Reframing The Question Of Gun Control In The Context Of A School Shooting

  • Posted on: 22 February 2018
  • By: thecollective

From The Anarchist Library

by Francesca


I'm not writing this to outline specific steps you should take next, but instead to reframe the discussion that we have after every school shooting to something more real and directed at mass-murderers as a phenomenon. I want to start by summing up the two official American political party positions on mass-murder and school shootings so that I can then compare them to an anarchist's position on the same thing.

Two Popular Positions

So the two basic ready-made stances, as prepared by most media outlets fall under two opposing ideas:

1. "The constitution grants me rights to a gun to use for sport, defense against barbarians/ foreigners, and/ or defense against a future dystopic tyrannical (liberal?) government."

2. "Nobody should have a lethal weapon in their possession who isn't a trained law enforcer and therefore major gun reform should restrict our access to them."

The first position follows some assumptions about patriotism and a pure American ethic, a few narratives surrounding what is perceived to be the rebellious origins of the United States, and then some more narratives about freedom, heritage, and human nature. The second position also begins with a couple of faith-based assumptions, mainly regarding the good intentions and noble purpose of law enforcement, since they would be exempt from this gun critique. Similar to the conservative position, the liberal position starts by assuming that there is sometimes an unavoidable evil that spontaneously bubbles out of a person, with no traceable source or reason, and turns them into a school shooter. The basic difference between the two camps is the answer to the question "Who gets to shoot bad guys, cops or me?"

So if we follow each position to its conclusion we have two timelines: in a Democrat voter's United States, all school shooters are replaced with kids that wish they were school shooters, if only the government would let them buy the tools, which it won't. Those kids would (and in our current timeline, often do) become cops since cops can still legally use guns, and as we know, legally kill. In a Republican voter's United States, kids who want to become school shooters get to try, and theoretically get shot by a teacher, another student, or also maybe by a cop. Either way, both voters have started by accepting that some kids want to be school shooters and that's an unavoidable part of life.

An Anarchists Position

In any media-constructed false dichotomy like this one, we have to imagine that a third position exists and that it rejects the terms of the question in the first place. I would argue that our position has to be that one, and it can't begin with "Mass murder is an unavoidable spontaneously occurring human desire" or end at "Who gets to shoot the bad guys?" That's because we haven't considered that school shooters aren't born, but instead are grown. School shooters are a product of schools that function like jails, media that functions like church, and nuclear family structures that function like cults.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I'm not a mystic and I don't believe that brains do unexplainable things. So now that that's out of the way, you should know that I reject the idea that an impulse can spontaneously bubble into a person's brain without conditioning. Before a kid decides to do mass murder, either because he hates black people, or Jews, or because women won't fuck him, or because he just has inexplicable hatred directed at everyone around him, he has to be conditioned.

I'm not going to claim that I understand exactly when or where in a classroom, on a news channel, or on a fishing trip with your dad's friends that the seed is planted. And I can't claim to fully understand the thought process that clicks into place that tells a brain what it needs to know about the worth of a human life that would enable a school shooter or any other kind of mass murderer. I will, however, say that all of us know that schools resemble prisons at worst and office buildings at best, in order to prepare kids to accept their shitty futures in one of the two, depending on your tax bracket. I did grow up in a household, like a lot of us did, that had the news on at least one T.V. at all times. I would see how they portrayed poverty-stricken criminals in this country, or people living in a country the US was dropping bombs on, as subhuman. I could go on, you get the idea.

I will say though, that I am interested in sharing an anti-mass-murder stance with both state sanctioned parties. I'm against mass murder via school shootings. I'm against the mass murder of 1,187 people formally murdered by police in 2017. I'm against the softer, less direct murder of 45,000 people (according to a study out of Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance anyway, I'm sure it's higher) a year in this country due to denied access to medicine via poverty. And I'm against the mass murder of between 19 and 30 million people in wars the US has waged in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and between two Iraq wars.

I think it's essential and right to be against mass murder and I'm suspicious of any claimed anti-mass-murder stance that thinks that it’s not a problem when it's done by cops, soldiers, or by artificial scarcity. I think you would have to believe that criminals, non-Americans, and poor people are less human to also believe that legal mass murder is an exception to your anti-mass-murder position. I think the imposed dichotomy between gun laws and no gun laws misses the point of any anti-mass-murder position which has got to first answer the question "Why does a mass-murderer decide to mass murder" and that we have to be genuinely interested in what the answer to that question is if we are going to claim to genuinely want solutions that can change more than just a law.

I believe that schools, as they are, are people-factories that breed the next generation of school shooters, army generals, cops, wife beaters, etc. I think we can create something better than what we now know of as schools, something that eliminates the line that modern schools draw between learning and living, for instance. I believe that nuclear families, as they are, promote isolation and foster some early and basic "us and them" thoughts that are dangerous. I think prisons should be abolished and people should no longer be policed and that our education system and other clunky institutions shouldn't operate with the intent to separate people into criminals and home-owners. I see that positions are taken by people after school shootings that non-coincidentally mirror exactly the positions of major news anchors and non-coincidentally only pose questions that risk keeping things basically the same. And I understand that it's tempting to reject the idea of fundamental change in favor of making some more laws, because that route doesn't require responsibility on our part over our own lives and it really is just an easier path of lesser resistance.

However, the standard response to any larger scale societal critique like this one (which is usually something between "that's not realistic" or charitably “Okay sure but I want to know what I can do NOW?") isn't necessarily a bad impulse. We should look at the situations we're in and mindfully act immediately. I've seen punks turn their music venues and communal houses into "Really Really Free Markets" that brought neighbors together after a workday, instead of splintering quietly off into their separate houses at 5:00 pm. I've seen kids raised with communal help that learn more empathy by 9 years old than I had at 19. I think we have to create different ways of relating to each other that doesn't begin and end with school bells or work schedules, and I think we do that by getting ahold of spaces to congregate in, expanding our families into networks of care and help, and sharing our lives with each other in ways that are truly dangerous to a government, a landlord or a boss. Whether your mass-murderer talking point is an amateur white supremacist, wears a badge, or holds office, I think the desire to become any one of those is planted in the anti-social home, to school, to prison/career pipeline and should be eliminated at the source. As corny as it sounds, I want to build bridges and take down walls because I think gaps and walls are the main ingredients in recipes for mass murder. I think the question of why kids become mass murderers is something that the gun reform framework can't and doesn't intend to answer.



Not a bad intro article and probably good reading for the kydz.

Although you did use the word THIRD POSITION!

to Be fair it looks like it was written to be basic intro material so maybe 'third position' wouldn't ring a bell for the people this is intended for? That's pretty unfortunate wording though

Not any third position is the Third Position, brah. I decide to buy neither Coke or Pepsi, so that makes me a Nazi? lol

Third Position came from 1930s fascist and Nazis for their grand "solution" beyond capitalism and communism. Especially after the Crash and the failure of the Bolshevik revolution, it became very resonant, even if it was really juist a hardcore consolidation of capital.

16,000 people were killed by guns in the US in 2017, over 60% were suicides. 346 people were killed in mass shootings in the US in 2017. I didn't grab the link but the stats are readily available.


Not a whole fuck of a lot when you look at the bigger picture. It sucks for them and those who cared about them, sure. But on the list of deadly symptoms - and that is what this is, a symptom - its like a low grade fever, hardly registers.

It is the spectacular aspect of these shootings that gets people all giddy in the head and when it happens at schools...well, killing kids is never going to be popular.

If you want to talk about guns and deaths, you need to do a lot more homework and leave out the straw men and oversimplified statements you attribute to the dems and repubs.

If anarchists are going to put their foot into this tedious and endlessly absurd argument, best to keep it farther from the mouth.

The right-wingers are RIGHT when they say the liberal media LOVES mass killings. Aside from all the gun manufacturer's profits, what is funding this dispute is a split in the capitalist oligarchy. The liberal wing wants the State to have a monopoly on crushing the rest of us if we get out of line. The right wing of the oligarchy wants to keep it's options open, to include the hire of private mercenaries (like Blackwater and the Security Industry) to do the job. And as we ALL know, the Private Sector is SO much more efficient.

A hell of a lot of Black and Brown people get thrown into prison for owning guns in places where gun control laws favor whites, and this will now get worse. If gun control takes off Trump's regime not be aggressive in disarming Nazis but they will be damned aggressive about disarming people of color. Thus Trump+gun control equals a direct threat, an attempt to tilt the balance of power in favor of rich urban whites and neo-Nazis alike.

Not sure where you live, but there is already "gun control". The libs frame it your way because it suits their agenda. The call is for MORE gun control, primarily military grade weapons. Though many on the leftish side would like no guns in the hands of their sheep. As to your out how that's gonna go down, if you can. Sounds like some serious hyperbole to support your own agenda.

Gun control to me means a sharp eye and steady hand whilst aiming at the right target.

"I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it."

Do not let progressives get away with state controlled management. This essentially played role in fucking over 60s-70s radicals. There will come another age where the anarchicly preferable will want to organize arms. Think a generation or two down the road and do not feed any legislative logic. The only things libertarians should be for is legal nullification.

"That's because we haven't considered that school shooters aren't born, but instead are grown. School shooters are a product of schools that function like jails, media that functions like church, and nuclear family structures that function like cults."

Who hasn't considered mass killers aren't born into a mass killer? How mass killers grew up and their surroundings is a common consideration into trying to figure out why they killed a bunch of people. If that's the "third position" it's a pretty common one and didn't reframe anything.

would hate to live in the USA. The home of the free and the brave!!! What a lie. A disgusting culture which has forced its way all over the world. There is no special relationship between many many people in Britain and the USA. We're sick of your violent racist culture. You consume the planet. You're deluded. You're hated. How's that for reframing? GROTESQUE.

That's all quite rich coming from a fucking brit.

WTF? The Brit Empire raped and pillaged most of the known world for almost 300 yrs. The only good thing to come out of there were Swift, Orwell, Wilde and the water-colorist Turner, and a few other pompous intellectuals.

Ale. Fish n chips.

Well yes, those things also.

don't know about ale, but beer was invented/discovered in Mesopotamia soon after grain became a cultivated crop. battered fried fish was brought to England by sephardic Jews in the 17th century, chips being added in the 1860s (one story is that it was another Jew who did it first, another is that it was a Brit).

Lord Byron and Lady Lovelace, as well as trhe Shelleys were cool, tho. Byron was the first establishment guy to denounce prisons.

17:33... That, coming from a subject of the British monarchy!? Hahaha

Also your comment is loaded with "Us vs Them" sillyness. You're not a "We", you know? That's one of the main dumb mistakes Americans did back in 1776.

said yes, the USA is consuming the planet, does use force everywhere, is racist, is violent. Instead, you implicitly defended the criticisms made. Sort of like what white people do when their white privilege is made crystal clear to them.

you've got to be kidding me...

nikolas cruz, like so many of the other mass shooters of the past few decades - isla vista, columbine, san ysidro... - is a white male supremacist.

the state is still hunting down black people for defending themselves in charlottesville, while atomwaffen are running around doing terrorist training camps and their members and fellow travelers are murdering people from coast to coast, singly and in batches. we are still being treated to the expressions of bafflement about the las vegas shooter, "what could his motive have been?????" as if rich white males aren't structurally conditioned to be sociopathic.

do we have a gun problem? a mental health problem? or above all, a white male supremacy problem?

what is mental health in a fucking society like this anyway?

The socio-psychopathic condition is a mostly unintentional outcome of urban populations, a byproduct of myriad toxic social relationships which accumulate in fractured dysfunctional societies. Suicide is the most common psychological result where the hate has been turned into self-loathing and depression. Widespread substance abuse exacerbates the illness.

"The socio-psychopathic condition"... enough of the psychobabble, bro. medicalizing behavior is rather authoritarian. besides that, you ignore the deliberate creation, maintenance, and extension of institutions of domination and exploitation (you know, those trivial things called capitalism and the state, topped with a dense frosting of white supremacy) at your own peril, as well as that of your alleged analysis. yes, living in an urban context (this is the definition of civilization) produces broken hate-filled people. yes, toxic social relations are the norm. yes, suicide and despair are rampant. yes, widespread substance abuse exacerbates this situation. but by positing such things as "unintentional" you're making an analytical error, essentially promoting the (neo)liberal notion of individual adaptation and overcoming of adversity, while *intentionally* ignoring the institutional infrastructure designed to break and ultimately destroy people and the natural world.

san ysidro, an anti-latin@ attack by a white man in 1984, was the deadliest mass shooting until the killeen tx massacre which began with a white man yelling "all women are vipers!" even charles whitman, the original modern mass shooter, killed his mother and wife before heading up to the clock tower at UT austin.

this shit is way too obvious...

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