The Freedom of an Armed Society

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By FIRMIN DEBRABANDER

Note: This originally appeared in The New York Times on Monday. — efc

The night of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I was in the car with my wife and children, working out details for our eldest son’s 12th birthday the following Sunday — convening a group of friends at a showing of the film  “The Hobbit.” The memory of the Aurora movie theatre massacre was fresh in his mind, so he was concerned that it not be a late night showing. At that moment, like so many families, my wife and I were weighing whether to turn on the radio and expose our children to coverage of the school shootings in Connecticut. We did. The car was silent in the face of the flood of gory details. When the story was over, there was a long thoughtful pause in the back of the car. Then my eldest son asked if he could be homeschooled.

.223 caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, which was used to commit the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Also known as an M4, this is an assault weapon, and we are told it was legally owned by the the killer's mother.

This is a .223 caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle, which was used to commit the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Also known as an M4, this is an assault weapon designed for military use — and we are told it was legally owned by the the killer’s mother. That’s probably true.

An armed society is the opposite of a civil society.

That incident brought home to me what I have always suspected, but found difficult to articulate: an armed society — especially as we prosecute it at the moment in this country — is the opposite of a civil society.

The Newtown shootings occurred at a peculiar time in gun rights history in this nation. On one hand, since the mid 1970s, fewer households each year on average have had a gun. Gun control advocates should be cheered by that news, but it is eclipsed by a flurry of contrary developments. As has been well publicized, gun sales have steadily risen over the past few years, and spiked with each of Obama’s election victories.

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Eric Francis

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4 Responses to The Freedom of an Armed Society

  1. Amanda Painter Amanda Painter says:

    this article gets at such a salient connection between how guns are at fundamental odds with true freedom — of speech, of assembly — and the interplay of “power over” versus “power with” in community. amazing i have never seen this line of thought before. thanks for posting it.

  2. Amanda Painter Amanda Painter says:

    from Democracy Now! today:
    http://www.democracynow.org/2012/12/18/americans_kill_people_michael_moore_on

    On Friday night, Michael Moore appeared at the Bring Leonard Peltier Home 2012 event at the Beacon Theatre here in New York City, speaking just hours after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

    MICHAEL MOORE: Earlier today, a crazy man went to an elementary school and attacked 22 children in China. A few hours before Connecticut, an elementary school was attacked in China by an insane man, and 22 children were his victims. But all he had was a knife. Total number of dead in the Chinese elementary school? Zero.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to just say a few words about what happened today, because I’ve been concerned about this issue for a long time. Yes, we need more gun control. Yes, we need free mental health services in this country. But I really believe that even if we had better gun control laws and better mental health, that we would still be the sort of sick and twisted, violent people that we’ve been for hundreds of years, that it’s something that’s just in our craw, just in our DNA. And to get that out of our DNA is going to take a lot more than passing a bill in Albany or D.C. That’s not going to do it.

    And, you know, other countries, I mean, they have their crazy people, and they have people that—there have been shootings and killings in Norway, in France and in Germany. But there haven’t been 61 mass killings like there have been in this country just since Columbine. Sixty-one mass shootings in this country. I like to say that I sort of agree with the NRA when they say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” except I would just modify that a bit and say, “Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people,” because that’s what we do. We invade countries. We send drones in to kill civilians. We’ve got five wars going on right now where our soldiers are killing people—I mean, five that we know of. We are on the short list of illustrious countries who have the death penalty. We believe it’s OK to kill you when you’ve committed a crime.

    And then we have all the other forms of violence in this country that we don’t really call violence, but they are acts of violence. When you—when you make sure that 50 million people don’t have health insurance in your country and that, according to the congressional study that was done, 44,000 people a year die in America for the simple reason that they don’t have health insurance, that’s a form of murder. That murder is being committed by the insurance companies. When you evict millions of peoples—millions of people from their homes, that’s an act of violence. That’s called a home invasion.

    All the wrong people are in prison in this country. I can’t believe we’re just standing blocks away from the biggest criminal operation that this country has ever seen, right down that street, and not one of them has gone to prison for what they’ve done. When you have eliminated so many millions of jobs, when you’ve ruined communities like mine, Flint, Michigan, you have killed people, because—because having seen firsthand the effects of these corporate decisions—the alcoholism, the drug abuse, divorce, suicide, all the social problems that go along with this act of violence—but we don’t call it violence, and no one’s ever arrested for it—I think it’s a real shame. And frankly, as an American, this is not how I want to be remembered.

  3. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Vince – its very manifestation.

  4. vince says:

    violence as communication … is this wild west approach the child of watching all those westerns … not unlike todays youth dreaming of being rambo?

    vince

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