Gun Control & Why It’s No Solution: A Socialist’s Perspective

Photo by annie bolin on Unsplash

In the mainstream gun control debate, the two accepted sides are liberals and conservatives. Both portray themselves as pushing a radical, anti-elite agenda. Both are incorrect in this self-image. Conservatives do advocate for the right to bear arms, claiming to need them for self-defense against the state, and yet they still engage in police and military worship. Liberals advocate for the state to either disarm all citizens or to enforce a stricter background check and registration process for gun ownership, portraying this expansion of state power as being rebellious by standing up to the gun lobby.

Both of these agendas are undesirable. Both work in favor of ruling class interests. The conservative position simply creates reactionary militias fighting in the interests of the capitalist class, and the liberal position leaves the working class disarmed in the face of an armed ruling class, a clear opportunity for vampiric exploitation. From the ruling class perspective, conservatives would simply create a militia fighting for their preservation, while liberals would leave a populace open to their fangs. If we are to truly solve the issue of gun violence in America, we must take a revolutionary approach, and examine its true roots rather than simply kissing the feet of the ruling class.

The most glaring issue in advocations of gun control is that it leaves the citizenry largely unarmed in the face of armed police and capitalists. In such a situation, the citizenry can do little to protect their interests. Aside from a complete or near complete firearm ban, even current gun control measures create this disparity. How, you may ask?

Gun registration makes gun ownership more difficult for the working class than the capitalist class in that it costs money and time. Workers have little of both, as the capitalist class often pays them low wages to minimize the cost of production and use as much of their time as legally possible. Even in the free time workers have, few have the energy to go through the process of gun registration. Furthermore, gun registration disproportionately affects working class black people, as police are many times more likely to arbitrarily arrest them, and in many cases they’re forced by poverty to subsequently take a plea bargain, thus leading to their label as a felon.

The true purveyors of mass shootings and general gun violence, reactionary white men, are very rarely affected by gun registration. Why? First of all, because they’re less likely than anyone else to be arrested or charged with a felony, despite the fact they are about as likely to commit crime as other demographics (this does not mean they commit the SAME AMOUNT). Second of all, because they’re more likely to have the free time and money to go through the registration process than other demographics, largely due to family histories of exploitation (slavery), because they’re more likely to be perceived well enough to be hired for higher paying jobs, or because they’re more likely to have the social connections which often get one into higher paying jobs (by the fact that they’re more likely to be wealthier). And yet, despite the fact that they aren’t affected by gun control measures, mass shooters are disproportionately white, male, and hold far-right views, usually misogynistic or white supremacist in nature. For example, the recent case of Nikolas Cruz’s shooting of Stoneman Douglas High was very likely motivated by Cruz’s Neo-Nazi Views. He had expressed anti-semitic, anti-black views on social media and had carved swastikas into some of the bullets he intended to use in the shooting. The infamous 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, the second most fatal terrorist act in the US, was explicitly motivated by the Neo-Nazi views of their mastermind, Timothy McVeigh. And finally, the misogynist and white supremacist incel Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodgers was motivated by his hatred of women, including his view that they tended to choose “degenerate” black men over white men.

So why couldn’t gun control stop them too if the government paid more attention to this demographic? Well, first of all, it couldn’t do much even if it tried (which it wouldn’t). This demographic is one which would more than likely have the means to continue purchasing firearms with a stricter registration process (owing to the fact they’re more likely to have clean records, higher incomes, and free time), and an outright ban wouldn’t make the arms stockpiles far-right militias have accumulated suddenly disappear. And we all know very well they would never hand their weapons over to the state, as we’ve seen with standoff after standoff. If guns were banned, it would simply leave the state and the far-right armed and everyone else, for the most part, disarmed. Leaving fascists armed in contrast to an unarmed population can and will have very dire consequences. Take the Spanish Civil War as an example, with the following facts noted by Paul Preston in his book The Spanish Civil War. When the fascists first launched their coup in 1936, cities with a poorly armed working class, such as Seville, fell almost immediately. Conversely, cities with a working class armed to the teeth, such as Barcelona and Madrid, became anti-fascist strongholds.

Banning guns also wouldn’t stop such attacks in general even if it were successful. Sure, they’d be slightly harder to commit (at the cost of making state violence much easier, as the state wouldn’t see armed resistance). But attacks would still happen, simply with different means. What would stop a Neo-Nazi from engaging in a truck attack, which would wreak similar fatal damage to a gun? How about stopping them from building a dirty bomb of household chemicals? Using homemade toxic gas for a wide scale attack? Even just throwing bleach at people? If we ban one means of committing such violent attacks, they’ll simply substitute it for another. If we want to solve gun violence, we must solve its main roots.

So what are the main roots of gun violence? Capitalism-wrought poverty, the prison system, white supremacy, and misogyny, that’s what. Allow me to explain each of these, step-by-step. Poverty is created by capitalism in that the working class are paid wages by capitalists rather than keeping the whole value of their labor, and capitalists make these wages as low as possible to minimize the cost of production and maximize profit, as well as by the fact that capitalists further squeeze workers dry by demanding they pay rent to live in buildings the capitalists themselves neither use nor need. This poverty ties to gun violence in that the poor are often forced to partake in illegal trades to make enough money to survive, especially drug trade. These trades being illegal means they become very competitive and very violence, making the use of guns essential to succeeding or even surviving in the trade. Poverty also becomes a one-way-ticket to the prison system, either by this coercion into illegal trades or by the fact that if a cop arbitrarily arrests a poor person, they more than likely can’t afford a lawyer, are given an overworked-to-the-point-of-uselessness public defender, and are forced to take a plea bargain for a shorter sentence, thereby condemning them to the label of ‘felon’. This conviction leaves finding employment much harder for them, with the few jobs they do find having very low pay (the capitalist realizing their desperation makes them easy to exploit). Thus, back in a situation with a choice between illegal trade or starvation, they’re forced to partake in illegal trades once again (and thus involve themselves in gun violence).

The institutions of white supremacy and misogyny further motivate gun violence in their natures of violent domination. White supremacy teaches people that they’re entitled to a top spot in the social hierarchy, that any outcry from marginalized peoples is an injustice inflicted upon the white race, and that the social ills of capitalism (unemployment, low pay, a lack of identity) are the fault of marginalized peoples through various means (“job stealing immigrants”, “unskilled minorities getting high positions thanks to affirmative action”, “immigrants destroying our culture). When a white person doesn’t get the prestige they think they’re entitled to (especially a high paying job), they take out their rage on conspiratorially crafted culprits, especially black people and Jews, rather than going after the true ruling class. Misogyny teaches men that women owe them respect and attention, that men are entitled to women’s sexual favors, and that men are entitled to domination. When a man isn’t given what they think they’re entitled to, they take out their rage on women, blaming them for their shortcomings. These dual entitlements and domination institutions work to motivate a massive amount of violence in the world today, particularly as the global fascist movement begins to rise just as it did a century ago.

If we are to combat gun violence, gun control isn’t the answer. It’s a flawed, temporary band-aid solution, and it leaves room for state terror. The solution isn’t reform, it’s revolution. The capitalist system, white supremacy, and patriarchy must be destroyed if we are to create a new peace. We must smash each of these institutions, and build in their place a culture of liberation. We can’t do that by passing gun control measures. In order for the working class to fight for working class interests, it must be armed. You cannot defeat the status quo with words. You cannot defend yourselves against fascism with hugs and signs. Guns aren’t inherently evil. The value of guns is determined by who wields them. In the hands of fascists and the state, they’re tools of oppression and terror. In the hands of the working class, the oppressed, the exploited, they’re tools of liberation. Instead of fighting for the state to disarm you, fight the institutions which birth violence against innocent people. Instead of fighting for state power, fight against it, and for a new world.