[T]he power of these images lies not just in the guns but who can wield them with cultural impunity, and toward what end.
On the latter point, these photos speak to a troubling kind of cultural and political outlook.
I don’t own a gun, and I think America would be much safer if it disarmed like Australia or regulated guns like Japan. But let’s make some distinctions here about American gun ownership. Hunting culture makes a great deal of sense to me; I respect it as a cultural tradition, and given how unethical our livestock industry is, I think responsible, ethical hunting is a defensible pursuit. And if one lives in an area in which it feels necessary to store weapons for self-defense, perhaps due to living in a remote or distinctly unsafe place, I am sympathetic to the desire for a gun that is stored carefully, even though there is data that suggests the safety they provide is questionable.
But it’s another thing entirely to stock up on weapons which are manifestly not for hunting or a last resort for self-defense, but in fact designed for law enforcement and military personnel to severely injure and kill people with extreme speed. Moreover, accumulating these kinds of killing machines and encouraging children to view them with casual delight is a recipe for prompting minors to misuse them. Consider that a prosecutor said the Oxford shooting suspect was given his semi-automatic pistol as a Christmas gift, and that his mother instructed him to avoid letting his teachers see him buying ammunition online. Consider how Kyle Rittenhouse, who obtained his gun as a teenager and fatally shot two people at a protest against police killings, said he chose an AR-15 style, in part, because he “thought it looked cool.”
Massie and Boebert are helping normalize a spectacle of vigilantism that weaves the possibility of warfare into everyday American life. It’s incredibly dangerous.
— Zeeshan Aleem in Lauren Boebert’s and Thomas Massie’s Christmas cards are disturbing