TW: Oak Creek shooting, Aurora shooting, Newton shooting, islamophobic violence, racist profiling, abilist profiling
In December, even the National Rifle Association needed to offer its wacky solution of arming teachers and other school-based volunteers to deal with some of the ramifications of the availability of certain firearms and the surrounding culture of violence in the US. That is how profoundly firearms-related violence has impacted American politics, after not only a constant background of mass shootings but several high profile cases this year culminating in the recent 27 deaths in Newton, Connecticut. Gun control has become feasible, at least in certain forms.
I’ve written before about the way violent deaths are understood, namely how class, race, gender, and other social categories with serious power discrepancies are something of predictors of how seriously a death will be taken. The rapid string of anti-Muslim attacks earlier this year, based on islamophobic ideas that are still lurking out there, didn’t elicit demands for a serious conversation about violence in the US.
Likewise, in the wake of evidently more convincing shootings, much of the discussion has relied on the idea of bad guys with guns being stopped by good guys with guns. How do we know who the bad guys are, especially if they might be carrying a concealed weapon? Mayor Bloomberg’s office seems to have viewed race as a good answer to that question. Others have seemed to point to the mentally unwell as the obvious bad guys. Gun control has finally become a feasible policy in the US, but only with restrictions applying for those people, who are believed to be the cause of gun violence, contrary to all other evidence.
(Although young Black men and young White men are almost equivalent percentages of New York City’s population, more than a quarter of all stop-and-frisks involve the former while less than 4 percent involve the latter. From here.)
Perhaps it’s insufficient to say we need to examine the way certain firearms and the broader culture in the US are contributing to violence. We need to also notice the ways that violence doesn’t originate from some other, whether racial or psychological. And likewise, that otherness makes people vulnerable to violence. Instead of that, however, we seem poised to seriously discuss gun control for the first time in at least a decade, but while scapegoating certain groups as the primary if not sole originators of violence.