Guns as bourgeois freedom Ruthless Criticism

Guns as bourgeois freedom

On July 20, 2012, a gunman appears in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and kills at least 12 people and wounds 59; and on December 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, another gunman kills 20 children and 6 adults. As is usual whenever the “long chronicle of violence” in the USA is extended by another spectacular murderous deed, the debate about access to guns is roused. These attacks as well as the debate tell us something about the quite normal peaceful life in the USA. From the attacks we learn that it’s by no means unusual that a young man would stockpile an arsenal big enough for a “small military unit” in the land of boundless opportunities. And according to estimates by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (sic!), there are about 270 million firearms in private hands, meaning 89% of Americans own such “peace-keepers” – not counting the armory the state finds necessary to keep control over its citizens.

But the debate is by no means less enlightening when, once again, somebody has turned a school, a workplace, or a movie theater into a slaughterhouse. Of course, in the eyes of the NRA, these “events” always prove the best of reasons to possess a gun. It most certainly may not prevent or limit such bloodshed, but it enables an adequate violent response by the good gun owner against the other – bad – customers of the NRA. For the “moderate opinion-makers,” the killing is proof that there are too many guns in private hands. One wonders: too many, for what exactly? Are guns a contribution to safety and just an excessive amount turns them into lethal weapons? How many guns would be safe and how can guns pose a threat and give safety (against whom and what?) by themselves at the same time?

The fact that police and other officials need arms for their “public service” is not a question or problem for anyone of the above. It seems to be unquestionable that in the “land of the free” there are lots of means for killing, but no end to why people kill one another.

Weapons for America

Americans attach a lot of value to the sacred right to own and carry weapons ensured to each respectable and free American citizen by the second highest amendment to the Constitution. Unlike most countries, the American state does not make a strict separation between official personnel who are responsible for the state monopoly on violence and are therefore armed to maintain and enforce it and the average citizens who are entitled to have guns only in exceptional circumstances. Alongside its publicly appointed and suitably armed police, it recognizes quite a lot of other qualified defenders of “law and order” – namely, in principle, every good American. The American state as a matter of principle does not differentiate between the private individual who pursues only his personal advantage in competition and the citizen who should muster some community spirit in addition to his private identity. Rather, it makes competition itself into the national duty and identifies unconditional striving in competition with the national way of life, recognizing and upholding the successful subject of the capitalistic struggle for existence as its DNA. Its citizens see this exactly the same way: Their private self-assertion is a certification that they pass the test as a good American; the flag is the same as their private mission in life. Anyone who has gainfully followed the state decree to successfully compete may therefore also bask in the awareness of having fulfilled his service for the nation. His reward consists in increasing the success of the nation, by boldly getting all obstacles out of the way of his struggle for existence. Wherever there is the dollar, there is also the flag – and vice versa.

National and private combat missions are counted in America as more or less one and the same. The same can be said of the piece of private power which the state power grants its citizens. Every Deputy Sheriff, every militia member who ever lent a righteous hand in defense of the domestic peace against criminals, un-American or other subversive elements is testimony to it. Their law and order fanaticism leaves federal and state governments part of the decision as to what laws are enforced locally and who may and should ensure their execution. The now and then seemingly smooth transition from actual to lynch justice leaves the honored principle just as unsullied as those more frequently encountered incidents in which well-armed private individuals help to unlawfully enforce their own quite private law with force of arms. The gun in the hand of the criminal may be regrettable, but only makes the gun in the hand of the decent citizen even more necessary. In the USA, people who intend to arm themselves at weapon shows and gun shops with more or less anything short of nuclear weapons that lies within their financial reach are considered completely normal. The question what they really want with them is prohibited because the answer is clear: Like any good American, they admittedly see themselves as personifications of state power, as epitomes of everything that represents “America” and deserves defending against all domestic as well as foreign challenges. So honorable citizens who organize themselves into heavily armed vigilantes and spend their weekends doing private military maneuvers are seen by their co-patriots as at most mildly peculiar, but are rightly not suspected of engaging in un-American activities.

This becomes even more of a hot topic whenever Washington – on the occasion of assassination attempts or other privately organized bloodbaths – announces strengthened controls or even limits on the limitless access to guns of any caliber; for instance, when it bans the sale of machine guns or imposes the duty on licensed firearm dealers to report the names of their customers to local police. Because in the USA it is not only as a “gun owner” that one feels united with the state power; every decent American citizen carries around with him the firmly established national self-confidence whose morality and righteousness he personally represents, so that one holds the appearance of the state power itself often to be somewhere between superfluous and harmful. The central government is present anyway in the rigidly habitual suspicion that it interferes at every turn in the rights of its citizens and restricts them instead of handling as ordered the liberation of both private as well as national success. It’s bad enough that Washington extorts too much in taxes from its successful citizens in order to subsequently squander it on welfare queens and their kids – it’s even worse when it intends to get its hands on the citizen’s brandname of freedom, “Smith & Wesson.” The upstanding American does not let his gun as badge of his intact morality be taken from his hands because he carries it, in the end, for America – anyone who tries to take it away, vice versa, attacks America. That’s why, firstly, the “gun lobby” is so “powerful” in the US and, secondly, neither Congress nor the government has much ambition in this regard. The insistence of the decent citizen on cultivating his American national consciousness by decking himself out – only in case of necessity – into his own over-armed private militia is simply not a type of anarchism that would be worth stopping, but the extreme form that the citizen’s consciousness takes in this “God blessed” country.