Heartbreak

America's Gun Lust Is Literally Killing Us

Photo: Niyazz / Shutterstock
photo of gun on american flag

Not more than a week removed from a white supremacist butchering 10 people in a Buffalo supermarket, America faces another grim tragedy as 19 children and two adults were slaughtered Tuesday in a Uvalde, TX elementary school.

And while the reasons for these unspeakable crimes are disparate, what binds them is the underlying infection that plagues this country from the inner cities, down through suburbia, onto the heartland, and from rustbelt to coast to coast, from sea to shining sea: our unyielding, endless lust for guns.

The American affinity for firearms is tied to this country’s very founding, which none of you need a history lesson on, because versions of it have been bickered over and even its place as part of the second amendment of the United States Constitution is considered both sacrosanct and utterly flawed. But it is there, and we continue to deal with that fact every time the news alerts us to yet another senseless tragedy. 

RELATED: There Have Already Been 203 Mass Shootings In 2022 — Are Guns The Problem Yet?

Growing up in the Midwest, guns existed as a standard. Whether it was the endless streams of gun stores, or television commercials featuring the late Don Davis, owner of Don’s Guns in Indianapolis, IN, whose famous motto was “Folks, I’m not here to make money, I just love to sell guns,” always punctuated with a mechanical laugh and enthusiastic finger gun salute.

Seeing a white-haired old man with a goatee in a seemingly tailored suit gave the dirty business of guns an air of class and refinement, in the most unrefined way. Don Davis didn’t just love to sell guns, he loved to sell guns as a pimp would sell a prostitute: he was selling a fantasy. One might suspect that were it possible, Davis would’ve sold gun holsters made of fishnet and lace. 

Despite gun store owners turning weapons of death into pseudosexual fetishes, there’s nothing enjoyable about a gun, nor should there be. Guns are designed to kill dispassionately. Whether it is an animal or a human being, using a gun should be a regrettable last resort. What has so broken humanity that the taking of life brings any level of pleasure? 

Our desire for guns boils down to a desire to kill, and that makes us lesser creatures, period.

Certainly, the first to belch out a defense might be the self-titled sportsmen, the hunters. For them, gun ownership is a sacred rite passed from father to son, harkening to a time when men had to shoot whatever protein was going to fill their bellies and warm their backs for a hard life of manual labor indicative of a far less developed time in history. 

Moral judgment aside, while there is nothing illegal about hunting, accidents still happen because guns are dangerous tools and people, often, are careless. It seems at times as if gun lust supersedes gun safety. Let’s briefly look at some basic statistics:

The U.S. has in circulation, more than 300 million guns. Even if that number is conservative in estimate, that’s more than one for every man, woman, and child in the country. All of us. Because we have that many guns out there in the world, it stands to reason that there would be many incidents where guns would do their intended job in horrifically unintended ways. 

But that’s the argument, isn’t it?

You know the old song and dance, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” And each time that flaccid canard is flopped out, it’s never followed up with the incontrovertible fact that guns exist solely to expedite the act of killing. They don’t exist to be shiny; they don’t exist to be pretty; they don’t exist to look cool in a Christmas card photo. Guns exist to kill efficiently. 

But to sell guns, to make sure we got to that one gun for every citizen metric, we had to develop a lust for guns, and those chickens have since come home to roost in the deadliest of ways, on our most vulnerable of citizens: our children. 

While it is expected that we have these sorts of conversations each time another mass shooting occurs, especially when the loss of life is young, the usual handwringing and bellowing of thoughts and prayers only ever end with one result: more funerals.

But in the time between tragedies, we never discuss how guns upend our daily lives unless it’s about the mythical hellhole and dog-whistle scapegoat to conservatives: the city of Chicago. Of course, what they never say is while gun violence is pervasive in inner cities, they are almost always loath to discuss the reasons that inner cities turn into war zones — because that would require them to discuss their own culpability. 

Those in power will also never discuss the fact that roughly more than half the number of gun fatalities are suicides because that would require them to answer to the fact that the leading cause of suicide for military veterans is death by a gunshot wound, further requiring them to discuss their own culpability. Or more to the point, gross negligence in ensuring veterans who return home from combat have the care they need to not become disposable statistics after their time on the battlefield is at an end.

What politicians will do, however, is celebrate guns. 

Just as Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrings his own hands about the state’s latest gun-related tragedy, we are reminded of his 2015 tweet, while serving as a public official, lamenting that Texas was ranked second in gun sales to that liberal hive of scum and villainy known as California.

To men in power like Greg Abbott, the only thing that can save society is more guns. 

However, the data says differently. Available data suggest that every home that has a gun in it raises the likelihood that someone in that home will die of suicide or homicide, more often accidental than intentional.

Advertisement Is your relationship worth fighting for? Rebuild your relationship with the help of a therapist. Get started here with 20% off.

And yet, our lust for guns continues.

Even now, as the parents claim the perforated and mangled bodies of their precious children for burial, more time is spent on defending the right to bear arms than it is to save children, and this is from the so-called pro-life contingent. 

RELATED: How Buffalo Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Took Inspiration Directly From Republican Politicians

It cannot be made simpler: one cannot be pro-life and pro-gun. 

No one should ever be pro-anything when it comes to weapons of death. It’s foolish to think or even suggest that America can follow in the footsteps of nations like Australia, which enacted a moderately successful gun buyback program in the wake of a mass shooting because Americans are infected with gun lust. 

As long as our infatuation with firearms exists, people will die. Fathers will die, mothers will die, siblings will die, and children will continue to die. The stark reality is that we will continue to feed our loved ones the gun so long as we continue to treat guns as loved ones. 

So how do we fix any of this? Well, it’s certainly not by just banning guns, even though this has become a public health issue. Taking something away from someone who feels an attachment to it.

Even this week, white nationalist opportunist and blowhard Tucker Carlson said something during his program that was far truer than his usual lies: if guns were banned, there would be civil war. There is no earthly way to make 300 million guns disappear without some manner of bloodshed, and frankly, saving lives is the point. 

In this writer’s humble estimation, the only way to end this public health crisis is to reverse course and undo the very thing that made guns sexy in the first place: the public image of guns. 

The first way would be the simplest: End the glorification of guns in entertainment in all its forms. No more guns are featured in films, TV, or games outside of a historical context. That may feel hypocritical to allow guns in war movies or westerns, but not in action movies.

Guns never looked cool in war but seeing The Rock or Arnold Schwarzenegger before him leap through the screen with an Uzi in hand is largely the gateway drug towards gun lust. Making guns unglamorous is essential to ending that lust.

RELATED: ‘See You Tomorrow Oxford’: Ethan Crumbley’s Threatening Social Media Posts Ahead Of Michigan Shooting

After that, it gets a little harder, but still doable in a sane and sensible society (which we are not, but let’s talk about it anyway). We must get serious about mental health in this country. There are thousands of disturbed individuals out there who live as human time bombs with access to guns as a detonator. Few of these people have criminal records because their first heinous act is usually their last, so buying a gun is way easier than it should be. 

But beyond the potential killers. We must get serious about mental health to protect those who might harm themselves instead. As previously mentioned, there are twice as many suicides by gun as homicides, so until there is a concerted effort towards effective suicide prevention among at-risk individuals, more suicides will continue, and guns will be the trusted tool, simply because it’s the fastest.

Lastly, if we want to have even a chance at stemming this public health crisis, we must place more responsibilities upon gun owners, not less.

All legal gun owners should be bonded and/or carry liability insurance. The government has long since enacted laws mandating auto insurance and now in many areas renter’s insurance, so it stands to reason that someone freely buying weapons of death should bear some financial responsibility in their maintenance, possession, and care. 

Some may look at that as a punishment for legal ownership, but the power to take lives demands responsibility not to be reckless.

None of the aforementioned suggestions calls for confiscating a single firearm, nor does it call for the cessation of manufacturing of guns, even if that is preferable, which it absolutely would be. What the suggestions intend is to place such a solemn weight on gun ownership that it makes it onerous for some to even own guns at all. 

RELATED: ‘We’re Not An Outlier On Mental Illness’ — Senator Murphy Begs For Honesty About The Real Cause Of Mass Shootings

That’s how things change. When guns are treated like the necessary evil they are, there will be less of a desire to have so many of them, and maybe then we can see some light at the end of this dark and depressing tunnel of needless death. 

Maybe, but don't hold your breath.

Hashim R. Hathaway is a freelance writer and videographer in Washington D.C. Owner of the Never Daunted Radio Network, his work can be found at neverdaunted.net.

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!