I write this with such a heavy heart. I’ve only heard snippets of the news — enough to hear the words “27 dead in school shooting” to make me cry in my car on my way home from work. There won’t be many details now, just enough coverage to keep people watching, either ghoulishly or with a cosmic sigh “how awful” because really it could be any one of us or the people we love, children or adults.
One thing we know for sure: the weapon was a gun and the shooter was a man. Almost certainly a white man, younger rather than older. These are the empirical certainties that run throughout the wide range of workplace shootings that have taken place over the past twenty years. Despite what NRA-types say (and each of them should feel the weight of these 27 deaths around their necks for the rest of their life time — all those who make those bloody ridiculous “guns don’t kill people” arguments), shooters — duh — use guns, for reasons related to the technology of mass killing. When I was reading crime news in the New York World from the 1890s, there were many stories about unstable people who attacked other people — in streets, in bars, in homes — with knives, for example, or bats, or their hands and feet.
But it’s hard to kill people with knives — to take one example — and it’s virtually impossible to kill a lot of people with a knife. I heard a snippet today from some public radio jack-ass about how bad people will find ways to do harm to other people, regardless Let me repeat myself: YOU CANNOT KILL 27 PEOPLE WITH A KNIFE (or I would add, other weapons NOT DESIGNED FOR MASS KILLING).
The technology of mass killing also has a gender. In the weeks to come I hope that there is some way to shift the debate in this country from Second Amendment bullshit to the right of all of us to work, learn, and live in places where we don’t have to worry about unstable people with access to the technology of mass killing.
Why do certain men’s rights to kill (ironic, eh?) trump our rights to live in gun-free, safe environments? Perhaps more importantly, why is the use of the technology of mass killing a masculine one? If we would address these crimes as forms of gender(ed) violence, perhaps we could better understand why (some) men embrace the right to kill — why and how and under what circumstances these acts become feasible, practical, and possible for young white men.
We know two things for sure about these shooters:
1. They are men, usually white men
2. They use guns.
For once, let the national conversation begin there — with those two facts — rather than with videogames, violent media, or the minutiae of their everyday lives.
Those are the things we know. Let’s start there.