Two things happened in the last week: 17 students at a Florida high school were killed by a 19 year old; and the policeman who killed Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old black woman with schizophrenia, in her own apartment, was acquitted of wrongdoing. Both of these situations involved someone with a gun killing someone who did not have a gun.
Both of these events were very upsetting to me, as was much of the response to them. If you are a member of that poorly defined group “people with mental illness” and are feeling isolated, stigmatized, and afraid for your own life right now in a culture where 1) all gun violence is blamed on “people with mental illness”, and 2) gun violence committed against a person with mental illness is considered totally fine, I see you and I’m right there with you.
I don’t want to write this post, but I feel I have to say something. It will probably be disorganized, because my brain is disorganized right now. I have so many thoughts about this, it’s hard to say anything. I’m furious for all the children who’ve been killed or traumatized by a school shooting; I’m furious for Deborah Danner and her family and all the mentally ill people who’ve been killed or traumatized by police violence; I’m terrified for my own child who is in a public school as I’m writing this. The fact that he’s so young makes little difference; who’s to say the next shooting won’t take place at a preschool?
A stranger came up to me a few days ago in a parking lot and asked if I would support armed security guards in schools. I said I would not. I don’t think more guns is the solution to this problem. I know that seeing an armed guard walking around my son’s school would make me feel less safe, not more safe.
I do support the teenagers who are marching and staging lie-ins right now to advocate for gun control, and I hope that in the future, they will be part of a movement to take back the government from the NRA and corporations and politicians.
“But you claim to be an anarchist! We can’t let the government have all the guns!” Excuse me, our government has nuclear weapons. Nobody with any number of semi-automatic rifles is going to win an armed conflict with the government.
This is what happens with violence, is that it escalates, and it escalates, and it escalates. You arm yourself, your opponent gets bigger and scarier weapons. So you get bigger and scarier weapons, and your opponent does too. That path leads to violence and death, not a just society. Those of us with radical ideals need to look for other, more subversive means.
No, I am not for more and more guns. I am not for unregulated, individualist vigilante “justice”, nor am I for a militarized police force without accountability to the people among whom they move. I do not support a registry of mentally ill people as a way to determine who can own a gun, and I do not support your second amendment right at all costs.
Part of this problem is a problem of trust. We all feel it, I think. I certainly do. We don’t trust each other. We don’t trust our neighbors. We don’t trust our government. Therefore, many people feel that they need guns in order to defend themselves against each other.
In a just society, I think, all gun users would be accountable to their communities. The guns would be communally owned, and the local community would decide which individuals might use them. The community would decide: the people that know each person, and are at risk for being shot by each person, would make that choice as a group, and would bear the consequences of their choice.
In this vision, any police that existed would also be gun users accountable to their communities. If a policeman used a gun in a way that his community – not a judge – considered irresponsible, he would at the very least not be allowed to use a gun anymore.
If we could build strong, self-regulated, self-governing communities with shared political and economic power, how might our relationship to guns be different?