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On guns, thoughts and prayers, and the value of American lives

October 4th, 2017

America’s Declaration Of Independence has, it would appear, a fair bit of small print that tends to be glossed over. Just as Jefferson’s “all men are created equal” line has an invisible asterisk next to it leading to a footnote saying “except for my slaves,” there is, also, it appears, another asterisk by Jefferson’s assertion that life is foremost among the liberties self-evidently bestowed on all men by their creator, with the accompanying footnote “Second Amendment notwithstanding.” Which is odd, because the Bill Of Rights wasn’t written for another thirteen years.

But it’s increasingly clear that no American can assume that a right to life is fundamental, that instead the right to keep and bear arms will always trump that right. And it’s increasingly clear that Americans are quite fine with this. Another several dozen dead at the hands of a murderous, and absurdly well-armed, wanker are proof that Americans really do seem to think that owning guns is a more fundamental and important right than being able to stay safely alive.

Almost as the echoes of gunfire are still sounding in Las Vegas, the procession of “thoughts and prayers” tweets and messages started, as it always does. Thoughts and prayers are with [insert latest city to be victim of a mass shooting], we read, thoughts and bloody prayers, as though magical thinking will make it all better.

It won’t. But it’s easy to tweet “thoughts and prayers,” that vapid, platitudinous, virtue-signalling empty meaninglessness that makes the tweeter feel so much better without having to address the problem at hand. The problem, for the record, is that so far this year — this year, that’s barely three-quarters over — there have been over 260 (It’s entirely possible that I lost count; the numbers are staggering in their obscenity) deaths in mass shootings in America. That’s deaths; injuries are an order of magnitude greater in number. And this number doesn’t include the sixty or so dead in the worst shooting in years in the United States, the one that took place in Las Vegas recently.

No other developed country has shootings, and shooting deaths, at this rate — no other developed country even comes close. No other developed country can even begin to imagine this rate of gun violence; not other developed country can comprehend why Americans are willing to tolerate it.

And yet tolerate it they do. The problem is talked past — it’s terrorism if a brown man (and yes, it’s always a man) does it; it’s a mental-health problem if the shooter is white, or it’s “pure evil,” as the “president” profoundly and insightfully explained, but whatever it is, it’s a uniquely American problem; it is simply impossible to dismiss as coincidence the facts that you’re 25 times more likely to be murdered with a gun in America than in other developed countries, and that there are 88 guns per 100 people in the country (by far the highest rate in the entire world; the second highest is Yemen, with less than 55 per 100).

America is full of guns. America has absurdly laissez-faire gun laws. Americans die from shootings at a rate that beggars belief for an allegedly developed country. And every time another gun atrocity happens, every time another murderer decides that he wants to be a particularly efficient murderer, out come the readily-available guns. And then the platitudes follow, the thoughts and prayers, the utter lack of any meaningful action.

Some politicians talk a good game. Eric Swalwell, a California Republican member of the House of Representatives, wrote a moving “Thoughts and prayers just aren’t enough” opinion piece in the Guardian this week, but for all his calls for action in Congress, he appears never to have proposed legislation that would do anything more than simple thoughts and prayers.

But of course he hasn’t. He’d be out of his 15th District seat in no time, because Americans would, ideally, prefer that there weren’t any gun deaths, but they’re not willing to, you know, prevent them, because that would be hard. Like a morbidly obese man who knows he needs to lose a monstrous amount of weight before his poor little heart just finally explodes from the exertion of keeping him alive, but just has to have another pie before breakfast, America knows that giving up guns would stop gun deaths, but it won’t, because it really, really, really wants its guns.

And so gun deaths are “the price of freedom,” said baboon’s scrotum filled with pus and put in a suit Bill O’Reilly on his website (no, I bloody well won’t link directly to it). 59 people dead is “the big downside of American freedom.” Seriously, that’s his exact, hateful, loathsome words. He insists that “The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection;” as we’ve seen, then, the Second Amendment trumps everything, including rights self-evidently granted by God. I want O’Reilly to show up to every single funeral that results from the Las Vegas shooting. I want this foghorn of hatred and imbecility to say to the families of each of the victims, as the bodies are being lowered into the ground, “Sorry for your loss and all, but, you know, price of freedom and all that.” I want him to explain that those people — the mourners’ children, brothers, sisters, parents, friends — had to die so that Bill, bless him, could keep his gun. I want him to explain to them that his right to keep and bear arms was more important than those 59 people’s right to life.

And I want every American to write to their Congressmen and women, and demand that the law be changed. If you want a quick guide to what could — should — be done, then just click here; I’ll wait. And be ready to give up your guns. Because if you’re not, then you’re admitting that your gun is more important than my life. Af you insist that “if you make criminalise guns, then only criminals will have guns,” then your tautological little argument could hardly be weaker if you insisted that he who smelt it dealt it.

So lower all the flags you want. Send all the thoughts and prayers you want. But, America and Americans, until you start actually doing something meaningful, something sweeping, something uncomfortable, until you actually give up your guns, this will, I guarantee, continue to happen, and the civilised world will have less and less sympathy for a country that clearly, evidently, demonstrably values guns more than it values its own citizens.

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