For the love of guns

What we all give up so that they can own their lethal weapons

By Heather Digby Parton


Published May 8, 2023 9:29AM (EDT)

Guns stand for sale at a gun show on November 24, 2018 in Naples, Florida. (Getty/Spencer Platt)
Guns stand for sale at a gun show on November 24, 2018 in Naples, Florida. (Getty/Spencer Platt)

It was another bloody weekend in America's sick and twisted shooting gallery. This time, a man dressed in full tactical gear and carrying an assault rifle got out of his car at a shopping mall in Allen, Texas, and started randomly shooting people on the sidewalk. A police officer who was coincidentally on the scene for another call took down the shooter after he had shot 16 people, killing at least 8 and possibly more. (Several people are reportedly still in critical condition.) This is seen as a huge success story among gun fetishists because it shows that a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun — with only a dozen and a half casualties. It's what we call "good news" these days.

Last week, we had two other major shooting incidents. One, in Atlanta, caused the whole downtown area to be shut down for hours after a man shot five women in a doctor's office and then disappeared into the labyrinth of office buildings. Before that, in Texas again, a man who was upset because his neighbors asked him to stop shooting his gun in the front yard at 11 o'clock at night decided to execute five of them in their home moments later. Both men were apprehended after massive manhunts.

All three of these cases appear to have different motivations.

The Atlanta shooter was diagnosed with mental illness and was reportedly angry that he didn't get the prescription he wanted. The man who shot his neighbors was a drinking man with a hot temper and a penchant for guns. We don't know for sure what motivated the mall shooter — the Texas authorities are refusing to brief the public about virtually anything to do with this mass killing for some reason — but according to Rolling Stone and other media reports, it appears the shooter was a white supremacist:

The suspected mass shooter who killed at least eight people at an Allen, Texas mall on Saturday frequently posted pro-white supremacist and neo-Nazi materials on social media, according to an FBI bulletin reviewed by Rolling Stone.  The FBI's "review and triage of the subject's social media accounts revealed hundreds of postings and images to include writings with racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist rhetoric, including neo-Nazi materials and material espousing the supremacy of the white race," the bulletin reads.  

Rolling Stone also reports that according to an internal email, investigators believe the shooter was a neo-Nazi and an "incel."  (And yes, he has a Hispanic last name which means nothing despite right-wing commentators' insistence otherwise — two of the most famous white supremacists in the country are a Nazi named Nick Fuentes and a Proud Boy named Enrique Tarrio.) In other words, this particular mass shooter appears to be another right-wing terrorist but we don't have official confirmation of that because again, Texas authorities aren't bothering to brief anyone.

So we have three mass shooters in the course of a week who seem to be motivated to kill a large number of people for a variety of reasons. According to Republican politicians, the common thread is that mental illness is causing all of this bloodshed or it's an act of God and there's nothing we can do about it. Here's one Texas legislator making both claims simultaneously:

The Governor of Texas, as he is wont to do after every mass shooting that takes place in his state, also claims that the "real" problem is mental illness which we really should do something about:

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is correct about the fact that Texas has a 73% higher gun death rate than California so Abbott is being disingenuous when he makes that claim. There is simply no doubt that states with looser gun laws have higher rates of gun violence. And the gun laws are getting looser by the day with both Texas and Florida recently just letting their gun-freak flags fly and allowing unlicensed carry pretty much everywhere.

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As it happens, Texas also has very high rates of mental illness and the lowest rate of access to mental health care in the country so he needs to stop cutting mental health services in the state if wants to have any credibility on that issue. We go over this every time there is a mass shooting but it's apparently necessary. As this survey shows, mental illness is prevalent all over the world with estimates of more than a billion people suffering from one form or another. It's obvious that mental illness is universal across all humanity. Yet we are the only country that has this problem with constant mass shootings. It is intensely frustrating to have to make this point over and over again but there's no choice. An average 6th grader can look at those facts and determine that while we all have mental illness in our societies the reason only America is awash is gun violence is because we are awash in guns. No other country is suicidal enough to allow this.

We can all agree that mental illness is at least a real problem for many reasons and should be addressed by government. If the Republicans would agree to actually do that it could be helpful but generally speaking they pay lip service to it the same way they pay lip service to "thoughts and prayers" and then try to change the subject.

But there is another right-wing school that says that gun violence is like the weather, there's nothing we can do about it so best accept the fact that you may have to kill people if you want to go out in public. Here's a gentleman on Fox News making that case:

Oh, and don't say anything that might set someone off. Maybe it would be best just not to talk to anyone. They could be having a bad day and they might have an AR-15 in their car and then you'll have to pull yours out and the whole day will be ruined, what with all the carnage.

That's a little extreme even for Republicans but it really isn't that far off from the common cry for "hardening soft targets" which basically means turning our entire society into armed camps with all public places under guard, doors locked and people with weapons and body armor, civilian and government alike, as if we are all supposed to live as if we are in a war zone ready to shoot at the first sign of danger. Here's what that looks like:

They're right about one thing. The sickness in this vision isn't the guns themselves. Those are just mechanical objects. The poison that's killing us is gun culture. These fetishists are prescribing a dystopian future, all so they can own the lethal weapons that are perpetuating the violence from which they then claim they need to defend.

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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