of people who are terrified that those others are getting out of line and need to be put back in their place. It’s the party of people who like their own place in line. It’s where they feel safest.
Authoritarians don’t just want to boss people around. They want to boss and they want to be bossed.
And they want to see the bossing happen. They want to feel it.
End of Part One. Part Two to follow.
Recommended should-read: Florida Gun Bill: What’s in It, and What Isn’t at the New York Times.