Guns are perhaps one of the most divisive issues in the United States, both as a tangible factor and a conflict about the sense of self, the national identity, the core values and purpose that contribute to make up the perceptual and concrete “America”. The public discussion, as it occurs through social media, televised media, classic print journalism, and spoken outrage in the elevator, is beginning to target guns as one of the diseases ravaging our country. Calls are being made for “gun control” “regulating the gun industry” “background checks” and “exposing the NRA”. I was raised in a northeast liberal enclave that was comfortable with the simplified equation that guns are evil – a clear dictate that classifies people on a distinct binary of evilness.
My innately rebellious spirit and contrary nature became suspicious of this edict once I met these evil “gun people”. First off, there are no uniform characteristics of “gun people”. My introduction was through a study of history: John Brown’s militant abolitionism, the use of armed resistance by Jewish anarchists in the 1920, the empowerment of Black Power through guns, and the propaganda purposes of arms for the Zapatistas in Mexico. These gun people were staring down oppressive powers more heavily armed, willing to kill without cause, with access to an infinite arsenal. And then I began to meet everyday people who knew how to handle guns, who had grown up with lessons, who owned their own. My knowledge deficit grew to billboard size, announcing to me that in the event that a gun was near me, I would have no idea what to do except stare at it and proclaim its evilness.
People who have a working relationship with guns are privy to another piece of critical information – there are millions of gun people in this country. Some of those people I probably could find kinship with, many others I fear. But more importantly than the gun people, are the institutions of power that maintain that power with guns: security guards, college police, local police, state police, national guard, the military, para-militaries, private militaries.
And so I ask of those liberals who proclaim now a war on guns, who exactly will be taking these guns, controlling these guns, deciding who does and does not have this power? Who do we trust to create a policy that does not further disempower the same peoples and communities under constant threat by those heavily armed systems of power? As a question of practicality, who is preparing for a career of knocking on the doors of gun people and repossessing their artilleries? Who will be sent in with gunpowder sniffing dogs to search out basement stores of ammunition? Who will compile a checklist of gun owners and cross-reference it with those reposed guns? Are we calling on the police to enforce this new litany of gun control? Will they be administering the mental health background checks to decide whether I am sane enough to own a firearm? Please excuse my incredulous doubt at trusting the same police who have been shooting young black men in the back, and framing drug dealers by planting increased weight on them, or forcing transgender peoples into jail cells by a gender decided by the police.
Yes our lives are not guaranteed protection, a person not sanctioned by the state may decide to turn their guns on everyday civilians, yes the abuse of power has inspired retaliation against innocent peoples. But we cannot in good conscious use that as a justification to demand greater oppressive action by those already sanctioned to take our lives. Who will be the gun takers? Don’t forget that actual individuals, not the devil himself, will have to go to gun person to gun person and collect all that power to then be melted down. Whomever you send to my house, I will not hand over any power that I have. And I don’t even have a gun.