Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Armed Society Is a Bloody Society

Gun-rights advocates love to quote Robert Heinlein's line that "An armed society is a polite society." Heinlein argued that in a culture where many are packing lethal weapons, people are more careful with their manners because they're afraid of being killed over a minor lapse of etiquette. Heinlein is wrong on his facts; history makes it very clear that real armed societies don't work that way. But what's really ghastly is that Heinlein and his fans imagine his fantasy as a good thing. The belief that "an armed society is a polite society" depends on a conviction that murder is better than bad manners.

So we have Chad Oulson shot to death for texting before a movie started. We have Jordan Davis killed for refusing to turn down his music in a parking lot. We have two teenagers killed in separate incidents for egging cars. 18-year-old Tavarus Erving was killed in Atlanta on Halloween by someone who thought Erving had egged his Mercedes; his killer fired ten rounds. 15-year-old Adrian Broadway was killed with a shotgun last Saturday night in Arkansas; she was with four friends, egging the car of a boy who had earlier played a prank on them, and the boy's father responded with deadly force.

Those four killings happened in the last three-and-a-half months, between October 31 and February 15. That's an average of one meaningless gun death every 29.5 days.

What all four killers had in common was the idea that they were allowed to kill people who were not being sufficiently respectful to them. They were armed, so everyone else had to be polite, and the man with the gun got to decide what was polite.

Let's not pretty this up. None of this was self-defense. The killers weren't interested in self-defense. All four assailants knew damned well that their victims weren't armed. Two of killers actually fired into fleeing vehicles. This was always about using a weapon to extort deference from other people. That is what today's twisted and mutated "gun rights" movement actually wants. An armed society is a polite society.

The movie-theater murderer allegedly told his victim, "I'll teach you to throw popcorn at me." The loud-music murderer, who was willing to kill a teenager rather than tolerate rap music on his way into and out of a store, writes letters from jail opining that more black people would have better manners if more of them were killed:

“The jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs. This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these (expletive) idiots, when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”

The killer wrote that letter to his grandmother.

This senseless violence isn't a side effect of Stand Your Ground laws. It is one of their primary goals: a feature, not a bug. Extracting "respect" through intimidation is what today's sick version of the gun-rights movement is about. The whole point of Stand Your Ground laws is to take away the idea of necessity from self-defense. Today's gun-rights advocates don't think it's fair that they can only shoot someone dead if they absolutely have to. They believe they have a right to kill someone in order to teach them a lesson in manners: I'll teach you to throw popcorn at me. Stand-Your-Ground advocates consider the right to shoot someone else dead a privilege to which they are entitled. That is their idea of The Polite Society.

cross-posted at Dagblog

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