USED TO BE, a gunshot had to be pretty fucking important to be heard ‘round the world. Now, the air everywhere echoes with man-made thunder (sans any lightening). They’re shooting kids in America now.
Let’s be real about something: guns are awesome in both senses of the word. First, connotatively, they grant us superhuman abilities that pre-firearm humans would’ve only imagined possible through magic or gods. They let us touch faraway things with force commensurate to the power of life and death. Which is why, denotatively, they literally evoke some awe from us because, goddamn, did you feel the kick on that .45? And guns look cool! Like cigarette-level cool. Guns gave us Dirty Harry, Call of Duty, and gangster rap. Have you see that picture of Ice Cube holding an AK? He looks way cooler than he does in Are We There Yet?
But let’s be real about something else: guns are awful. Like cigarette-level awful: one might not seem so bad when it’s in the hand, but, oh, shit, I just remembered there’s an entire industry getting away with mass murder rolled up in it. People are making money off this shit. There must be entire research and development departments who get paid to sit around and think about how to make guns better at what they do. I’d say they shouldn’t’ve let capitalists make guns, but there’s an AK-47 on the flag of Mozambique, so it looks like the communists fucked it up, too.
More realness: guns are tools. They do something. Most people make shit so someone can use it. Wheels get used, hammers get used, computers get used, shirts get used, guns get used. If guns are around, they’re going to get used. We’ve spent decades trying to regulate gun use: who uses guns, what guns they use, when and where, how and why they can use guns. I’ve never been shot, and I know people have wanted me dead before, so there’s definitely a level of efficacy happening. But other people keep getting shot, so there are holes in the net.
Potential realness: we can’t rid of the guns. Not for a while anyway. Even if somehow magically we could ensure that no more guns were made after today, how many years would it take for all the guns left on the planet to go away? I think I’d be dead first. Guns are here to stay because they’ve exhibited a level of awesome/-ful efficiency in their doing. Guns are popular tools because they work well and with minimal effort needed. Usually, balancing the power of life and death on one finger involves martial arts training or an apparatus with a button. But guns are the original point-and-shoot mechanism. And anyone who’s watched even one night of American network television knows how to pick up a gun, knows what a trigger is.
Definite realness: America’s got a gun problem. Kids get shot here. If people can make documentaries about how murderers went bowling before shooting up their high school, the rest of us should be able to recognize that there’s an issue here. Part of the problem with calling it a problem is that famous gun use revolves around the triggerman. Everyone knows who shot Lincoln and JFK, and every time the news covers a shooting, it’s about “whodunit?” not “why does this keep happening?” even though that’s really the question. Maybe it’s because we started the fight for our independence with that shot heard round the world. Maybe it’s the constitutional inclusion. (By the way, this national Constitution is hardly a record of timeless rightness; see amendments 13, 14, 15, 19, and the pair of 18 and 21.) Maybe we’re a nation of sick fucks, and it’s easier than any of us thinks to get to a point where shooting other human beings seems like an appropriate plan of action, especially if history class, Hollywood, and your Xbox all make it look cool as shit. Probably, there’s no way to know for sure because America’s gun problem doesn’t have a magic bullet solution.
Angst-ridden, nihilistic realness: so maybe there’s no hope. If we’re going to keep treating every school shooting like a freak occurrence instead of recognizing them as a historical phenomenon that only happens in a culture where there are guns and schools and sick fucks, then we’ll never get the big picture, and little pictures are how people justify shit like the inconceivable force of nuclear weaponry now also present on the planet. (I.e., “Look how few guns we’ll need if we can get this A-bomb thing working!”) People want to be superhuman — Jesus is still so popular because he’s made enough people believe they get to live forever when they die. Barring some kind of gun-alternative (love? words? sex? firm handshakes?), I can’t picture the whole word getting together to give up the gun. So if guns are going to stay present, efficient, and cool, then probably we’re all fucked, and I’ll just start wearing t-shirt with targets on them for the fun of it.
Slightly hopeful, possibly delusional hypothetical realness: and if someone does shoot me, at least maybe, if I still feel this way and I’m not killed instantly, I’ll get to say I told them so.