The Weapon is the Motive

As investigators continue to question the motives of the shooter in the Las Vegas murders, the consensus so far has been that there is no obvious rationale. The murderer left behind no clues, no note or manifesto, no explanation for why he carried two dozen assault weapons up to the 32nd floor of a hotel, broke the windows looking out onto the vast pedestrian crowds below and killed as many people as possible.

By Tony Webster, via Wikimedia Commons

The motive may be right in front of them: the gun. An object that demands to be put to use; an object that creates its own reality in order to satisfy its reason for being, in being owned, cared for and fought over. The object is its own motive.

Collection for Use

Think about all of the objects that you accumulate in life. Each thing you choose to add to the collection of artifacts that define your identity and your constructed environment. If you have the means, you get to choose those objects that most define you. When you choose these objects, it is generally in the context of how they will be used. When was the last time you bought an expensive watch only to have it collect dust in a drawer? When did you last purchase a new car only to let it sit un-driven in your driveway?

Even collectors, people who accumulate a specific object principally for the fact of amassing a collection, still recognize the value in the object’s utility. A comic book collector may place each edition back in its plastic sleeve inside its archival box inside a closet, but she may first read it all the way through. Its use is essential to its value.

The motive may be right in front of them: the gun.
A collection that begins with the use of the object: read first, save later.

Similarly, a classic car enthusiast may collect vintage automobiles, maintaining each one in pristine condition in a secure, climate-controlled garage. But who among them wouldn’t take one out for a spin on a public road every now and again to feel the engine purr, pick up a little speed, maybe hit the pedal around that curve, risking life or at least a speeding ticket. The object’s value is in its utility.

Living Fantasy or Playing Reality

NPR reports that 3% of the population owns 50% of the nation’s approximately 310 million guns. This suggests that a small number of gun collectors are presumably living within their own self-constructed arsenals. These individuals have possibly spent decades stockpiling their collections of handguns, shot guns and assault rifles, considering each purchase and the value it brings to their collection.

Like other collectors, they may be motivated by innate feeling for the object’s beauty, elegance, power or cultural significance. They read specialty magazines about the object’s history, its manufacture and the most coveted brands. They attend collector shows, just as art buyers, car enthusiasts and comic book lovers do.

We could even argue that gun shows are the most enthusiastic form of Cosplay, outdoing ComicCon for the devotion and loyalty of its fans and the utter earnestness with which its participants embody their characters.

Which is the more alluring fantasy? Maybe it depends on what your reality looks like. Comicon cosplay (left); family photo (right).

Like ComicCon participants, gun enthusiasts have a choice about how far they are willing to immerse themselves in character and fantasy.

What reality do you create when guns are your fantasy? Is it a world in which danger is lurking everywhere, enemies are plotting your demise and your home is the last frontier of safety? What are the contours of a life defined by fear and mitigated with lethal weapons?

What reality do you create when guns are your fantasy?

Can the object create the conditions for use?

An individual compelled to amass guns is in effect creating the conditions for their use. By its very presence the object makes a case for its actionable utility. Not in the impotent domain of a firing range but in the real world against living flesh.

Production for use by whom, when and to what end?

The object is the reason, the motive and the clue as to why a person collects guns for over a decade and one day decides to haul them into a space of opportunity and maximize their utility. What further reason does their need to be other than the fact that the object created its own reality? Production for use is the final and only necessary reason.

That doesn’t mean that every collector is a potential mass murderer or terrorist. However, it does offer a challenge to those who would stockpile these objects of destruction. Are you creating for yourself an environment in which you can easily transcend the role of benign collector to malignant predator? These objects in your hands demand of you their primary purpose. Their use is their reason for being. Their existence is the argument for their use.

In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, Newsweek reported that sales of “bump stock” devices went through the roof. We can be sure that those collectors continue to create the reason for their objects’ use in due time. Perhaps the investigators can stop searching for a motive of an event now past and start constructing a search for the motives still to come. They are out there waiting for their moment of use.

Their use is their reason for being.