Mass Murder and the American Gun Fetish

I’m not going to say that all Americans are insane because that would be a silly thing to suggest.  I’m not even going to say that America as a country  is insane, though the suggestion would be a little less ridiculous, but I do suspect that America has become culturally insane because of its attachment to a nasty little quasi-religious icon: the firearm.

Adam Lanza
Adam Lanza (3rd from right)

Like all religious beliefs, the gun fetish needs a Holy Writ, and true gun-believers find their bible in the Second Amendment.  Like all zealots, they interpret the Second Amendment in such a way that it confirms what they already wanted to believe, which is why, I suppose, it’s no accident that the religion of the gun finds its natural home in the land of creationism.

Let’s examine this holy writ they call the second 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.

Now, isn’t the meaning of that obvious to anyone with a functioning brain?  People are entitled to bear arms because a free state needs a militia.  It seems perfectly plain to me, but not, unfortunately, to the US Supreme Court, which  decided that the Second Amendment confers the right on every US citizen to bear arms regardless of the circumstances.  But if the Founding Fathers had wished to confer this right on people, why did they need to write it as they did with all that nonsense about a well-ordered militia?  Why did they not simply say The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and leave it at that?

That would have been enough and everyone would have known exactly where they stood, but they chose not to do so.  In any case, back in 1789 when the Second Amendment was passed, things were very different.  For a start, there were only thirteen states, ceded by the British in 1783, and they had every cause to believe the English might return — a very good reason to ensure that each state kept up a militia.  At that time, they had no idea that the United States would evolve into a world power with a population of over 300 million or that there would be no credible prospect of an invasion by anyone, rendering the need for militias redundant.

And yet the second amendment remained.

Besides that, the framers of the amendment could never have imagined what sort of arms might evolve over the centuries.  This was a piece of law crafted at a time when the muzzle-loading flintlock musket was at the cutting edge of military technology, and yet the same constitutional provision guarantees any American citizen the right to own  an assault rifle, the sort of thing that 18th century soldiers would have regarded as a weapon of mass destruction if they could even have conceived what it was.

There’s another interpretation, based on the notion that Americans have the right to stand up against central government tyranny.  Well, that’s been tried too, back in 1861 and it didn’t work out so well.  The Washington government launched a war of annihilation against the South that  some states have still barely recovered from.  With a horse-drawn army, they  ruthlessly laid waste to vast tracts of their own land, and with the resources available today, would effortlessly inflict the same destruction in a couple of days.

So what are we talking about?

Firstly, the amendment clearly doesn’t grant every US citizen the right to bear arms.  Secondly, the rights it does grant are now utterly outdated since there is no external threat of invasion and no possibility that any state will ever challenge central government militarily.

The Second Amendment is an anachronism, and yet it continues to place highly dangerous military-grade weaponry in the hands of maniacs, as we saw yet again with the recent slaughter of twenty young children in Newtown, Connecticut, but at the same time, I don’t think gun control on its own would have prevented this mass murder, or the Virginia Tech killings or the Aurora shootings or any of the other gun-related mass murders that seem to happen in the United States as a matter of routine.

The gun in the United States seems to occupy a quasi-religious position, like a crucifix.  It pervades all American movie culture just as the movie culture has expanded to the point where reality and fiction are indistinguishable.  The world is populated by good guys and bad guys, and all problems can be solved by sending in the Marines .  Shock and Awe can fix anything.

Adam Lanza murdered his mother, Nancy, before going on to kill the children and teachers in Sandy Hook school.  Nancy was part of the growing American paranoid movement that believes all citizens need to arm themselves against coming chaos, and she trained her children accordingly.  The result was that she died along with 26 other people.

The figures are interesting. Firearm homicide rates in the United States are 2.97 per 100,000 people.  This compares with 2.95 in the West Bank and Gaza, 2.8 in Uruguay, 1.56 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 1.12 in Bangla Desh.  US gun murders are more than six times the rate in Ireland and nine times as common as in the Netherlands.

Most interestingly, Americans own three times as many guns as Canadians, but kill six times as many people with them.

It’s obvious that America has a serious problem with gun crime, but an even worse problem with gun worship and it doesn’t look like a problem that’s going to get better.  As long as an entire nation believes that physical force is the answer to everything, all we’ll see is an increase in the problem, and as long as the only source of analysis available to the American general public is either Fox News or Hollywood, it’s inevitable that the most powerful nation on the planet will remain politically infantile.

If the USA remained in isolation as it used to do, this would hardly make any difference to the world at large, but when it’s combined with a self-appointed role as global policeman and a firm belief in an Old Testament American God, then it’s time to be worried.






The Second Amendment



Gun homicides and gun ownership listed by country

The New Yorker




45 thoughts on “Mass Murder and the American Gun Fetish

  1. Some years ago, here in Australia, there was effort made to exert tighter gun control on the legislation what then was in place. The gun lobby, I noticed, had a lot to do with forthcoming elections at the time, and some politicians and candidates who were strongly in favour of control seemed to cool down when faced with how significant the gun supported vote was. I suspect that the same setup exists in America: Guns are more than just a very large industry backed with a lot of money ——– They are also a political power.

  2. fuck you. you don’t understand how dangerous these fucking streets of America are. Hell, we’re not even safe in our fucking homes! Go eat shit and fuck yourself.

  3. Hey Bock.

    Bet you wish you lived next door to Jason, What a charmer!
    But I think its a bit of a leap to link those who worship God, (the likes of me) and those who worship gun culture.

  4. Jason, how many guns did do you need to protect your home in suburban America

    Five is a bit nuts, despite the obvious

  5. I don’t think Bock was linking those who worship a god with gun culture, Gerard (’scuse me if I talk out of term, Bock) but I think the analogy with messianic fervour is spot on because both share a blind obedience to dogma and the suspension of reality as key.

    Only one Amendment to the US Constitution has ever been repealed (the 18th Amendment repealed in 1933) and if you look it up it should not come as a huge surprise to find that it was repealed largely because it wasn’t working and the vast majority of the US population didn’t agree with it. And there’s the key to changing the 2nd Amendment.

    As for you, Jason: you are either a dickhead troll or you are the face of the real problem with gun control.

  6. Jason, thank you for your very meaningful and mature contribution. A disturbed man murders 20 young children and seven adults with an assault rifle and the people of Connecticut react by….. buying more guns. So America’s problem with repeating episodes of mass slaughter can be lessened by…you guessed it: more guns. If that is where you are at Jason; you and people of your ilk are part of the problem. America is a nation in fear, fear of terrorism, fear and distrust of the federal government, fear of emerging nations, fear of deranged nuts who might break into their homes. It’s time for the decent intelligent and compassionate people in America to take back their country from the assorted loons, creationists, conspiracy theorists, survivalists who see enemies everywhere. I wouldn’t hold out too much hope though. While Americans hero worship foul mouthed gun toting folk heroes as the pinnacle of respectability in their fractured society, gun culture will remain an attractive alternative for those who don’t want to or can’t communicate except through violence.

  7. Penis substitutes? Look at Hummers – nobody’s dick is that small.
    Look at Jason above. He appears to be a very angry young American and is prepared to blame anybody and anything except himself for his inadequecies.
    The gun lobby butchers the truth in the same way as pro-lifers and anti-gay marraige lot does and always with a threatening tone.

  8. Maybe this Adam Lanza wasn’t well, maybe he was a nerd. Whatever he was or his problem was…he could have just committed suicide. Lots of people do. Their reasons or problems vary and for some reason they see no end in sight. They hurt the people they leave behind and that’s it. It’s not easy for anyone but it happens.
    If Adam had just killed himself first 27 people who had nothing to do with him would still be alive.
    It would still be sad that a young person had taken their own life but that would be it.
    Maybe he thought he’d go down in history…for me he will but as the asshole that killed 27 people for no good reason.

  9. Just wondering if our own society is slowly becoming a breeding ground for a similar occurance?
    God forbid if it did happen what scapegoat would we point the finger at ?
    Though at least the availability of guns is strictly regulated here.

  10. Gerard, i cant speak for Marc and I have no problem with God Believers but i cant stand anyone who has an anwavering support of the Catholic church.

  11. Jason, thanks for that thoughtful contribution. I think we all understand that you don’t feel safe in your own home, so maybe it’s time you started asking hard questions about the reasons why that is.

    Gerard — Unless you happen to be an Old Testament creationist, I can’t see where any of this applies to you.

  12. Bock, you can see where I live.This morning I dropped my 8 year old off to school and said good morning to the cops at the door.
    I drove off and wondered how many times I would look at the clock today to see how much time was left before I pick him up again.
    The answer to that is every 5 minutes or so.
    We are in a state of shock here.
    I don’t know how much this will change anything in this country. My suspicion is not much.
    In 1791 it probably took a good minute to reload a musket. That would have given the killer about 5 shots before the cops came. That’s all.
    Assault rifles are ridiculous. I don’t get it. I don’t think they can be justified in any way but there are people who totally disagree.
    It is 3 hours till I pick up my son

  13. That was a very informative contribution from Jason.Fox news and their ilk have a lot to answer for.

  14. Nutty American Tale
    Mama buys some guns, says to her unstable boy, ‘we need to protect ourselves’. Takes him for shooting lessons. Boy learns how to shoot, targets first.
    Boy is having a bad day, a bad week, takes the loaded guns that his mama bought to protect them, shoots her in bed, in the head, drives to a school and shoots twenty six innocent people and then shoots himself with the very gun his mother bought to protect him.

  15. As a rather distressed American, I enjoyed reading your post and its comments.

    This country is undergoing some long-overdue soul searching. We’ve idolized the concepts of personal freedom and individual rights for so long that we have ignored true safety and civility.

    Since Friday’s shooting, there have been a number of other such shootings in this country. The carnage has not been as great, but it’s still happening.

  16. LadyBird.

    At the moment we are rushing headlong down the road in this country to get to where your country wants to get away from.
    Ironic that we look at the mistakes made in all these liberal societies and I use the word liberal with caution and see them as virtues.
    How liberated are the school children of the US now behind armed guards and mesh fencing.

  17. You can be armed to the teeth with lethal barrelled weopons, but if one wants to smoke a wee bit of hemp one you’ll be criminalised. So much for personal freedoms and liberty.

  18. Hi,I live near LA. We have three gun stores near me: we have had no murders in the last ten years. I can walk anywhere anytime of day or night. Public transport is safe, leaving your windows open is an option. Adam Lanza was neglected by his parents in his treatment. The real issue is access to mental health. They lived in a 1.5million dollar house and he was untreated for his condition- Aspergers. His mother planned on putting him in a psychiatric lockdown and moving out of the country. Plenty of people with Aspergers go on to have meaningful and productive lives. If some punk attemps to break into my home, he is gone.

  19. Queenie, I have lived in LA, culver city to be exact and we didn’t/couldn’t leave our windows open, do you live in a gated community by any chance ?

    This guy didn’t go to that school armed with his mental issues, he went to the school armed with military grade weapons.

    We have lots of people in this country with mental health problems, treated and untreated, what we don’t have is easy access to guns.

    I listened to a disturbing case of gun violence on the radio last night, a man whose mum & dad were killed by a guy that had restraining orders against him, multiple arrests for fighting with police officers and a dis-honourable discharge from the army yet he legally owned 3 guns……….that simply can’t be right.

    I am married to an american and I have travelled to 26 different states, I do not believe that the US has any higher percentage of crazy people, they just have easy access to very powerful guns.

  20. Bock – you only have to see shows like ‘Sons Of Guns’ on Discovery to see how absolutely crazy the Americans are about very destructive guns, whose specs far exceed aything anyone would need for recreational use or home defence. They routinely show people who are willing to spend irrational amounts of money on machine guns, sniper rifles, flame-throwers, anti-tank weapons and the like. In my humble opinion, and I have a firearms license, no civilian in a first-world country needs a personal anti-tank weapon, yet in the US it seems to be acceptable.

  21. I saw an episode of that where a rich guy ordered four WWII-era MG42 machineguns mounted together on a single mechanism, but that wasn’t the weird thing.

    What was truly bizarre was the moment when the gunsmith and his employees all knelt down together, held hands and prayed to their God that the machineguns would fire properly when the customer turned up to inspect them.

  22. We own guns. My husband is a staunch “unlimited” 2nd Amendment supporter and thinks everything should be legal all the time. I, on the other hand, don’t think any one needs an assault rifle, or a magazine drum. Handguns and hunting rifles are fine – we have and use both.

    Those unlimited supporters are deathly afraid that the government will seize all their firearms. They think even one law is a slippery slope. I can understand the argument, I think that way about things like….oh warrantless searches, and online privacy.

    What I wish – ah, given the fact that most mass shootings are done by people who have mental issues, why can’t we also reform our mental health laws AND reform our gun control laws at the same time?

    Last month’s Atlantic quoted something about 8 million guns in the U.S. – and that does not include inherited pieces, pieces bought at private sales, etc. The registration system is somewhat of an honor system. So I would think it safe to assume that there might be 16 million guns in the U.S. – gun owners own one, or own multiples… my experience. That’s a lot.

    Caroline was the niece of a former co worker. We are making contributions to her the toy chest at St. Rose in her honor.

  23. 16 million guns in the US? Count ’em again. The figure is closer to 300 million in private hands, not including the military or police.

  24. No I don’t need five guns but if I have a 1.5 million dollar house then I need guns in various parts of the house for intruders. No Culver City, Gang lang,I don’t live in a gated community, you two clowns missed the mental aspect.Adam Lanzo’s body has not been claimed by his family. What does that say about his treatment? He should NEVER have been shown how to use those weapons bought by his mother. Seriously read before you post.

  25. Do you have a minefield in your garden as well? I think you should, and maybe some artillery in hardened silos as well, just to make sure.

  26. I once spent three weeks touring the Californian coastline south to north.
    I saw there lots of armed police including beach police driving about on buggies while helicopters constantly flew by just over head.
    Armed patrols were visible driving on every street in every coastal town just minutes apart from each other like an invasion was imminent.
    And that was before 9/11.
    I saw uniformed car park patrols and traffic patrols on motorized tricycles, all armed with batons, tazers, gas-sprays and guns.
    America from my visitors perspective did seem to have many strange and nonsensical priorities well established.

  27. Did Yourneyman get robbed, raped on holiday? Assume not? Would he not like the same experience walking along Kilkee? No chance. As for Upton, no I am tough because I do take control for my family, Do you? Bock. you have become irrelevant.. In five days time, we will still have the same number of guns and Ireland will still be piss poor and unsafe. Guys,deal with it. You are not able to read and comprehend emails about mental health – too close to home? Bye,

  28. Queenie — You have six times our rate of gun homicide, but you think we’re the unsafe ones? You might want to think some more about that.

  29. Kilkee can be very unsafe, not all the pubs serve a good pint, ya have to be careful.

    Queenie you’re so cool, does the “bye” mean you’re gone for good tho…..

  30. The real truth is that most Americans are stupid people. Not all, that would be a crass statement to make, but most. You only have to listen to us whooping and hollering to understand we have a maturity problem. It is only after you live outside of the States for a number of years that you realise why the rest of the world laughs at us, quite rightly so too. Give a stupid person the means to buy firearms, especially the automatic kind, and you have tragedy.

  31. Ok, I lived in inner city Baltimore in 1999 – 2004 when I went to university. It’s was like anarchy. My friends and I got mugged on a weekly basis (we were poor, so we lived in the poor areas). The police seemed to barely keep the organised crime in balance, but sometimes it felt like they were corroborating with criminals. It was like The Wire, for real. Not once did I ever think I would feel safer with a gun. Not once did I ever even entertain the idea and not once did my friends and I even discuss owning a gun for safety. Why? 2 reasons. First, because I’m not Jason Bourne. Even with training, the thought of holding a gun up at a person much less firing it makes me want to cry. Second, muggers, rapists (yes, we had those too unfortunately) are desperate people who have nothing, nothing positive to live for. They are a lot more desperate and capable of a lot more damage than I am. Honestly, the poor people in America are some of the most forgotten and broken people I have ever come across and I’ve lived in 3 countries, in different parts of the world. The thought of arming myself in case of being mugged, raped (I never was, thankfully) puts humanity at odds with itself. Arming yourself and thinking that you would take law into your own hands against this type of crime is only contributing to a downward spiral. Carrying $5 in my pocket and the rest of my money in my sock was the best way to handle muggers. A gun? That could have got very messy. I think America needs to seriously consider it’s gun laws as you’ve all sensibly discussed above. No one needs a freakin assault rifle. But it also needs to seriously think about it’s governance. I know there are no easy answers, but when people like Queenie above think they’ve got to stockpile weaponry to protect themselves (against tyrannical governments or intruders or otherwise) and when you’ve got levels of crime and poverty like America does, I just think it needs to seriously think about how it can move forward as a civil, developed country.

  32. Fuck me sideways!

    Yesterday, in Kentucky a five year shot and killed his two-year-old sister with a rifle that was given to him as a present.

    A fucking five-year-old with his own (down-scaled) 0.22 rifle. I can’t believe it!

    You see, there is a company in the US that manufactures rifles and indeed handguns solely for the use of kids. They are called Crickett ( and their slogan is “My first rifle”.

    I don’t pretend to understand what logic these second amendment and NRA macho/paranoid nutcases are using when they call this incident ‘a tragedy’. In my view, this is absolute madness.

    Would anyone here advocate teaching such a child to drive a car? No. Why? Because five-year-olds can neither control a vehicle nor have any idea of the (potentially lethal) consequences of their actions.

    I had no idea that gun ownership in the US was open to all citizens regardless of age. Yet, we have gun manufacturers fashioning weapons such as rifles and even handguns solely to be used by children (they even have pink ones for girls). What kind of lunacy is that?

    Let’s look a bit closer at this particular incident. The weapon, according to reports was “kept against the wall in the corner of the living-room” and yet there was a bullet in the breach ready to fire. The innocent five year old seems to have played a game of ‘bang-bang your dead’ with fatal consequences while his mum was outside cleaning the porch.

    What, in the name of God occupies the minds of anyone who would give a present of a rifle to a fucking kid that hasn’t even started school? It beggars belief.

    Of course, had the mother given cigarettes or beer to her kid, they would have been taken from her and rightly so. Instead the local sheriff describes the incident as “tragic”.

    I thought we were bad, what with corrupt politicians and bankers, buggering priest and allowing women to die while while miscarrying but Jesus Christ, this takes the biscuit.

  33. It was also said that they were not aware that a bullet was in the chamber of their childs gun

    Who the fuck put it there

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