A class struggle perspective on the gun control debate

Yesterday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conneticut once again re-ignited the gun control debate. For US liberals, stricter gun regulations are the key to preventing future tragedies. For conservatives, responsible gun ownership and armed citizenry is the best defence. But neither position really gets to the roots of the issue.

Submitted by Phil on December 15, 2012

As an anarchist, it should go without saying that I don't subscribe to the position that if only the state bans more things the problem will go away. Whether it's a social right like abortion, recreational products like drugs and alcohol or something as problematic as guns, it's generally true that prohibition doesn't work.

Taking the specific issue of guns, we might look at the UK as an example of this. Following the Dunblane Massacre, private ownership of handguns was almost entirely banned. However, parliamentary statistics (PDF) still record handguns as being used in 44% of non-air weapon firearms offences in England and Wales, followed by imitation weapons in 23%. (23% and 22% respectively in Scotland.) In other words, the majority of gun crime is committed with illegal weapons.

There is a rough correlation between gun ownership levels and gun deaths, as seen in the graph below. However, one of the main reasons behind this is quite simply that in gun owning countries more of those who commit suicide do so using guns. The USA also remains something of a statistical anomaly:

On the other side of the coin, the right-wing argument boils down roughly to legalised gun ownership being "the only way for ordinary people to protect themselves against gun massacres." One example being that the Appalachian School of Law shooting in 2002 was brought to a premature end by armed civilians. But this would only be a guarantee against such massacres if such armed citizenry was compulsory rather than just a right. After all, surely the US of all places should be able to offer more than one example?

The conservative argument also fails to address the deeper roots of the problem. All it says is that we should all carry guns, leaving the prospect of somebody turning up and shooting holes in everyone as a regrettable fact of life we must prepare against. But is it - or is the way to address massacres such as yesterday's not down to gun control but to social conditions?

We don't yet know enough about the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School to start assessing motives. However, we can look at other shootings to get a snapshot of the kind of people who would commit these kind of crimes.

The most famous such massacre, popularised by the Michael Moore film Bowling for Columbine, is the Columbine High School massacre. Although there was much nonsense surrounding the shootings - not least the religious right blaming Marilyn Manson - there was also some insight into the social makeup of American high schools and its effects on such events. Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were both thought to have been victims of bullying, whilst a Secret Service analysis the year after of 37 pre-meditated school shootings found that two-thirds of perpetrators were victims of bullying they described "in terms that approached torment." Of course, this doesn't mean that such tragedies can be boiled down to bullying, with suggestions that Harris was a clinical psycophath pointing to far more complex issues at work.

Nonetheless, the role that alienation plays cannot be discounted. Last January, Adam Ford looked at two US shooters who on the surface couldn't be more different - Jared Loughner and Clay Duke. Loughner, who infamously shot US representative Gabrielle Giffords, framed his motives in terms of the reactionary right, whilst Duke, who committed suicide after a hostage situation, spoke of the class divide in America. Yet Ford sees both cases as "social tensions ... erupt[ing] in acts of individual desperation" for the lack of "mass collective expression."

Moore's Columbine film hints at this when it looks at other tragic shooting cases. Most notably, the case of a single mother whose six-year-old son found a gun in his uncle's apartment, took it to school and killed a classmate. The boy had to stay in his uncle's apartment because his mother was facing eviction, even whilst being bussed out of state in the early hours and returning late at night under a welfare-to-work program.

Over here, we might not have seen workfare participants' kids finding guns and killing friends, but we have had the self-immolation of an unemployed worker outside a job centre, just one of many recent welfare suicides. The shooting of Kayla Rolland documented in Bowling for Columbine is an indirect consequence of capitalist social relations, those suicides a direct one, but both are a consequence of those same social relations.

This brings us back to the graph we saw before. The United States stands out as a statistical anomaly - less guns per head than Switzerland but more gun homicides. Why?

In Bowling for Columbine, Moore asks if it's something unique to US culture, and comes back to the culture of fear on the news and in the media. This may be part of it, but in all honesty I doubt that there's an argument for American exceptionalism when it comes to a capitalist media that perpetuates fear and division.

I don't know enough about class politics in the US to offer as thorough an analysis as is needed here. However, I can sketch some thoughts and theories which hopefully American comrades may be able to either expand upon or correct.

Firstly, the popular perception across the pond is that the ruling class has succeeded in atomising American society and isolating individuals to a far greater extent perhaps than anywhere else. (Hence part of the reason why the 2011 Wisconsin protests or the Wal Mart strikes were so important.) In part, that's the mythology the country was built on - rugged individualism and the liberty of those with property - but it's also the result of an official union movement that is thoroughly institutionalised and a "left" tied to a party that doesn't even offer the hollow pretences that the UK Labour Party does.

Secondly, as already discussed above, we know where alienation and desperation lead. Many in the UK have found it hard to come to terms with the class content of last year's riots. It may be harder for Americans to associate mass murder, especially of children, with the effects of class and capitalism. But in the absence of a positive collective response, the eruption of social tensions is pretty much bound to be so uncontrolled and ugly. Throw the right to bear arms, extremely high gun ownership and any other social factors from the dynamics of high school to the rhetoric of the hard right in the mix, and you've got a recipe for far more gun homicides than anywhere else in the world and lots of high profile massacres.

But whilst America has far more instances of this type of crime than anywhere else, it holds no monopoly on them or on other forms of desperate, tragic violence. Atomisation, alienation, poverty and the complete absence of hope are the inevitable results of capitalism. The backlash against that (conscious or subconscious) may be massacres, riots or suicides, but it will be there.

The real debate isn't whether we ban guns or whether we arm everyone to defend against the madmen lurking around every corner. It's how we build a real movement against the present conditions so that people's only option isn't to kill ourselves or each other.

Comments

Neon_Black

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Neon_Black on December 15, 2012

Interesting - and brave - article. Another contributory factor may be that US imperialism strongly promotes the idea that all grievances can be resolved with unilateral violence. This also ties in with notions of 'rugged individualism'.

Croy

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Croy on December 15, 2012

I was hoping some one would make an article in this vein and we have got it so good good :)

Wiggleston

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Wiggleston on December 16, 2012

I'm really glad you wrote this. I've struggled over in my mind for a while as to what I think about this issue. As an anarchist, as you state at the start, I could not agree with the state having a monopoly over violence, but I also found it hard to see how legalising weapons wouldn't just make the situation worse. This article has actually really helped me put this into perspective for me and look at the issue in a wider sense.
Thanks Phil

Y

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Y on December 16, 2012

I think the more unbridled and unfettered the social relations of wage labour are, the more mental illness will occur. I also think much mental illness is generated by the alienation from power each individual is likely exposed to through the maturation processes under the rule of Capital.

As far as the 'abused partner kills partner' scenario, I think it relates to what I said early on about U.S. society as a whole to wit: the more right-wing (conservative of keeping class domination and hierarchical political power a society) is, the more mental illness and violence will occur. You just have to adjust that statement from the general to the particular case of interpersonal relations at the familial level.

QUOTE: "To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you'll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don't forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years."How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

I'm not an anarchist so I can support the State imposing laws which would require period mental health checks for gun owners as is the case in Japan. And yes, I do support the abolition of wage labour, common ownership of the collective product of labour under grassroots democratic control with distribution of wealth base on human need, not sold to the highest bidder i.e. the marketplace for commodities.

radicalgraffiti

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on December 16, 2012

^ if there is any increase in class struggle you can be sure they will start calling unions and anything vaguely left wing extremist groups.

trafficJam

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by trafficJam on December 16, 2012

Minor correction: The name is not "Evan Harris". It is "Eric Harris".

Also, I take issue with the idea that Michael Moore was responsible for popularizing the Columbine tragedy. That's not really an accurate statement. For the sake of brevity, it sounds good, but truthfully, it's about as accurate as making the claim that Jay Leno popularized the Monice Lewinsky/Bill Clinton debacle. Doesn't quite ring correct, does it?

redsdisease

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redsdisease on December 16, 2012

Y

As far as the 'abused partner kills partner' scenario, I think it relates to what I said early on about U.S. society as a whole to wit: the more right-wing (conservative of keeping class domination and hierarchical political power a society) is, the more mental illness and violence will occur. You just have to adjust that statement from the general to the particular case of interpersonal relations at the familial level.

What about US society is particularly more "conservative of keeping class domination and hierarchical political power" than any other industrialized society. I agree that these things are a result of alienation, but I don't think you can simply say that public massacres happen more in the US because US society is more "right wing" (whatever that means) than Europe or whatever..

Y

I'm not an anarchist so I can support the State imposing laws which would require period mental health checks for gun owners as is the case in Japan.

I don't see how this is particularly relevant, the shooter didn't even own the guns.

Gregory A. Butler

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Gregory A. Butler on December 16, 2012

I live in New York City. We have the strictest gun laws in the nation.

You can't even attempt to legally buy a gun here unless the NY Police Department chooses to issue you a license.

For rifles and shotguns the license costs $ 240, for pistols $ 340, you have to get fingerprinted, you have to have a letter from everybody you live with saying they are cool with you being armed, you have to have a letter from somebody saying they will take your guns to the nearest police station if you die or are incapacitate and it is dumb easy to get denied a license.

Once you get licensed, you have to have a permit for every gun you own, ownership of certain types of guns (including the murder weapon in this incident, a Bushmaster .223 assault rifle), is absolutely forbidden here, you absolutely CANNOT, on pain of 1 year on Rikers Island, walk around with a gun unless you are a police officer, security guard or a businessperson who handles large sums of money and if you buy a gun on the black market you will get at least 3 years on Rikers Island.

In the wake of Friday's shooting, I'm glad we have those gun laws here.

That's why you never hear about that kind of senseless violence happening here.

We live in a federal republic, so every state has their own laws.

The State of Connecticut's gun laws are much weaker than ours, other states have gun laws that are even weaker than theirs.

Let's forget about ideology for a minute and deal with the ugly reality of murdered children.

We need New York City style gun control in every state in our country.

12,000 Americans were killed by guns last year and that is 12,000 too many.

60,000 Mexicans were murdered by guns purchased LEGALLY in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, states with pathetically weak gun laws - if those state's gun laws were civilized and sensible like New York City's are, those folks might still be alive.

Gregory A. Butler

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Gregory A. Butler on December 16, 2012

Also, this shooting isn't a mental health issue.

The murderer was the son of a General Electric executive.

He had top of the line health insurance - if he needed psychiatric help, he'd be able to pay for the best shrinks in the state.

However, his parents were gun nuts and had lots of automatic pistols and assault rifles around the house - including the murder weapons in this incident.

Redwinged Blackbird

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Redwinged Blackbird on December 16, 2012

^^"civilized" laws, lol.

Redwinged Blackbird

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Redwinged Blackbird on December 16, 2012

Also, this shooting isn't a mental health issue.

The murderer was the son of a General Electric executive.

He had top of the line health insurance - if he needed psychiatric help, he'd be able to pay for the best shrinks in the state.

However, his parents were gun nuts and had lots of automatic pistols and assault rifles around the house - including the murder weapons in this incident.

summary:

1. So you're saying it's not a mental health issue, because he had health insurance (which means he uses every aspect of it) and psychiatry is a cure-all for undesirable behavior?

2. Therefore, we can only conclude that the reason that this happened is because THERE WERE GUNS LAYING AROUND HIS PARENTS HOUSE.... So it's kinda like "the ring".... If you put the ring on (have guns at home) Dark Lord Sauron will take a hold of you and make you kill little hobbit children in the shire.

You're going to have to do better than that.

lomas

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lomas on December 16, 2012

America treats its citizens mercilessly. There's extreme inequality, entrenched racism, low social mobility. However the wide availability of guns is an independent contributing factor to gun homicide.

Banning guns works. After a massacre in Australia in 1996 assault rifles and pump action shot guns were banned and gun ownership tightly regulated. There had been 11 mass killings before 1996 and in the 16 years since there have been NONE. Gun murders are down and so are homicides generally, so people are not subsistuting other methods for murders they would have committed with guns.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 16, 2012

Alright everyone, let's keep it civilised. At the risk of sounding patronising, I really like to have people like Gregory on the site. I mean, he's not an anarchist, but he is here to engage with our politics which--as long as things are kept respectful on both sides--I think is a big part of the potential of libcom.

Anyway, I want to thank Phil for writing this. I agree very much with Wiggleston's first comment on the thread. (I also found Juan's posts on the forum thread on this topic where he talks about his workmates in warehouse interesting.)

I also think that there is a link between, as someone said, "the more unbridled and unfettered the social relations of wage labour are, the more mental illness will occur." But that's not the end-all be-all. I mean, one need only look to Brevik shooting in Norway to see that mass gun violence can occur even in countries where capitalism's worst effects are most ameliorated. Nor can gun violence be reduced to mental illness (as, according to the Norwegian courts, Brevik's case again highlights.)

But there is an American exceptionalism when it comes to gun violence. I don't think a singular explanation is ever sufficient for any type of social phenomenon and certainly things like economic inequality, easy access to guns, a general lack of solidarity within oppressed and exploited communities, and national ideology (i.e. rugged individualism, veneration of the second amendment) are all contributing factors.

But banning guns isn't a magic bullet (if you'll pardon the pun). Any restrictive laws will inevitably, eventually get used against us as the class struggle heats. I don't know the answer, but I know that it isn't to see the state as the solution to the problems created by capital.

As an aside, I know some mid-west US anarchist (in Kansas, perhaps?) who have tried to engage with the gun culture in those areas (liking guns themselves) by going to gun shows and tried to put forward a more class-based, libertarian argument forward. I don't know if that's a good idea or not, but they claimed to have quite a bit of success.

P.S. Gregory, I'm still slightly dissapointed you never responded further on the Wal-Mart strikes (towards the bottom of this page).

bastarx

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bastarx on December 16, 2012

Chili, Brevik was in Norway not Iceland.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 16, 2012

Shit, thanks.

You knows those Scandanavians, they all look the same ;)

Phil

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Phil on December 16, 2012

trafficJam

Minor correction: The name is not "Evan Harris". It is "Eric Harris".

Cheers, changed.

trafficJam

Also, I take issue with the idea that Michael Moore was responsible for popularizing the Columbine tragedy. That's not really an accurate statement. For the sake of brevity, it sounds good, but truthfully, it's about as accurate as making the claim that Jay Leno popularized the Monice Lewinsky/Bill Clinton debacle. Doesn't quite ring correct, does it?

Fair point. I meant more that he drew a closer attention to it beyond the stuff normally trotted out by the media circus, but I get the issue.

Phil

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Phil on December 16, 2012

Gregory A. Butler

That's why you never hear about that kind of senseless violence happening here.

Okay, there might not be the specific instance of school massacres (as there hasn't been in the UK since Dunblane and the handgun ban), but there's still gun homicide. According to these stats, it's 2.64 per 100,000, so less than the national average of 2.84. But 517 out of 860 homicides in 2010 were still gun homicides and that's up 7% from 2009.

Now, I made the point myself that increased gun ownership inevitably means increased gun homicides. But in the absence of guns if people want to murder other people they will find a way to do it. Gun control is not a catch-all solution. Root causes need to be addressed.

doug

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by doug on December 16, 2012

As an anarchist, it should go without saying that I don't subscribe to the position that if only the state bans more things the problem will go away. Whether it's a social right like abortion, recreational products like drugs and alcohol or something as problematic as guns, it's generally true that prohibition doesn't work.

It's not about it 'going away', as you rightly point out massacres and gun crime can still happen even where gun legislation exists. Rather, it's about making an appreciable difference. The case of Norway was shocking not only because of the number of people who were killed but because gun crime is generally unknown. Overall, it would be hard to argue that banning or controlling hand and assault weapons doesn't lead to, at least in the vast majority of places, fewer gun deaths. Comparing the US with Switzerland isn't helpful because the Swiss have a very different set up, militia system and culture. They also have recently passed gun legislation anyway.

So where does that leave our stance as anarchists? In terms of abortion we want to force the state to defend reproductive rights and we'd generally want more liberal alcohol and drugs legislation. But even the state banning negative things can be a good thing. I've come across some anarchists who suggest, because in effect it increases state powers, that the smoking ban in public places wasn't a good thing. In reality, by any medical standard it has been positive to people's health and it's meant that workers aren't force to inhale smoke in their workplaces. In a free and rational society we wouldn't allow people's habits to harm the health of others, nor in my opinion, should we allow incredibly dangerous weapons to be widely available and used.

This is essentially a liberal demand but it's actually compatible with a class struggle position. I also don't hold the view that the common ownership of guns would benefit working class people in bringing about social change. What actually happens, as in the US, is that the police and state are even more violent and aggressive in suppressing organising. We will have to defend the revolution but our main weapon will be the social strike. It is entirely impossible to out-arm the US government.

Phil

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Phil on December 16, 2012

doug

I also don't hold the view that the common ownership of guns would benefit working class people in bringing about social change. What actually happens, as in the US, is that the police and state are even more violent and aggressive in suppressing organising. We will have to defend the revolution but our main weapon will be the social strike. It is entirely impossible to out-arm the US government.

This begs the question of how we defend the revolution. After all, if the state gets more aggressive in the face of common ownership of guns, it also gets more aggressive in the face of organising and struggle that threatens the existing social order. The US has historical form when it comes to the military shooting strikers and shoot outs between pickets and soldiers. There are incidents of similar in the UK, for that matter. If struggle reaches such a height again, the state restricting access to guns can only leave workers more open to being massacred.

Sophie Ziv

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sophie Ziv on December 16, 2012

I think given the massive scale of armament of the US government we're really talking about expropriation of weaponry come the revolution. Even a fully armed working class (which is thus constantly killing off other members of the working class, let's be honest about who suffers the most from gun violence in the States) can't really oppose nuclear armament and tanks.

I appreciate the thought that has gone into this article and many of the comments. I disagree with the article's conclusion. I think concluding that there isn't much to be done about gun violence until we overthrow capitalism is a bit of a cop-out, especially considering how very clear the difference in gun deaths for the States and the UK (for instance) is. I don't think gun regulation will solve the problem, but it obviously, obviously helps to limit it for now. Root causes absolutely need to be addressed, and I think there is a lot else that we can do to limit gun violence, but continued deregulation and less involvement from the State is exactly what the NRA wants, which makes me hella suspicious of it as a conclusion. The very real possibility of concealed handguns in primary schools makes me sick to my stomach.

"in the absence of guns if people want to murder other people they will find a way to do it"

It's way, way easier for people who are angry and suicidal to take a bunch of people with them if they have easy access to machine guns than it is if they don't.

"It may be harder for Americans to associate mass murder, especially of children, with the effects of class and capitalism"

No, we get it. At least Chilli Sauce and I seem to. We're just as clever as youse who were born here. :-)

Chilli Sauce

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 16, 2012

I think given the massive scale of armament of the US government we're really talking about expropriation of weaponry come the revolution

That's actually a really interesting point. To add, if we're talking about a revolutionary situation, the military is going to have to come on-side (I tend not to hold out as much hope for the police--although American history has seen instances of the police refusing orders and fraternizing with strikers).

No, we get it. At least Chilli Sauce and I seem to. We're just as clever as youse who were born here.

Ah, but I was born in the States (which is not to say that we're not clever ;) ).

Joseph Kay

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on December 16, 2012

some disjointed thoughts...

- this book apparently argues such shootings are a post-Reagan, i.e. neoliberal, phenomenon, of stress and alienation having no/fewer available collective outlets. I haven't read it, but these kind of shootings do seem to be a relatively recent development, which would require an explanation.

- that said, i'm not sure how quickly we can group all these shootings into a unitary pheonomenon. intuitively, they fit into the category of live televised horror-spectacle. but can we really assume that self-consciously political mass murders like Breivik or Marc Lépine are 'the same' kind of event as e.g., people who were bullied shooting up the place of the trauma? I don't know, there might be a deeper commonality, but I think we should be wary of too hasty a generalisation.

- Related to this, do we include state mass shootings like Kent State or that cop who over-zealously opened up on a busy street in NYC recently? If we care about such incidents, why do the survivors typically get little/shoddy psycho-social care? Perhaps it's specifically the spectacular nature of these incidents that unites them, and raises their prominence compared to say, violence against women, which boringly claims far more lives on an everyday basis. This Charlie Brooker short suggests media coverage is itself causal in the phenomenon.

- Why it it always dudes? (is it always dudes?) In the reflexive rush to talk about gun control, nobody talks about the relationship between masculinity and violence, and/or masculinity and the expectation of power which fails to materialise (maybe Lépine is emblematic here - expressly blaming 'feminism' for frustrated entitlement). Schools are a pretty violent place.

- We need to be very careful with making any link to mental illness. afaik there's rarely any evidence cited here, it's just an assumption that killers must be 'mental'. in actual fact, violence and murder is pretty banal and committed by 'normal', 'healthy' people, e.g. lots of violence against women, or on an industrial, robotic scale by the state (drone massacres etc). mental health problems are endemic in our society but i'm very wary of attributing murderous violence to them. i mean what Breivik did was a perfectly sane enactment of white supremacist ideology. sure, in order to do something like that you need to massively repress empathy/become a sociopath, but that's both 'normal' military training, and arguably over-identified masculinity ('real men don't have emotions' etc).

Sophie Ziv

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Sophie Ziv on December 16, 2012

"Ah, but I was born in the States (which is not to say that we're not clever )."

lol I know, we've met! I'm from the States as well. :-)

Hieronymous

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Hieronymous on December 16, 2012

A friend forwarded this blog post:

Quote from Yankee Farmer:
"What we might want to do is try to figure out why so many young men in their 20's are going batshit crazy."

Let's see:

• Brought up watching television
• Plays violent video games for hours on end
• Parents feed him Ritalin or anti-psychotics for "ADHD" when he's in fifth grade at the request of the school and/or pharma representative doctor.
• Parents move on from Ritalin to Zoloft. When that doesn't work, they ween him off the Zoloft and put him on Wellbutrin. That's a failure so he's now told to take a pill cocktail of Lexepro and Prozac. The cocktail is barely working and the son now has suicidal ideation. The parents cannot afford 200 dollars a psychiatrist/therapist session therefore they go to the local clinic but run into a major snag. While getting the medication is easy and cheap, they'll have to wait four to six months before their son can get face to face therapy.
• Bullied and tormented by fellow students while the teachers and principal do nothing to stop it
• Is surrounded by a culture of constant over-stimulation (tv everywhere, music everywhere, sonic silence rare), consumer emptiness and unforgivably merciless and stupid people.
• He only contacts his few friends through facebook chat and seldom sees sunlight; seldom goes out to do anything at all.
• He's on his Iphone nearly 24/7. In the classroom; on the bus; walking the street; at the dinnertable with his parents (as his parents watch the television and have a silent dinner together)
• Doesn't know about nature and doesn't care about it at all. He's completely detached from the natural world. Social and environmental alienation is total.
• Lives in the burbs so any natural interaction with fellow humans is impossible. The neighborhood is lifeless, he doesn't know his neighbors let alone anybody on the block and must either bum a ride or drive to his friend's house. He's stuck in a cycle of death; one that mimics his parents' cycle of death. Wake up, go to school, see the ass end of traffic, go home, maybe see the ass end of traffic again to get to another isolated house in the burbs, go back home, watch the ominous blue glows of televisions at night when passing houses in your neighborhood, park, sleep. He better not dare go outside the narrow confines of the law lest he get beaten up or tazed. Stick with the cycle of death, Sonny boy or face the never ending consequences. Just because we, your parents, went wild in the 70s/80s and now you can't because of 9/11 doesn't mean you should resent us...

Just a few thoughts, barely scraping the surface, on why so many young men are very, very disturbed. The ones who say they don't understand how such an event could happen should really shut the fuck up and look around for a change. Mass incarceration doesn't stop at 2.2 million in this glorified penal colony.

EastTexasRed

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EastTexasRed on December 16, 2012

Joseph Kay

- Why it it always dudes? (is it always dudes?)

Not absolutely certain about this, but wasn't it a girl who shot schoolkids in San Diego or LA in the case that was made famous by the Boomtown Rats' song I Don't Like Mondays? An example of alienation and how it brutalises people by dulling empathy and promoting the self?

nana

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by nana on December 16, 2012

Chilli Sauce

Shit, thanks.

You knows those Scandanavians, they all look the same ;)

Also, Iceland is not part of Scandinavia..

R. Spourgitis

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R. Spourgitis on December 16, 2012

First put this on other thread but meant it for here

So I shared the article this quote comes from on fb, but took it down when some friends pointed out the extremely fucked up history of this particular author, Hugo Schwyzer (google that shit). Anyway, I'm going to share this quote from a piece he did following the Colorado movie theater shooting over the summer, though I have issues with it I do think it gets at something being discussed here, that is, why so often these particular males:

It’s not that white men are more violent. Rates of domestic violence, including homicide, are roughly the same across all ethnic groups. Statistically, murderers are more likely to kill family members and intimate partners than strangers. But while men from all backgrounds kill their spouses, affluent white men are disproportionately represented in the ranks of our most infamous mass murderers. In other words, the less privileged you are, the less likely you are to take your violence outside of your family and your community.

White men from prosperous families grow up with the expectation that our voices will be heard. We expect politicians and professors to listen to us and respond to our concerns. We expect public solutions to our problems. And when we’re hurting, the discrepancy between what we’ve been led to believe is our birthright and what we feel we’re receiving in terms of attention can be bewildering and infuriating. Every killer makes his pain another’s problem. But only those who’ve marinated in privilege can conclude that their private pain is the entire world’s problem with which to deal. This is why, while men of all races and classes murder their intimate partners, it is privileged young white dudes who are by far the likeliest to shoot up schools and movie theaters.

For another view on US gun culture, this piece is a good one, and is a fascinating personal reflection from a veteran revolutionary. And I think this article also demonstrates how the prevalence of guns here goes back a long ways and I agree that this alone or even primarily can not be a determining factor here.

Surely, it's a complicated issue wrapped up in availability of weapons, psychological alienation and a culture of male aggression and emotional suppression (among other things), but you can't separate out the history of the profiles of these mass killers from the acts themselves or the means to commit them. Similarly, when talking about gun control here in the US, you can't separate out the history of racism and intra-class division that goes with it.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 16, 2012

nana

Chilli Sauce

Shit, thanks.

You knows those Scandanavians, they all look the same ;)

Also, Iceland is not part of Scandinavia..

No shit? Man, I can't win.

I guess "all those Nordics* look alike"

I always thought Iceland got lumped in with the Scandanavian countries. Ah, blame my American education.

*Yeah, I know, it's probably not a word.

SamEdi

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SamEdi on December 17, 2012

"Mental illness" is being used as an excuse for what happened as if it were an induvidual's problem. The way I see it is more like a nationwide collective psychosis. His mother, a retired primary school teacher, had two handguns and an M4 rifle. There is an apparent escalation of firepower in the US which is beginning to resemble the Cold War's arms race. And we already know that the arms race was created by psychopaths!

commieprincess

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by commieprincess on December 17, 2012

I don't know how well thought out or accurate this is, but it seems like white murderers are often portreyed as 'psychopaths', as an anomaly. Whereas when it's Asian or black murderers there's usually some underlying message that Asian and black cultures are causes in themselves of why people are murderers - ie "honour killings", suicide bombs, infantacide because of a belief in witches and voodoo or whatever, "gang violence" etc. It's portreyed as a normal part of Asian and black culture - those murderers aren't one off psychos, that's just an inevitable part of their culture.

Plus, you're very unlikely to ever be affected by a one off psycho, whereas entire cultures are presented as breeding grounds for heartless criminals on the street.

Bah! This is badly written, just speakin' my brains.

EastTexasRed

11 years 4 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by EastTexasRed on December 17, 2012

Re the idea of alienation, saw this article (translated from Der Spiegel) which to me pretty neatly depicts the process of alienation in the case of one particular US drone operator:

The Woes of An American Drone Operator

Obviously not from a class perspective. Can't say for sure that the psyches of drone operators and those of gun killers are necessarily the same, but there is definitely something there.

R. Spourgitis

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by R. Spourgitis on December 18, 2012

Having time to read the above posts more carefully, I have to say that I don't think a lot of people posting on here quite appreciate how deeply seated gun culture is in the US. That's not a value judgement in being a good or bad thing, it simply is what it is. To an extent, no amount of legislation is really going to substantially change that.

By one estimate in 2009 there are 310 MILLION firearms in the US. Easily, several (tens of?) million of these would qualify in some form of "assault weapon" category, which reviving some kind of ban on these is heralded as the most far-reaching and profound form of gun control. And indeed, we're seeing some clamor for that over here now. In reality, this only effects actual cost and new production or importation of certain rifles on the market, existing ones wouldn't vanish, and the actual numbers of gun-related deaths and crime committed with "military-style" rifles are quite statistically minute. In '94, when Clinton instituted this ban, it had to grandfather in the more than one million at the time, that or institute some kind of gun round-up or making people guilty of felony charges overnight -- not one aspect of which would be thinkable then, probably even less now. If you top off this with the recent trend for legislation, including supreme court decisions, state and federal level initiatives, the last several years has actually seen a steady decline in restrictions of gun ownership and the ability to carry them concealed in public, even. I think what's probably more realistic is that there may be a few more state and local restrictions, possibly a stronger criminal background check to purchase.

But say you implemented any of these types of things, chances are people like the CT, Portland shooters last week, the white supremacist Page in Milwaukee earlier this year, or the CO movie theater shootings would have had the same access. Two of them did not themselves own the guns they used. 3 of 4 had no criminal background, and this is only a small sample of this years' mass murderers. It's worth mentioning that Columbine happened right in the middle of the assault weapon ban period.

In my earlier post I included two links to the history of gun control and gun rights in the US, and how they are so intertwined with racial oppression and intra-class division, they are both solid class struggle pieces on this issue that I would recommend reading for those interested in the subject. If we're keeping in mind who guns are used against, we should also keep in mind who gun control laws are used against: http://libcom.org/library/racist-roots-gun-control-clayton-e-cramer and http://libcom.org/history/gun-rights-are-civil-rights

Any kind of sweeping ban like has been cited in UK, Australia, etc. is just simply unimaginable here. In fact, we'd probably see a frightening explosion in the patriot/soveriegnist/klan/neo-nazi formations as a result, which have already been burgeoning in recent years.

And so that gets into one more thing I want to mention, which is that I don't think posters from elsewhere quite realize (or fellow US posters aren't paying attention to) how we have a far right so armed to the teeth it truly is startling. There's a lot to this history and it's a big and complex subject in its own right, e.g. targeting of leftists, state's complicity with this, the question of self defense, but this gets a bit off-topic. I do think this element of a nasty, well-armed far right is overlooked by the US left.

For some recent bourgeois press reading on the issue:
http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/14/world/americas/analysis-connecticut-shooting-mann/index.html?hpt=hp_inthenews
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/opinion/the-gun-challenge-second-amendment.html?ref=opinion&_r=0
http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/09/politics/btn-guns-in-america/index.html

Joseph Kay

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on December 18, 2012

Joseph Kay

Why it it always dudes? (is it always dudes?) In the reflexive rush to talk about gun control, nobody talks about the relationship between masculinity and violence

Fwiw, this is apparently an advert for the weapon used in the shootings:

Chilli Sauce

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 18, 2012

Fuck...

Croy

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Croy on December 19, 2012

Indeed, that's one of the most horrible ads Ive ever seen.

RGBlack

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RGBlack on December 28, 2012

Gun culture is certainly a huge part of this debacle. I found the most insightful analysis of Bowling for Columbine to be the relationship between the towns economy, which was mostly dependent on a Lockheed Martin weapons factory, and the acceptance of guns (and thus violence) of the residents. The issue of personal gun ownership is almost trivial compared to global militarization. Until the US, UK, China, Russia and every other county with a huge military gives up their spyplanes, cctvs, tanks, aircraft carriers, nuclear missiles, fast food and other violence machines, people are going to continue going apeshit.

Chilli Sauce

11 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on December 31, 2012

That's a good point.

In university I remember seeing a long-term historical sociological study some years ago that determined the number one correlation for violence in a given society is whether that country was at war. Considering America has basically been at constanst war for the last century....

Ivysyn

7 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ivysyn on September 6, 2016

Very helpful.