How the NRA’s ‘good guy with a gun’ myth gave us Uvalde’s nightmare?

There’s something about a mass shooting at an elementary school, with the slaughter of children like the one in Uvalde, Texas, that reveals the true nature of America’s gun politics.

Nearly 10 years ago, days after the massacre of young children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, National Rifle Association vice president Wayne LaPierre gave a defiant news conference where he vowed not to give an inch to gun control. To justify the NRA’s absolutism, LaPierre uttered a sentence that would become: one of the defining sentences of the gun debate

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good person with a gun,” he said.

Of course, the children who lay dead in Connecticut couldn’t take up arms for their own defense. Neither could the children who died in Texas. Instead, LaPierre advocated putting more guards in schools — a policy that It has been repeatedly shown not to deter or prevent mass shootings

But immediately after the shooting in Uvalde, gun rights advocates like: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Fox host Jeanine Pirro repeated LaPierre’s proposal – although there was actually armed police outside the primary school who engaged the shooter? before his slaughter.

There is something very dangerous going on here. It is an ideology embedded in the idea of ​​gun rights as proposed by the likes of LaPierre, Paxton and Pirro: a view that armed civilians, not the state, are the ultimate guarantees of liberty and civil peace.

This gun rights ideology has become entrenched in both Republican politics and the culture of American gun ownership: an overriding political identity that has broken American politics. The gun-rights ideology represents a dark vision of society – essentially the abolition of collective security and a state monopoly on violence in favor of individuals acting as laws for themselves.

For some, this works fine; for many others, including those vulnerable people like children who cannot defend themselves, it can come down to: a death sentence.

The gun rights ideology and its dangers

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is a United States government-sponsored think tank that advises war-torn nations and aids in the transition to peace. In a publication on how to create a safe post-conflict environment, it emphasizes: “legitimate state monopoly on the means of violence” as a ‘necessary condition’. If the government fails to bring armed individuals and groups to line and control violence, a return to civil conflict and anarchy becomes increasingly likely.

This advice stems not only from extensive observation of post-conflict situations, but also from our most fundamental theories about the purpose and nature of government. Part of what it means for a government to exist is to exercise a monopoly on legitimate violence: that is, the power to deploy law enforcement and the military. as ultimate and generally accepted arbiters of the social order† A state that does not have this capacity does not really control the territory it controls; whatever one thinks about the proper role and size of government, the state monopoly on violence is the starting point.

The gun rights ideology is based on the opposite view: that society is not based on the state controlling violence, but rather on violent individuals controlling the state. According to this view, government by nature always carries the risk of falling into tyranny. Citizens have an absolute right, if not an obligation, to arm themselves in order to defend themselves against transgression of the state. The state can never have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force; the second it happens, we run the risk of totalitarianism.

A supporter of President Donald Trump holds up a flag during a protest outside the Clark County Election Department in North Las Vegas, Nevada, in November 2020.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The gun rights ideology permeates American gun culture and, by extension, the current Republican Party. Justice Antonin Scalia codified it in constitutional law in his 2008 opinion in DC vs. hellerwriting that one of the goals of the Second Amendment is “to ensure the existence of a ‘civilian militia’ as a protection against tyranny.” During the 2016 presidential campaignthen-candidate Donald Trump referred to it when he suggested that a President Hillary Clinton could legitimately be assassinated.

“If she gets to choose her judges, there’s nothing you can do, folks…although the Second Amendment folks — maybe,” the future president mused at a meeting in North Carolina.

The common thread between Scalia’s erudite opinion and Trump’s crude remark is the idea that people should be constantly prepared to revolt armed: to revolt, as they did on January 6, but with firearms. This is not the same as the fundamental belief that active citizens should collectively protest against policies and governments they oppose. Instead, it’s the idea that the survival of freedom depends on equipping people to use force against the ever-creeping tyranny — a belief rarely found among citizens of other advanced democracies.

The popularity of this concept explains in large part why the US has such a different gun policy to almost any developed country: believers in the gun rights ideology see almost every gun control measure, no matter how annoying, as a possible step on the road to serfdom.

The gun-rights ideology makes the United States vulnerable in exactly the way the USIP has perceived in post-conflict societies. When guns are everywhere, the people who own them can commit violence however they want.

It is easy for terrorists and mass shooters to slaughter as they see fit; the same goes for gang members and abusive husbands. The state can’t control them more or less designed. If the government could adequately restrict gun ownership, according to gun rights ideology, then freedom would be uncertain.

Instead, the gun rights ideologue argues, the responsibility for public safety falls into the hands of individuals: the “good man with a gun.” If there are well-meaning armed individuals everywhere, they can shoot evildoers in the act. Armed civilians complement – and completely replace – the police in some life-and-death situations.

The research on this theory is not promising. Hidden Carrying Laws do not appear to significantly reduce homicides or other violent crimes; placing armed guards in schools does not protect them from mass shootings† In fact, one study found that schools with armed guards… more chance of a higher death toll during a mass shooting.

What the ubiquity of firearms does instead is create a society ruled by fear: a country where violence can erupt at any moment, forcing all of us to reshape our lives accordingly. Schools, which should be places of learning and play, are becoming fortresses equipped with metal detectors. Students are forced to participate scars active target practice† placing armed guards in schools amplifies their fear and can hinder learning

The gun-rights ideology requires America to double down on this terrifying vision — even after an event like the Uvalde mass shooting proved its limits.

In an interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson just hours after the shooting, Texas Lt. gov. Dan Patrick (R) said that “we need to harden these goals” [schools] so no one can get in – ever – except through one entrance. The idea that schools are “targets” that need to be “hardened” as if they were army bases only makes sense in a world where all of society has been militarized – where widespread gun ownership has plunged us into a conflicted state where public authorities have no power. real capacity to prevent mass slaughter.

Primary school students do not fit well into this cosmology. Fourth-graders cannot safely handle weapons; there is no such thing as a ‘good kid with a gun’. But this is the country that created the gun rights ideology: a country where the murder of small children becomes the price we pay for their vision of freedom.

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