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The Relative Unimportance of Gun Control

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Message Ross Brummet

In the mid-20th century there appeared a group of people that quite rationally opposed any limitations on objects that shoot tiny metal objects through the air with the primary goal of killing something in the process. Before this time, even the people who were most fond of these objects advocated their regulation. Some of these gun advocates have fundamentalist belief that they have some god given right to own guns, and thus any restriction on this right is the equivalent of an attack on some other fundamental right. In fact, some of these people even believe that other rights should be limited to protect this right, such as freedom of speech. So, if, say, a foreigner expressed criticism of gun rights, he should be deported. The second amendment, in this sense, is more important than the first. However, some of these people aren't so much gun enthusiasts; rather they believe guns are necessary to protect one from a tyrannical government. These people have a ramshackle of mad beliefs such as the resolute faith in fictions about various past dictators advocating gun control and the wondrous belief that the automatic guns that they possess will protect them from the flying death robots that the government possesses. Much to the relief of the sane, Obama and colleagues in congress have decided to ignore these people and belatedly issue some mild form of gun control.

There is another interesting group of people who view gun control as one of the most pressing issues of the day. They might believe that other issues are important but that the issue of gun control trumps them. Such members seemingly include Jon Stewart, Barrack Obama, and a variety of others who express a degree of concern that is amazingly absent from seemingly more important topics. Five of these I would like to go over here. Let us begin with empire. I ask the question: how many people die from gun related murders in the United States per year? Around 10,000? Give or take? Well let us compare this to the deaths of empire. During the 90s, the Secretary of State shrugged off the idea that sanctions in Iraq led to the death of 500,000 -- as a price worth paying. Let us not forget the public's collective indifference when wikileaks uncovered the fact that the U.S. covered up the deaths of over 15,000 Iraqi civilians. It's just another unpleasant statistic; with so many deaths from war, who cares? We cry about the deaths of school children but yawn at the latest child killed by Barry's drones. One might recall the words of George Santayana when he said that "it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography."

Or what about the crime of capitalism: global poverty? While 10,000 people might be killed by guns in the U.S. per year, over 20,000 children die of poverty related causes each day. Around 25,000 people simply die of hunger. Try and get your head around that for a minute. We're not even talking about quality of life for people in poverty. We're just talking about the people who are so bad off that they die. However what do we do in response? Do we demand that the U.S. and its allies not enforce free trade economics on poor countries, since no poor country in the history of the world has developed under the free market? Do we demand our government give a higher percentage of its wealth to poor countries? Do people like Piers Morgan or Jon Stewart -- so inflamed by the gun debate -- donate the vast majority of their money to charities? The answer to all of this is no, but hey, at least we praise people like Bill Gates for his willingness to give away half his wealth -- which will tragically leave him with a meager 30 Billion or so. But let's be honest; even if Warren Buffet gave away 99% of his wealth, as he claims, he would still be atrociously criminally wealthy -- 1% of 50 billion is still 500 million. If someone had 10,000 automatic rifles, would we praise him for cutting back to only 100?

And what about global warming? If gun violence in the U.S. remained steady for the next 20 years, it would kill less than a million people. Modest predictions from scientists suggest that over a 100 million people will die from climate change in the same period -- as well as the complete extinction of many species. This is simply not comparable. As Paul Street wrote in a perceptive article, "A Tale of Two Sandys: Guns and Climate":

Gun violence is a terrible and despicable problem, an American scandal that merits decisive public intervention on numerous levels. But let's be clear about something here. The human and multi-species death count promised by the sociopaths in the CCIC and their many elite allies and enablers in the political and media Establishment is shaping up to make every other atrocity in the human past seem like child's play.

Then we have nuclear proliferation. While the mass media has a habit of obsessing over the nuclear ambitions of Iran, they completely ignore the hypocritical arsenal of Israel. They completely ignore that Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whereas Israel has not. This is an issue that must not be talked about. A perfect example of this is an interview that Charlie Rose did with Arundhati Roy. When he asked her about the nuclear ambitions of India, she responded that she didn't think India should have nuclear weapons. She added that she didn't think Israel or the U.S. should have them either. The interview was naturally never aired. The simple fact of the matter is that every country in the Middle East has accepted the concept of a nuclear free zone. The lone state that doesn't is the U.S. backed Israel. The adherence to an ideology that defends the use of weapons of mass destruction by the world's only superpower and its puppet governments may spell the death of the species. But since one hasn't been used in almost 70 years, we can pass it off as a minor issue. The irony, however, of obsessing over restricting automatic weapons while not restricting nuclear weapons is disturbing, to say the least.

I mentioned the media in the above paragraph because it is really the issue that overrides all others. As long as the media is owned by a few corporations, and is therefore biased in their interests, how can we possibly challenge these fundamental issues? Sure, there are a few independent news sources -- Democracy Now, Z Magazine, The Real News Network, Opednews, etc. But the readership/viewership, in and of itself, is limited and not particularly threatening to power institutions. One exception, and the first serious challenge in a long time to organized power, came in the form of Wikileaks, and the response to it has been appropriately severe. Yet while the media obsesses over gun control, leading media institutions refuse to even cover the trial of Bradley Manning, let alone Barrett Brown or Jeremy Hammond. These are trials that set the groundwork for what we may or may not talk about, and in turn whether we can to any degree challenge the corporatist state on the most pressing issues our species faces. So with that said, I'll finish this article with going back to where it begins. While it's certainly absurd, and ahistorical to believe that gun control will lead to some totalitarian state... it's not at all absurd to understand that a country that has no functional freedom of the press is already there. 

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Ross Brummet is a student and writer in Los Angeles. Considering himself a utilitarian with libertarian socialist sympathies, he is fond of the views of Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Peter Singer. However he finds Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas (more...)

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