One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

Last week I explained how at the Federal level, despite the double-barreled assault on our senses from the Buffalo and Uvalde massacres, even the most heroic legislator would sooner call for installing Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ in the National Gallery than suggest outlawing any class of gun or ammunition. This week, that analysis was confirmed.

Continuing a pattern first established when the now-extinct Federal Assault Weapons Ban (or AWB) was passed in 1994 (following several rounds of conscience-shocking mass shootings), President Biden will soon sign into law a new piece of face-saving legislation: the “Bipartisan” Safer Communities Act. If you prefer, call this the “Do Something” Act, as the desperate desire to “do something” about the nation’s never-ending apocalypse of mass shootings has been all over the White House’s messaging for this new law.

The bill, passed by all Senate Democrats and 15 Republicans, is on its way right now to the desk of Joe Brandon, and from there, onto America’s growing ash heap of purely symbolic gun legislation.

Absent from the bill is even a pretense of holding gun manufacturers accountable for the harm their industry is causing. Instead, the bill offers a grab bag of meaningless palliatives such as block grants for community mental health services (one hopes, at least, that this will reduce the cost of anti-depressants for traumatized parents waking their nine-year-old daughters in closed caskets), as well as more training for teachers to hone their telepathic ability to detect the teenage psychopaths in their midst before they pop.

Yes, there are some middling changes to gun trafficking laws and minor hurdles for people under 21 with mental health issues who want to buy weapons. However, it cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that not one Democrat who has praised the Do Something Act has suggested that even a jot of it might have helped prevent the massacres in Buffalo or Uvalde.

The Do Something Act mirrors similar feel-good laws passed in the wake of other recent massacres. The New York SAFE Act, for example, which was passed after Sandy Hook (innit funny how these politicians think that “safe” is an actual magic word?), contains a raft of mental hygiene language and a few limitations on selling assault weapons with certain military features. Did any of this discourage Payton Gendron from buying the gear he used to commit his massacre at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo? His manifesto makes it clear that he thought the law was toilet paper, and you can’t argue with his results.

The SAFE Act, however, reminds us that gun control is not merely a Federal matter. The coincidence of Buffalo and Uvalde happening in such close proximity to each other means that an interesting side-by-side experiment has just been run, one which can finally answer this question: which political philosophy, “Red State” or “Blue State ”, yields the best results for preventing mass shootings?

Signed into law in 2013 by Andrew Cuomo, the SAFE Act (“Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement”… God, someone must have been proud of that one!) hoped to prevent future rampages like the one at Sandy Hook by forcing the trigger fingers of would-be mass killers into Chinese finger traps of additional bureaucracy, while also limiting some of the military-style features available for assault weapons. (Can you believe that Payton Gendron could once have installed a grenade launcher on his Bushmaster?) The intent was to wrap would-be Terminators in an impenetrable nest of red tape, and if that is not a Democrat’s answer to a major problem then what is?

But in the end, the SAFE Act and New York’s red flag laws proved to be empty liberal nonsense. Sometime before May 14 of this year, the 18-year-old Gendron, having already purchased a shotgun in Pennsylvania, walked into Vintage Firearms in Endicott, NY, a rustic gun shop right out of Mayberry, to buy a second, more powerful weapon. Though Gendron had once been given a psych evaluation for threatening to commit a school shooting, this apparently proved no barrier to the boy sliding through a background check. And with that, the young man was handed a weapon akin to the kind that American soldiers had used on the residents of My Lai and exited the store. (I imagine him as he left getting a nod from an old man in suspenders sitting in a rocking chair and coring an apple with a deer-antler knife. “Ah, to be young again and off on whatever adventures a boy and his combat rifle get up to these days!”)

So there’s the Blue solution for ya. But what about a state where the Second Amendment is as revered as a tradwife? Where a side iron sleeps in a man’s bed and is the first thing to stroke his newborn son’s cheek? I’m talking about the Republic of Red Texas!

Texas — a land with 25% more people than New York State but four times as many gun homicides —has no SAFE Act to tie the hands of its people. Texas knows that the only solution to gun violence is gun heroism, pure and simple. When a maniac knows that the sound of his first gunshot will be followed by a dozen more from armed citizens as they drop him like… well, like an elderly black man shopping for a birthday cake in a Tops Friendly Market, they will think twice before they start a’rampagin’… or so the logic goes.

And so it was, with this strategy serving as the public’s first line of defense against lunacy, that twice this past May, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos visited Oasis Outback (a gunshop/eatery in Uvalde, Texas) and purchased two AR-15-style rifles. (It is unknown if they came with sides). On May 24th, after shooting his grandmother in the face, Ramos raced to Robb Elementary school — crashing his car into a ditch in his enthusiasm — and then entered the school to perform what comedian Norm MacDonald described of mass murderers as “that thing that makes them feel like God.”

In Texas, everything that was meant to save lives in Buffalo failed, but on an even grander scale. In Buffalo, the heroic Good Guy With A Gun, that mythical concoction of the gun cult, was present in the form of an armed security guard. He shot Gendron twice but could not get past the killer’s Kevlar and fell to the boy’s weapon instead. In Uvalde, an armed school resource officer who was supposed to be protecting the children went AWOL, while the police who arrived at the school acted powerless for nearly an hour. Any citizen champions on the scene were apparently too cowed by the police to take matters into their own hands, and the spree finally ended an hour after it began when the police stormed the classroom where the killer had barricaded himself and shot him dead, his blood co-mingling with that of his 21 victims, most of them aged ten or younger.

State or Fed, Blue or Red, … we have come full circle on the gun control question, and not for the first time. For 30 years (if you start with the passing of the AWB) America has tried everything but what would actually work to end this terrorism of our own making, terrorism whose roots are not mental illness, alienation or radical politics, but the pure unwillingness of a supposedly sophisticated people to face up to our own irresponsibility.

No amount of open carrying, school hardening, block grants or paranoid vigilance will turn the tide of these grotesque mass shootings, nor the greater scourge of gun crime in general. We are in chains: chained to an obsolete concept of what constitutes gun rights and duties in a modern, open society, and absolutely imprisoned by a monstrous industry of profit-driven murder that we have lied ourselves into believing is an organic and insurmountable “gun culture”. In our hearts, we know that our nation’s endless rash of mass shootings is a plague on our society, a visible disease that is crying out for a genuine cure, not just the dusting of talcum powder that our leaders keep offering us.

Red and Blue are not up to the task. This, at last, must be clear to everyone. There will be no bold moves from the Republicans or Democrats, no breaking the back of the gun lobby, no hard compromises. Not now, not ever. These massacres will go on and and on without surcease. Listen to the words of the President if you doubt me. In his White House comments following the Uvalde massacre Joe Biden all but dropped to his knees and tore his vestments as he inveighed against a gun lobby against which he is as helpless as a kitten challenging a steamroller:

“How many scores of little children who witnessed what happened see their friends die as if they’re on a battlefield, for God’s sake… As a nation, we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?…What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?…For God’s sake. It’s just sick…For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry. Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the lobbies?

To watch America’s leader beg his Deity for deliverance from the death merchants who are his true master should remind those of us who’ve heard his prayers just how much steel our backbones will need if we are going to actually fight this fight; because there is a path out out of this madness, this wilderness of confusion… only it is not one that Red or Blue can see. And those who have seen it need a kick in the ass themselves before they will be able to lead anyone through the brambles.

But ready or not, the answer is here, and it is Green.

Next week: Greens, Guns and Gall.

Jason Yungbluth draws comic books, including one called Weapon Brown.

Previously: Murphy’s Law

Next: Greens, Guns and Gall



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