Destroy All Guns Now!!! But can we?
“After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.” – William S. Burroughs
Following the recent shooting in Newtown, CT many have come forward to demand the elimination of gun ownership in our country. Interestingly, this debate surrounding the politics of gun control and the recent indictment of OOO and its proximity to capitalism have intersected over at Ecology Without Nature. Even before the most recent shooting, Morton was advocating a specifically OOO political response to such events. In the this post, Morton wrote the following under the title “Nonhuman Agency“:
“A gun, not a person, killed a 7-year-old boy outside a gun store yesterday near to Pittsburgh. The father’s gun. “Guns don’t kill people,” right? I’m not just making a point. OOO has political implications. Nonhumans are already on the inside of social space.”
I expressed my confusion (in the comments) about what this could possibly mean in relation to the gun. Following the shooting on Friday (and as a partial response to my query), Morton wrote this under the title “Guns and Philosophy“:
“A gun is a tool. Tools withdraw from total access. Therefore they can do things that you don’t want them to do…Your psychopathic son can take these guns, kill you, and then go on a rampage. You did not consciously intend this. Tools are withdrawn from total access. They can do things that surprise me. Therefore it would be best severely to limit the number of guns I can own, and their type. Assuming that is, that we decide that it is best if some people should have some access to guns at all.”
But how will the guns become aware of our laws. Mustn’t we destroy all guns. Melt them down as Morton suggests via XTC. But if they are withdrawn from us, how are we to do this? How can we be sure that the gun’s guns most dangerous reality not survive the smelter and the press? Is it not to late? My God, if they have agency, are we not already dead?
Of course, all of this ridiculous. I asked for clarification on how guns could have agency and what I got was, “they can surprise you.” This is not clarification but further confusion. The guns in shooting in Newtown and that in the parking lot at a gun store, did nothing surprising. They did not withdraw. Instead, the guns did exactly what they were built to do. The gun provided a mechanism that allowed for the firing cap to explode and then provided a pathway (adding spin to the projectile for accuracy) for that piece of metal, itself manufactured to do exactly what it did. That people died because of this is not a surprise, but themselves acted exactly as one would expect something (or someone) to act when acted upon a force of greater power. My point in all of this is not to dismiss the tragedy of these and many other shootings but to simply point out that there is no mystery here.
Morton’s OOO is conceptually bankrupt here as it provides little in the way of insight and (worse yet) is contradicted by his own responses to the shooting. So when Morton criticizes American media coverage of violence by saying “When I arrived here in the US, in 1992, I was stunned by the dehumanized ambience of gun violence reporting: ‘Shots rang out,'” is he not contradicting his earlier statement on the agency of the gun. Would “Shots rang out” be the proper response in a word where guns withdrawal from the world around them and have their own agency?
Furthermore, this withdrawal nonsense prevents a more intellectual discussion of the role of economics in gun deaths. Instead of asking how the withdrawal of the gun impacted the death of any individual perhaps we should ask what role the poverty caused by capitalism or the poor state of our mental health system caused by the liberalization of our healthcare has impacted the death of any individual?
Time for a confession: I am a gun owner. How many guns do I own? Enough, that I would have to physically count them for an exact number. Some are handguns, some are semi-automatic, most are for hunting. I am from the south. The fact that I own guns and that I am from the south are probably in themselves are enough to make me a minority in the philosophical blogging community. I have hunted my entire life and my family was locavore before Pollan wrote a book and hipster liberals began traveling to farmers’ markets. There were times when every piece of meat served in my house was something that I killed or something that a family member killed. It was so local that I could give you GPS coordinates to where the animal took its last breathe. For many of my family members, it is like this today and will be like this for any measurable amount of time (if they have any say).
Putting aside the hunting tradition in which many Americans were raised, gun ownership should remain legal for legitimate political reasons. Anyone in favor of the elimination of gun ownership have a faith in the State which is ultimately naive. Any leftist worth the name owns guns, as non-violence as a limit. One only has to see this Atlantic piece to see that the modern gun-rights debate began through the fear of White America when faced by Black gun ownership. There is little doubt that the right-wing racists and militia nuts have largely become the face of guns ownership but this is another in the long line of the Left’s abandonment of both the working class and the idea that there is something beyond the current configuration of the state. Crazy as they may be, they at least are not so naive as to trust the State completely.
There is a need for gun control and if the Left would stop talking about gun owners as if they are lepers, then something might be possible. If its good enough for William Lee, its good enough for me.
Hat tip to Perverse Egalitarianism for drawing my attention to Morton’s original post.