Real Consequences of Republicans’ “Anything But Guns” Arguments

Ted Cruz
You can have Ted Cruz’s talking points when you pry them from his cold, dead hands.

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent article this week. In it, he notes that rather than address the fact that America owns almost half of the world’s guns, Republicans are suggesting that we militarize our schools and frankly the rest of society. In other words, it’s better to live in a world where there are military checkpoints at every block than it is to live in a world where gun ownership is limited in any way whatsoever.

This is the ultimate example of American libertarianism. It’s the idea that explicit limits on what people can do are the only thing that limits their liberty. And it results in bizarre conclusions. People are now able to buy military-grade hardware but have to put up with police checkpoints that are supposedly looking for drunk drivers but arrest almost exclusively people with expired licenses and car registrations.

This is what you get when freedom is just a fetish. I find it frustrating. The people who go on and on about “freedom” don’t seem to care about it on a practical level. They will trade away tons of real freedom for talking points. And they’re able to do this because their lives are good. They aren’t the kind of people who are likely to be harassed by the police.

Guns as the Only Freedom That Matters

Not that the modern Republican Party has actually turned libertarian, even in the pathetic American sense of the word. But they have come to this libertarian approach to guns for the same reason that libertarians come to their positions: they are trying to stop specific actions in the name of liberty rather than produce the maximum amount of liberty.

The start of any conservative conversation about mass shootings and other gun deaths is always simply that we can’t talk about guns. Access to guns is defined as a libertarian ideal so important that it cannot be challenged. Nothing is as important. No other freedom can compete. Therefore we quickly move to an authoritarian state. Because that is a small price to pay for the very thing that defines liberty in their minds.

Liberty as Fetish

We wouldn’t have this problem if liberty had meaning. But for the people who love to use the word, it’s nothing but a signifier. It is the thing that is supported by the People That Are Good. Liberals might believe in freedom but they don’t believe in “Freedom”!

So it’s not surprising that roughly a quarter to a third of the nation thinks that no freedom claim can match the freedom claim of gun owners.

Of course for the politicians and activists, none of this matters. They don’t care about schools. They just care about having something they can talk about besides guns while reporters are still asking them about the latest shooting.

Real Consequences

But there are real consequences. After the Parkland massacre, Florida schools were turned into police zones. Did it help? Well, it diverted a huge amount of resources to cops, who now outnumber nurses at Florida schools. It made the children far more likely to be expelled from school and arrested at school.

But most important, the new police schools may have succeeded in doing the one thing that they were meant to do: stop the bad publicity of school shootings. Thus far, there haven’t been any major school shootings in Florida. Of course, it’s only been four years. Time will tell. But the cost is enormous. Rather than stop the war, we’ve simply armed one side. And it’s not like shooters don’t have other targets.

This shows that there are real consequences of all this happy talk meant simply to move society past the time when we’re focused on these things. Our society becomes more authoritarian even as we become less safe from the very things the authoritarianism is supposed to protect us from.

But I suppose that’s a small price to pay for the happy feeling that The People That Are Good get from knowing that “freedom” has been secured.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

1 thought on “Real Consequences of Republicans’ “Anything But Guns” Arguments

  1. I was thinking about how we always hear these “solutions” such as more concealed carry, better security doors, etc. And how it ties in with a basic conservative fantasy of “self-reliance.”

    This is most apparent in the fetish many gun fundamentalists have about home invasion or some other scenario where they dream of blowing their assailant away. But it’s not limited to that.

    Conservatives love, above all else, telling you how much they “know” which other people, whom they consider fools, do not know. (Frequently, conversations with conservatives will consist almost entirely of them testing you on some knowledge or ability they consider essential; since few pass these tests, the conversations invariably involve being told how wrong you are or being enthusiastically informed of the conservatives superior knowledge.)

    Such people don’t just know how to better protect shooting victims than you do — they know more about buying cars, choosing physicians, planting flowers, saving money, raising children, cooking spaghetti, and which route you should take to the gas station. In short, everything that is worth knowing, they know all that anyone needs know. What they don’t know is insignificant drivel nobody should waste time learning.

    Even when they engage in collective action (mobilizing the neighborhood to replace that stop sign with a traffic light, say, or doing a fundraiser for something or other), they know best how to manage such things, whom to call, etc.

    If they are stymied on any wish at any time, it’s never because they failed to handle it themselves — it’s always the fault of somebody else who didn’t follow their directions exactly.

    To admit vulnerability in anything is to be pathetic. Needing help is what the weak do, and only acceptable at an advanced age or stage of illness (even these can be conquered by being cleverer, as such conservatives will eagerly tell you about themselves or people they know who handled aging/illness with more savvy than weak people do).

    No wonder they love Trump, and others of his kind who’ve never made a mistake about anything.

    Naturally this is madness, but it’s appealing madness. It confirms one’s belief that one is special and valid and worthwhile without having to accept the worth and validity of anyone else. It has the same basic appeal as shouting “you idiot” at a sports player who makes a mistake.

    And it saves you from the pain of empathy, of truly feeling devastated when others suffer. Instead, you can feel sorry for them. Just as you feel sorry for yourself when things don’t go your way. It’s an avoidance of true sorrow about the hurt in your own life and the hurt in anyone else’s. I’ve seen so many people numb themselves to the sad side of life this way.

    Oh well, thoughts in the head from a day spent in deeply rural Minnesota, where gun control is anathema, societal good a myth, and you drive by home after home with various car/house repair projects in assorted obvious states of increasing incompletion, as the “I can do it myself” owners fall prey to the same death of dreams that eventually paralyzes any of us.

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