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no easy solutions to gun violence

September 20, 2013

More gun violence and more calls for tougher gun laws. It seems to be a regular occurrence these days, and more people are starting to ask why it’s so hard to just ban guns and be done with it. “Why does this happen? Why is it so hard to get these guns off the streets? Why aren’t you doing something?!”

There are a number of reasons why that’s so difficult, I think. The main reason, of course, is that the right to bear arms is understood to be a constitutionally-protected right (Second Amendment), so any kind of outright ban on guns is impossible until the Constitution is amended, which takes 2/3 of the states or 2/3 of both houses of Congress to propose and 3/4 of the states to ratify. And that will probably never, ever happen. The other main reasons, however, are more complex and include issues such as poverty, low social mobility, institutionalized racism, etc.

For example, on Twitter, Boots Riley of The Coup argues that much of the gun violence in the US is, when you boil it all down, economically motivated. People who can’t survive by legal means, through conventional employment (whether because there aren’t enough good paying jobs available or because they have some impediment to gainful employment like a previous criminal record, etc.), are often involved in illegal businesses to survive, and gun violence is a natural outgrowth of illegal businesses regulating themselves: “All business regulates itself with violence or the threat of violence. For legal business that called the police. For illegal business, there has to be force. You can’t go to the zoning commission, or to small claims court over some dope.” And this, he continued, has an impact on culture. “Some folks say ‘yeah but some gun violence isnt economically motivated’. Most of it is. But like any form of survival, it creates a culture How we materially survive creates the culture around it. Fishing villages create fishing songs- not the other way around (sed that before). If fighting gun violence that happens on the street is ur calling- your only hope is a mass, militant, radical labor mvmnt that raises wages.”

He also notes the historical shift in how the left treats the issue of gun control, and how in his view gun control today is more about cultural allegiances of progressives attached to the Democratic Party than anything else: “The left used to champion striking miners fighting back against Pinkerton security with their guns. The first gun control laws came about from media created hysteria about the ‘Negro crime waves’ of the 1920s. Cops went house to house, kicking in doors of Black families and taking guns away. Gun control laws aren’t aimed at White people in the country side. It’s Black and Brown folks that get locked up for having guns.”

And that doesn’t even address problems such as mental illness, which often plays a role in many of these mass shootings. All in all, though, no matter how you view the issue of gun control (for or against), it’s a complicated issue. Gun ownership is enshrined in our Constitution and there are a lot of them out there, both legal and illegal. Trying to ban guns and confiscate the ones that are already out there is political and practically impossible, in my opinion; and even if it wasn’t, I think the government trying to do so would cause a serious and most-likely violent backlash. The way I see it, there’s no easy solution, really.

A combination of things like better funded and easily accessible mental healthcare, stricter gun control laws, and gun safety programs may help to reduce incidents like this, but they’ll never be able to completely stop them. Part of this, I think, is because the roots of much of this kind of violence within society goes much, much deeper than crazy people or prevalence of guns, and they won’t be uprooted until we take a long, hard look at the society of fear and violence we’ve created, or that we’ve allowed to be created for us—a society where things like a basic guaranteed income and universal healthcare (including better funding of, and easier access to, mental healthcare) are fought against tooth and nail, and starting wars in the name of peace and dropping bombs that routinely kill innocent civilians seems as easy as buying a gun at Walmart.

It’s sad that things like this happen, and I really hate hearing about them, especially because it seems like such a frequent occurrence. So I’ll continue to support things like universal healthcare in the short term, and fight for a healthier, egalitarian, and less volatile society via progressive socio-economic changes in the long term. Beyond that, though, I don’t know what else I can do.

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