By Will Falk
My position on gun control is simple. As long as the police, soldiers, and rapists have guns, we should have guns, too.
As long as one in four women in this country are raped in their lifetimes, women should have access to guns. As long as people of color are gunned down in the streets, they should be capable of defending themselves. As long as theft of native land continues alongside genocide of native peoples, they should be able to arm themselves against their invaders.
People – mainly white, male people – tell me that I take too extreme of a view. They tell me they just do not see the violence.
They do not hear machine guns rattling every morning, bombs exploding, the screams of mangled children, and the sobbing of mothers finding those children, so they do not believe we are at war. As a society, they ask, aren’t we over violence? Do we really need guns in today’s United States?
Even though some cannot see it, refuse to see it, or deny it, we are at war for the survival of life on earth. How else do you characterize the fact that over 100 species a day are going extinct? How else do you describe the fact that indigenous languages are going extinct at a rate relatively faster than species? Currently, scientists are seriously questioning humanity’s ability to survive through the end of this century. If this is not war, what is?
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not against keeping guns out of the hands of some people. I do think people with certain histories of violence and mental illness should be barred from guns. It just so happens that many of the people who I think should be barred from guns (many men, for their inability to overcome toxic masculinity, for example) also happen to be cops and soldiers.
To make this more personal, I cannot own a gun because of a failed suicide attempt in California. It makes no difference to the State that I tried to kill myself with pills and that I currently have enough pills with me right now to finish the job. I also engage in frontline resistance and my writing has earned me some nasty messages from people I’m truly afraid of. I would like a gun, but I cannot own one.
I dream of a world where guns cannot exist. But, it is one thing to dream of that world, and another to take action in the real world to bring about that dream. Unfortunately, cops, soldiers, and rapists are not going to give up their guns, so I am firmly against allowing them to come take ours.
Frankly, I find most versions of the argument for more gun control to be racist. I do not mean racist in the typical “but I don’t hate anyone for the color of their skin” conception, but racist in the physical, systemic, and real sense of the word. I have argued before that hatred does not need to be felt to have devastating consequences.
Adolf Eichmann, executed for his role in organizing Nazi concentration camps, explained, “I was never an anti-Semite…my sensitive nature revolted at the sight of corpses and blood…I personally had nothing to do with this. My job was to observe and report on it.” Eichmann did not personally hate Jews. He simply helped exterminate millions of them.
Local, state, and federal governments are staffed by thousands of little Eichmanns engaged in institutional racism. We know that the cops who are shooting unarmed people of color around the country shrug and say, “Look, I’m just doing my job.” We see over and over again cops joined by their friends in district attorney offices doing their level best to keep cops from facing justice.
Additionally, Michelle Alexander has pointed out that there are more black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850. I imagine this sort of insidious racism would be Hitler’s wet dream.
Then, again, I find it hard to believe that the cops who are raping women while on-duty in the backs of squad cars, in gas station restrooms, and in their offices do not personally hate women. And what about all this news of American torture tactics? Are we to believe that the soldiers performing water-boarding and rectal feeding on people of color do not feel hatred for their victims?
Many people subscribe to what I call the bad-apple theory of the police and the military. They say no system is perfect. They say we’re always going to have a few bad apples in the bunch. The truth is, however, we do not live in a broken system. We live in a system that was designed to perpetuate power and hatred.
How many more women need to be raped by cops before this is clear? How many more unarmed people of color will be killed before we notice the roots of this apple tree are poisoned? How many more plates of nuts, raisins, and hummus will be pureed and forced through tubes inserted into the anuses of torture victims before we cut this tree down?
So, let’s bring this back to gun control. When we talk about gun control laws, who is going to enforce these laws? Is it going to be the same criminal justice system that imprisons more black men than were enslaved in 1850 supported by the same government that is defending the use of rectal feeding? Or is this system going to magically transform itself on the way through our front doors to confiscate an effective tool for fighting back?
Are these the people – people who will not be giving up their own guns – that we want coming into our communities to take guns away?
I also find the argument for more gun control to be ignorant of history. Perhaps, the most typical argument for more gun control follows the general misunderstanding of the nature of non-violent resistance in this country. This argument says that we do not need guns in this country just like we do not need violence. Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of non-violence is thrown up as a lazy example.
Dr. King, however, was a victim of exactly the type of racist applications of gun control laws I fear when he applied for a concealed carry permit in Alabama in 1956 after his home was bombed. Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA, explains for the Huffington Post that Dr. King was the perfect candidate for a concealed carry license, but his application was rejected by the local racist police force.
Many gun control advocates forget the integral role guns played in the Civil Rights movement. Groups such as the Deacons for Defense and Justice, Robert F. Williams’ Monroe, NC branch of the NAACP, and the Black Panther Party regularly carried guns in public. Even Dr. King was not dogmatic about his non-violence and agreed to march next to gun-wielding black men in the Deacons for Defense and Justice during the 1966 March Against Fear.
Many gun control advocates also forget the way indigenous peoples resisted the theft of their lands with guns. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull protected their lands from Custer and the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn with lots of guns. Geronimo carried guns against Mexican and American invaders of Apache homelands. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce defended himself with rifles as he fled the US Army over a 1170 mile retreat in 1877.
I remember the prophetic words of Tecumseh when he called on native peoples in the American Midwest to join him in armed resistance to American expansion. Tecumseh begged the Choctaws and Chickasaws to “Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.”
Then, Tecumseh pointed to history and asked, “But what need is there to speak of the past? It speaks for itself and asks, ‘Where today is the Pequod? Where the Narragansetts, the Mohawks, Pocanokets, and many other once powerful tribes of our race?’ They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white men, as snow before a summer sun.” Tecumseh spoke these words over 200 hundred years ago, and the extermination of indigenous peoples in North America only got worse.
In light of this history, do any of us honestly believe that this culture will voluntarily agree to stop killing indigenous people? And if this culture will not stop the murdering, why would we try to take guns out of the hands of people who need them?
Finally, I would like to propose a compromise to the mainstream gun control movement. I fully expect that most will reject this compromise out of hand and I will ask why later. I commend those who abhor gun violence. In fact, I commend those who abhor all violence. I think my compromise will address more violence than the elimination of guns from the hands of oppressed communities.
As we know, one in four women in this country is raped and another one in four fend off rape attempts. This means women are more likely to be raped or to fight off a would-be rapist than they are to be shot. Similarly, men are not being shot by women at a rate of one in four.
Additionally, the US Department of Justice reports that close to 100% of rapes are committed by men. Of course, rapes happen in different ways, but for the most part the common weapon in a rape is a penis.
I propose, then, in the interests of fairness that before we take guns away from women, men should give up their penises. Men with penises are, after all, hurting more women than women with guns are hurting men (or anyone, for that matter).
I know that most will not take my compromise seriously and I want to know why. Penises and guns have been used to inflict devastating amounts of pain and they have also been used in ways that benefit communities. Many do not view penises as inherently evil while they do view guns as inherently evil, but in each case is it not the character of the person using each that determines the goodness or evilness of the object?
Penises and guns have also come to symbolize power. The mere fact of being a man in this culture, the mere fact of possessing a penis, grants men access to arbitrary privileges that harm women. A gun on the hip of a policeman or on the shoulder of a solider is enough to scare most people into subservience.
If the gun control movement is going to take power away from women in the form of the right to own a gun, then they should ask men to give up their power in the form of their penis. Penises for guns, weapons for weapons. It’s only fair.