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Apparently, if the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary had an M-4 assault rifle the massacre in her school would have been prevented. Over the weekend, an Indiana man was caught with 47 guns in his home and was in the midst of preparing for his own murder rampage at a nearby school. An Oklahoma high school student was planning his own murder rampage and was apprehended on the same day as the Newtown massacre.

The gun is a fetish object. It is also a tool that can be used for good or evil. It has freed countries. The gun has killed dictators. The gun has allowed small numbers of people to control many more than their number on the plantation, in the coal mine, in the sweatshop, or the forced labor camp. The gun allowed one man to kill 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gun, in the hands of a teacher or a child in that same circumstance, would have offered no guarantee of their survival.

In his dreams of Call of Duty and other cartoonish video game violence, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert imposes his post hoc counter-factual onto the shooting massacre in Sandy Hook. To him, if more folks had the capacity to effortlessly shoot and kill like a character out of either a bad 1980s action movie, or a John Ford western, then Adam Lanza would have been stopped cold in his tracks.

The facts are not kind to Mr. Gohmert. In reality, it is very hard to accurately shoot a weapon under stress. Most soldiers require a great amount of training to overcome the natural instinct against taking another human life. "One shot, one kill" by a high school principal against an armed assailant (who is also determined to kill them as well) is a joke--a fantasy of the Gun Right and its devotees.

For example, the ratio of bullets fired by U.S. troops to one enemy dead in Afghanistan is 250,000 (this includes training, suppression fire, direct fire, etc.). In Vietnam, the number of rounds fired by U.S. soldiers for each enemy "kill" was 50,000. And according to the United States Army's own data--which should be viewed critically as a very self-serving best estimate--a trained soldier will only hit a man sized target 10 percent of the time from 300 meters.

Trained police officers would also have a very difficult time effectively intervening in a mass shooting incident where there are large numbers of innocent people, and in a complex space such as a school, which is what occurred at Columbine or Newtown:

Under the Peoria Police Department's new rapid-response protocol, the first officer on the scene of a Columbine-style shooting waits until three others arrive to form a contact team. Officers in a smaller group or alone would not have 360-degree coverage, Adams says, and Rambo-style freelancing would confuse communications and increase the chances of "blue on blue" casualties: police officers shooting each other. The contact team forms a diamond, with a point, two flanks, and a rear guard handling radio communications. The team enters the building and moves through it as quickly as possible; team members maintain their relative positions so that they can see and hear each other.

In a large building a second team may go in, either to help track down the shooters or to rescue bystanders and the wounded.

Adams says that gunmen are less likely to fire at innocent bystanders if they are shooting at pursuing police officers. "We train them to move to the sound of gunfire," he says. "Shooting scenes are very chaotic and stressful. You experience sensory overload. Every time you hear a gunshot, assume someone has been wounded. Try to take ground, and isolate the shooter. If the shooter decides to commit suicide by police, we'll oblige. The person making the decision on how it will end is the bad guy. We're just reacting." Adams says, however, that "deadly force imperatives" have not changed for the Peoria police. "We teach that you should shoot what you know, not what you think you know. That man with a gun in his hand who steps out of a doorway may be a plainclothes police officer or a school security guard. Or maybe a teacher who brought a gun to school."

...Layman stepped over people who were lying on the floor, playing wounded students. They moaned that they were hurt, clutched at his legs, and begged him to stop and help them. One man, playing a terrified but unhurt student, leaped from a doorway and grabbed him. Layman wrestled the man away and pushed him toward his trailing teammates, who in turn pushed the man behind them and told him to run back down the hallway to the exit. Another man leaped from a doorway, but this one fired at Layman's team. Others, with guns blazing, attacked from behind or sniped at the officers from doorways. When the contact team's blue-paint simunitions struck the attackers squarely on their vests or helmets, the gunmen stepped aside. They were out of the exercise.

For reasons of politics or possession by the gun gods, Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners Association of America seems to be willfully ignorant of the above realities:
"Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun."
The irony is priceless here: as Gawker points out, the guns used to kill 26 innocent people were in fact owned by a teacher.

Here, I described guns as a fetish object of "plastic and metal" which has an otherworldly appeal and power over many of its owners. This allure trumps reason--or alternatively becomes a stand-in for channeling some type of spiritual or existential force.

The comments by Larry Pratt and others in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary are further proof of my claim. In thinking through the magical power of guns, I am reminded of the following passage from Colin Wilson's book The Occult:

They believe that this ritual establishes some kind of mysterious contact between the hunter and the hunted; now the animal cannot escape. No matter how fast it runs, or where it hides, the hunter moves towards it inexorably, guided by fate. It is the animal's destiny to become his prey.

The 'scientific' attitude to these activities is that they are primitive superstitions, merely a sign of ignorance of cause and effect. If they happen to be successful, this is only because they create a feeling of success in the hunter; it is self-hypnosis. I would argue that this view may completely miss the point. The hunter's mind becomes totally concentrated on his prey by the ritual, activating the same powers that led Rhine's subjects to such high scores when they first tried influencing the fall of dice.

The following is also a powerful insight into the cult of the gun as a "god" object for individuals such as Larry Pratt, and organizations such as the NRA:
The more man expanded his activities, the more gods he needed. When he began to sail the seas, he needed to make sacrifices to the sea god; when he set out on a journey, he needed to feel himself under the protection of the god of travellers, and so on. Every new enterprise needed a new god. Man was out to gain control of his environment. And his chief means of achieving this control was still--magic.
American society is built upon the cult of the gun. And now that Turner's frontier is closed and no longer exists, there remain millions of people who still imagine themselves as cowboy pioneers, yeomen farmers, and "patriots" who are ready to defend the country's "freedom" by playing soldier in the woods on the weekend, or by owning dozens of guns which have no legitimate use other than as implements of killing on the battlefield. They desperately seek control. When they find it wanting, some of them will lash out as we have seen with the angry white men who commit the overwhelming number of mass shootings in the United States.

Our family members, communities, and children are the collateral damage from America's cultural fixation on firearms. One of the questions that should be answered post Sandy Hook (and which will not be) is how much blood are gun rights advocates willing to see spilled in order to protect an abstract "freedom" to "bear arms" that is in conflict with the basic right to be safe and secure in our communities and public spaces?

The gun god has possessed many people. Will common sense prevail, and will it be able to pierce through the magical glamour put on the thought processes and social vision of the Gun Right?

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