Jack Crosbie doesn’t think a gun-free America is a realistic goal, but he wants to enact every gun control law possible and get as close to that utopian ideal as humanly possible.
After El Paso and Dayton, gun reform will be back in the spotlight for the next few weeks, as Americans are forced to reckon with the reality that they could be gunned down in a public space at any moment. This fear will fade in time, existing for many of us as a tiny undercurrent of anxiety, a nagging worry that occasionally rears its head when a car backfires on a crowded street or someone stands up suddenly in a darkened movie theater.
If this anxiety is your only symptom you are one of the lucky ones. The real horror of gun violence does not end when people get tired of posting their senators’ office numbers on their Instagram story. Mass shootings are only the tip of an iceberg of blood; the media and many lawmakers’ focus on assault weapons in particular is disproportionate to the harm those weapons actually cause when looking at gun violence overall. This isn’t an argument against banning assault weapons (although it’s often used as such by conservative media), but rather a reminder that political speeches about “weapons of war” on our streets overlook the larger scope of trauma that guns cause. Two-thirds of firearm deaths in this country are suicides. Gun homicides are shocking when they happen en masse, but like so many other structural failings of the American experiment, the grinding toll of everyday gun violence is primarily felt in poor communities, especially those of color, where the trauma of poverty is exacerbated by easy access to deadly force.
Like income inequality, affordable housing, student loan debt, and the private healthcare industry, the question of how to disarm America does not have an easy answer. (It’s worth noting that there is already disagreement on the left about guns, led by some groups who think an armed society is the best way to insulate themselves from the danger of a militarized hostile state controlled by far-right interests. I respect this view—those dangers are real. But I believe that in the end it assumes a pessimistic understanding of what America can and should be.)
The reality, I think, is that a truly gun-free America is impossible—firearms will always be a tool of violence and power in the modern world. The hope is that eventually, we can choose and control how the power to kill is applied in a way that kills the fewest people.
This is a future worth working toward—not one that pretends guns do not exist, but one that relegates their use to times of extreme duress, when humanity’s inherent violence leaves no other solution. The absence of guns will not heal the deep wounds that nations, sects, races, and groups have done to one another over thousands of years of our bloody history. But it will stop many wounds from being ripped anew, and let our children grow up in a world where their backpacks carry only books, and not “bulletproof” inserts to shield them from harm.
– Jack Crosbie in How to Disarm America