Gun Culture and Civilization Don’t Mix

I wrote about Kyle Rittenhouse a couple of days ago. See also:

Put together, all of these commentaries tell a story of how a perfect storm of political and cultural factors have come together to make it perfectly legal for some people to shoot and kill other people. Here are the major points:

One, many states now allow open carry of firearms by just about anybody.

Two, there has long been a pattern of “reforming” self-defense laws to favor “defenders” over the slain. Stand-your-ground laws are just one example. See also:

Additionally, some states (including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have replaced the common law “reasonable person” standard, which placed the burden on the defendant to show that their defensive action were reasonable, with a “presumption of reasonableness,” or “presumption of fear,” which shifts the burden of proof to the prosecutor to prove a negative.

Of course, it appears white men somehow get away with a lot more “presumptions” than other people.

A lot of this favoring of self-defenders stems from the long-standing fantasy that law-abiding citizens routinely defend themselves from criminals with guns. Self-defense shootings happen all the time, it’s believed, but in fact genuine self-defense shootings are very rare. “Victims use guns in less than 1% of contact crimes,” the Harvard School of Public Health says, and there is absolutely no honest data showing that widespread gun-carrying either reduces crime or makes people safer from criminals. But proclaiming otherwise sells a lot of guns.

But if you’ve been listening closely, you might notice that the gun cultists don’t talk about crime as much as they used to. Ten and more years ago, people arguing for laxer gun laws talked about crime, crime, crime, and then maybe about “freedom” and telling jokes about shooting lefties. Now they’ve escalated to talking about “freedom” and “tyranny” and shooting the lefties more than about crime, and they aren’t joking. See Proud Boys call for ‘stacking up’ bodies ‘like cord wood’ after Rittenhouse verdict at RawStory.

As Adam Serwer wrote, “Right-wing gun culture is not unlike the wellness industry, in that it requires the cultivation of a sustained insecurity in its audience in order to facilitate the endless purchase of its products. You can never be too skinny, and you can never have too many guns to stop the impending communist takeover.”

So far: Lax gun laws, permissive self-defense laws, lots of hysterical political demagoguery, and white supremacy increasingly backed into a corner. What could go wrong?

14 thoughts on “Gun Culture and Civilization Don’t Mix

  1. As near as I can figure the morons in my sphere who are celebrating the murders are genuinely pleased that BLM or Antifa were murdered.

    Of course Rittenhouse should be allowed to hunt those people.  Who can’t see that?

    A very bad bad time in our country has just gotten exponentially worse.




  2. Part of this country is hell-bent on destroying this country if they can't be the dominant "culture."

    They don't want to share.


  3. It is (as usual) simpler and worse.  There is no choice between guns and civilization, because the choice was made long since.  Every source of accountability is being rejected.  Civilization is one such source, or perhaps the meta-source.  I wrote in 1987: "Civilization has lost its fan club.  For every person who understands how they have benefited from the rule of law, a thousand others will tell a story of how they have been harmed by it."

    Today's situation is what you get when you destroy your educational system (where the "system" includes both the classroom and the home) and then run the tape forward one human lifespan: you devolve to zero.  The process of devolution does not become unambiguously apparent until its final acceleration, very near the end.

    Various people/entities are no doubt thinking of trying to take advantage of the current chaos; for the moment, never mind who, never mind why.  But they do not understand why the chaos, nor why it is escalating; and they will find that there is no longer any such thing as "advantage": no levers, no places to stand.


  4. A lot of years ago I was in the Navy near the end of 'Nam out of a large base called Subic Bay. There was a town outside the main gate, designed to separate a sailor painlessly from his money. The main drag had a hundred bars and clubs, packed at night whenever there were more than two aircraft carriers docked. In the day, not so much action and some marines started "rat packing." That's a half-dozen marines who would prowl until they found a pair of sailors to beat the crap out of. Real men.

    It wasn't an isolated incident and eventually the Navy CO scheduled a meeting with his Marine counterpart. The Marine commander explained that since the marines are combat soldiers it's to be expected that they will be a tad more aggressive – they have faced real combat. In other words, the Marine commander told the Navy commander to kiss his butt. End of meeting.

    I don't know that the Navy CO directed the next stage but Subic Bay was a NAVY base and sailors outnumbered Marines probably 50 to 1. So it happened that sailors in large groups began patrolling the bars. Sailors didn't have long hair but more than a jarhead –  you could tell a marine from a sailor pretty easily. And marines started getting carted back to the base in ambulances.

    Before long, the Marine CO wanted to see the Navy CO. The shoe was on the other foot. New rules were hammered out – the sailors would pull back and the word would go out to the marines – no more beating up sailors. 

    This situation is different and the same. It's different in that instead of bruises and broken bones, people are going to the morgue. It's the same in that one side considers themselves the "real" patriots and they're willing to do serious harm to the other side – not for amusement, but to inhibit protests against the hallmark of injustice – white cops murdering people of color. 

    There won't be an open civil war with mass casualties. We're talking about intimidation. They feel inhibited that 600 of their side are in the grip of the federal criminal system. Most are getting a slap on the wrist, but some will get hard time and this will cut into recruitment. Baby Kyle works the other way – it emboldens them to greater intimidation!  

    Not mass violence, probably. Just thugs with guns threatening to drive us away from demonstrating or voting. The answer is counter-intimidation, something we're not good at and won't do. Get your cam-phone out – get pictures. What the prosecution lacked was pics of Baby Kyle pointing his rifle at people BEFORE the shootings. If that happened, as some testified, we didn't have pictures! If they are "poll watchers", record what they say and record who they are singling out for harassment. be ready to turn in copies to the ACLU. 

    Before my time by just a few years, people, including some white people, risked their lives for racial justice. They were beaten sometimes – even killed. I'm not sure what this generation is made of, but we will all find out. If we won't show up out of fear, they will win.

  5. Doug is right.

    We can't sit home, intimidated.

    We need to keep doing what we we're doing; what we've always done:  Fighting peacefully for liberty, equality, security, and access to prosperity for all.

  6. What is happening now is what many people feared, should a case like Heller come down. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear understood that "gun rights" were a necessary means to the real end: Killing people legally. While we have been focused on the danger posed by the mass murders of truths committed by fascists and sanctioned by Donald  Trump, the gun mania was always going to be the logical next step for the Humpty Dumpty Resistance. Once the Second Amendment was repealed and replaced by the Scalia Amendment, it was just a matter of time until we arrived here at this killing ground.

    "Stand Your Ground" laws and "Make My Day" laws would not have been created without a ready, cheap, and universal supply of guns. Rittenhouse has everything and nothing to do with it. This lethal charade is designed for the courts and the cameras but it's purpose is to make murder mundane, something that happens, like a flat tire or leaky pipe, just part of life, no big whoop. It's not a crime, it's your right.

    But now if you try to change things, they will kill you.

  7. What hope do we have when our civilization has come to the point of tribes which are unable to agree on common facts much less common values and codes of conduct.  Is the duel at dawn with firearms now our sole remaining way of making a decision?  That is the height of Barbarism…which is a horrid way for the American story to end.  

    I suppose the other tribe does not see it that way at all.  


  8. Second Amendment Repair Act
    A modest proposal

    I propose the following as legislation before Congress.

    The Second Amendment Repair Act
    1. The right of the people to keep and bear arms in a well-regulated militia shall not be infringed.
    2. Well-regulated militias shall not arm those under adult age, nor arm those found guilty of treason as defined by the Constitution.
    3. States have the right to enforce additional regulation of their militias.


    Compare clause 1 of SARA to the original 2nd Amendment:
    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Alas, poor Amendment! The sentence lies there, broken into four fragments, as if someone had dropped it on the floor. My critique of the 2nd Amendment is both literary and political; for its shattered incoherence is due to an unresolved political dispute. Washington insisted on good regulation of Jefferson’s popular militias; his objection was jammed on as a subordinate clause given top billing.

    Clause 1 of SARA fixes the grammar of the 2nd Amendment. It’s a single coherent clause; that prevents partisans from exaggerating one clause and ignoring another. The original had well-regulation as an explanation for the need for the right to bear arms; here well-regulation is part of the right itself. This makes explicit the necessary link between rights (arms) and responsibilities (well-regulated). Clause 1 is as much about gun control as about gun rights.

    This re-emphasis on regulation empowers clause 2. No children in arms, nor traitors; that’s necessary. If the militia is well-regulated, then it may not arm children or adolescents, who are not well-regulated people; and if the militia is of the state, then it may not arm those levying war upon the states. I choose these two regulations for the sake of clarity. Age is on public record; and treason is defined in the Constitution. (Article 3, section 3.)

        Clause 3 establishes that militias belong to the states, which they may regulate as they see fit, as a matter of state’s rights.

        This proposal is very conservative, in the non-Orwellian sense of the word ‘conservative’. It makes few changes in the original text, beyond rewriting it for clarity. This rewriting explicitly mandates both gun rights and gun control. Such rewriting is necessary because of the 2nd Amendment’s fragmented condition.

        Since DC vs Heller in 2008, we have been living with a partial reading of the shattered 2nd Amendment, one that ignores the first two fragments and fetishizes the next two. So due to Scalia’s judicial activism, for over a decade the 2nd Amendment has been half-repealed, to malign effect now self-evident.

    I propose that we repair it, and reinstate it, whole.



  9. President can send National Guards with weapons and more

     on the domestic terrorists wherever whenever they congregate.

    To guard rolling polling places

    Roll tanks, fly armed drones

    For as long as the stupid supremacists choose to stand there dumb and get shot.


    <b>National Guards</b> shout out.

    Hey TV talkers: <b>National Guards</b> outgun dumb-estic terrorists.


  10. When what Rittenhouse did is codified as legal, and the ultimate guarantor of a "right" is a gun, then we are no longer a civilized society.  That's barbarism.

  11. From the Slate article:

    The case started to go very badly for the prosecution after the testimony of its star witness, Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived Rittenhouse’s attack but had his right bicep blown off by the 17-year-old. The turning point came when Grosskreutz testified that he was aiming a gun at Rittenhouse when Rittenhouse shot him in the arm (though he also testified that he was incapable of killing). The defense seized on his testimony, pointing to it as key to the defendant’s claim of self-defense. 

    I'm no lawyer, but good grief, even I know you don't put a witness on the stand when you don't know what they're going to say!  And if you knew they were going to say this, then why make them your "star" witness??  That's not so much lawyering as it is common sense.

    Don't know if this came out in trial, and if it did how effectively was it presented, but there were witnesses who testified that Rittenhouse was pointing his gun at, and threatening people with it before anyone got shot.  One of the defense own witnesses, a fellow vigilante in the group Kyle was with, testified that Rosenbaum got in his face, same as he did with Kyle but that witnesses just ignored him as someone non-threatening.  So Kyle out of fear, being out of his element, "playing with the big boys," got scared and kills Rosenbaum.  At that point, Kyle was the threat.  It may not have made a difference, given how the defense took a page from the defense presented in the Rodney King case, where they boiled down the entire incident to video of them swinging at King on the ground, using each time he raised his hand to deflect blows as a threatening act and reason for them to keep swinging.  The defense focused on the other victim swinging a skateboard at Kyle, trying to disarm him, and convinced the jury that was all it takes to render everything Kyle did, before and after, as self defense.  Just like with Rodney King, they bought it.

    It was bad enough the judge acted as a defense attorney, but the ineptitude of the prosecution was so bad I have to wonder if it was intentional.  The deck was stacked.

    And poor Gaige Grosskreutz, still alive, but minus an arm.  The outcome of this trial based on the law says the legal remedy for him was killing Rittenhouse when he had the chance.  I don't advocate violence, but clearly, according to the law that justifies Rittenhouse, that's what he should have done.  This is not a civilized society.

    The parents of Huber said it best:

    Today’s verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street. We hope that decent people will join us in forcefully rejecting that message and demanding more of our laws, our officials, and our justice system.

    Lastly, that you have republican congressman and leaders, celebrating this verdict, and in truth, celebrating that they now have a legal justification for something they've been advocating and clamoring for, for some time now, and that is, instead of just disagreeing with and, God forbid, compromising with, the killing of their political adversaries, they've blown past fascism as the major threat.  Right now, its barbarism.

    We better wake up, and see this for what it is.  We need to vote out judges like the Rittenhouse judge.  We need to vote out republicans in congress advocating for violence.  We need to have the political will and courage to bring to justice those that attack the government, whether they are within out outside of government.  And where we can't do any of this, or,  in addition to all of this, we need to see it for what it is, and make sure everyone we can reach does as well.

  12. The 2d Amendment was written by Patrick Henry in response to the line in Article 1  that gave the congress the power to call into national service the State's Militia. It's purpose was to protect the Slave Patrols from being called up. It's one of the slavery compromises that survived the War. Incidentally, if your mom signs for you, you can enlist at 17 1/2 years. I did. 

  13. Things might be better if there had been "a good guy with a gun" to take out Rittenhouse after he showed he was a terrorist by killing two people, right? Well, according to the Righties, anyway. It gets a little confused at this point. It seems like the last shooter standing is the "good guy with a gun", as none of the others are around to say nay.

    Just be sure you get a killing shot so they can't dispute your argument.

    When the Second Civil War starts, I think I'll do like The Smothers Brothers in their Civil War Song. If there's one thing a year in Vietnam 67-68 taught me, it's "stay out of someone else's fight".

  14. The right has always used the good guy with a gun excuse. Now they don't even try. When an active shooter shows up you don't have the right to defend yourself or threaten him. Or you'll be the one prosecuted for making him feel threatened.   And he'll be innocent for killing you. I can see it now…

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