Guns and Tribal Warfare



I checked my Facebook feed Saturday morning and it was filled with expressions of support for President Obama’s recent gun control speech which I found ironic because at the moment I was waiting in line to buy a shotgun. The gun store was full of customers, which is what happens every time Obama talks about gun control.

My shotgun purchase was not influenced by politics, I had been saving for it for a couple of months and was annoyed that my long-planned purchase was being delayed by my fellow Americans’ now established tribal ritual of buying firearms to spite the President.

One tribe talks on Facebook, the other makes a different sort of statement. Each tribe sees the other as stupid, absurd and dangerous. If you are like me and are used to small towns and rural surroundings, the argument for gun-control sounds like it comes from another planet. You hear it and think: there is no violent crime here, everyone owns a gun or two or ten, what in the hell are they talking about? What are they really up to?

I’m sure I sound equally absurd to them.

The thing is that I am not sure anybody knows what to do about the cause of mass murders: what do you do about creepy, over-medicated, under-socialized, borderline psychotic 20-year-old men? Obviously you should be able to profile them well enough to keep them from buying a pistol at Walmart, but that will not keep them from finding illegal firearms, nor from building a pressure cooker bomb, nor from running amok with a kitchen knife on a subway train, nor from simply plowing a car into a crowd of people. We talk about these young men as the result of failed law, but they are mostly the result of failed medicine and failed families, not to mention failed schooling, failed policing, and probably some failed genetics.

On a brighter note, while murder rates have made a slight uptick this last year thanks to the incompetent mayors of Baltimore and New York, the numbers still pale in comparison to the rates of a generation ago. Chicago, America’s most violent city, is on pace for about three hundred murders this year. By contrast, in 1990 NYC had about 2200 murders. How times have changed. America is a safe place to live, violent crime mostly limited to a few square miles comprised of the bad neighborhoods of Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. If you are not of the urban poor you can spend your entire life miles from violent crime.


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