We now have new steps in our deathdance with firearms in the United States: the mass shooting of police officers. And make no mistake: this Dallas massacre was as much about the availability of guns as it was, allegedly, about revenge. That revenge was for the murder of black men for the apparent crime of legally carrying guns while black.
It wasn't supposed to go like this. The rhetoric of the gun "rights" crowd has been that citizen ownership of semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 and others was necessary as a means to defend oneself when Barack Obama sent his jackbooted thugs to force you to pay your grazing fees or something else that is associated with "freedom" that is really just "breaking the law." In other words, it was supposed to be "Real America," in the parlance Complete-Ass-of-the-Week Joe Walsh, the former GOP congressman, armed whites facing off against a tyrannical federal government. That would show why one had to have the assault rifles and machine guns. It wasn't supposed to be that a black man might use those same weapons against the cops as a way of taking down authorities that had done harm to the black community.
In the abstract, of course. Because these Dallas cops weren't the ones involved in killing any of the long list of black and brown men and women who have been beaten, strangled, and shot by the police. When innocents are killed, we can expect that other innocents will be killed in return. That is the cycle of violence. That is how terrorism works. You terrorize one group and that group terrorizes your group, even if you're not there. Dallas Police Chief David Brown wants to break that cycle, saying at a press conference today that he won't "militarize" his force because "We are not gonna let a coward who would ambush police officers change our democracy." Those are the most encouraging words that have come from this nightmare. (And, no, the cops who killed Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shouldn't be killed. They should be charged with a crime, arrested, and stand trial.)
There is no way this doesn't, ultimately, come back to the insane proliferation of guns and the madness of our current gun laws. Without hundreds of millions of guns out there and the insidious concealed carry permits, the police wouldn't be constantly ready for a gun battle. Racism, stupidity, crap training, and guns everywhere are a mixture ripe for constant explosions. Without the ease with which one can buy an assault rifle (or whatever gun fondlers want to call it), it would be far more difficult to have the number of multiple homicide events and mass killings. And let's not even get into the juvenile, masturbatory open-carry laws, fit only for pathetic exhibitionists.
This is who we are as a nation. We have decided, and we keep affirming, that it is so important that untrained gun owners be able to defend themselves from phantoms that it is worth the all the blood that is spilled. We have decided that "freedom" only applies to individuals and not to society as a whole. If you are a civilian walking around with a firearm, I would argue that you are very, very far from free. You are a captive to your fears, and you are using a perverse notion of freedom to cover it up.
Some of us, many of us, want to be able to move through this nation without wondering if everyone has a gun on them. Some of us, many of us, don't want anyone to be gunned down, not black men by cops, not cops by black men, not people at clubs, at schools, at movie theaters, at churches, at all the places where we die. Some of us, many of us, believe that guns are the opposite of freedom and that you shouldn't have them and most, if not all, of them should be taken away from you, even if, yes, we have to pry them from your idiot hands.
We live in a prison of guns, floors slick with the blood of our dead, and we keep sliding around instead of cleaning up.
(Note: The title is from a 2001 song by Jimmy Eat World that was changed after 9/11 for fear of offending people.)