The Massacre in Colorado: Guns as Bourgeois Freedom
On July 20 2012, a gunman appears in a movie theater in Colorado wearing body armor and a gas mask, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a .40-caliber handgun, and kills at least 12 people and wounds 59. As is usual whenever the “long chronicle of violence” in the USA is extended by another spectacular murderous deed, the debate about access to guns is roused. In this way, the attack tells us something about the quite normal peaceful everyday life in the USA. That is, it’s by no means unusual that a young man could stockpile an arsenal big enough for a “small military unit” on account of “liberal gun laws” in the land of boundless opportunities. There are, according to estimates by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (sic!), about 223 million firearms in private hands. Every fourth American owns one or more such “peacekeepers” – a reason to alarm “moderate opinion makers”; especially when, once again, somebody has turned a workplace, a school or a movie theater into a slaughterhouse. On the other hand, “gun control” is truly “fighting words” in the “land of the free.”
Weapons for America
Americans attach a lot of value to the sacred right to own and carry weapons that the second highest amendment to the Constitution provides each respectable and free American citizen. Unlike most countries, the American state does not make a strict separation between official personnel who are responsible for the state monoply on violence and who are therefore armed to maintain and enforce it and the average citizens who are entitled to have guns only in exceptional circumstances. Alongside its publicly appointed and accordingly armed police, it recognizes quite a lot of other qualified defenders of “law and order” – namely, in principle, every good American. The American state as a matter of principle does not differentiate between the private individual who pursues only his personal advantage in competition and the citizen who should muster some community spirit in addition to his private identity. Rather, it makes competition itself into the national duty and identifies unconditional striving in competition with the national ethos, recognizing and upholding the successful subject of the capitalistic struggle for existence as its DNA. Its citizens see this exactly the same way: Their private self-assertion is a certification of their test as a good American; the flag is the same as their private mission in life. Anyone who has gainfully followed the state decree to successfully compete may therefore also bask in the awareness of having fulfilled his service for the nation. Its reward for him consists in increasing the success of the nation, by his boldness in getting all obstacles out of the way of his struggle for existence. Wherever there is the dollar, there is also the flag – and vice versa.
National and private combat missions are counted in America as more or less one and the same. The same can be said of the piece of private power which the state power grants its citizens. Every Deputy Sheriff, every militia member who ever lent a righteous hand for the defense of the domestic peace against blacks and other subversive elements is testimony to it. Their law and order fanaticism leaves to federal and state governments part of the decision as to what laws are enforced locally and who may and should ensure their execution. The now and then seemingly smooth transition from actual to lynch justice leaves the honored principle just as unsullied as those more frequently encountered incidents in which well-armed private individuals help unlawfully enforce their own quite private law with force of arms. The gun in the hand of the criminal may be regrettable, but only makes the gun in the hand of the decent citizen even more necessary. In the USA, people who intend to arm themselves at weapon shows and the appropriate shops with more or less everything below nuclear weapons that lies within their financial reach are considered completely normal. The question what they really want with them is prohibited because the answer is clear: Like any good American, they admittedly see themselves as state power personified, as an epitome of everything that represents “America” and deserves defending against all domestic as well as foreign challenges. So honorable citizens who organize themselves into heavily armed vigilantes and spend their weekends doing private military maneuvers are seen by their co-patriots as at most mildly peculiar, but are rightly not suspected of engaging in un-American activities.
This becomes even more of a hot topic whenever Washington – on the occasion of assassination attempts or other privately organized bloodbaths – announces strengthened controls or even limits on the limitless access to guns of any caliber; for instance, when it bans the sale of machine guns or imposes on licensed firearm dealers the duty to report the names of their customers to local police. Because in the USA it is not only as a “gun owner” that one feels united with the state power; every decent American citizen carries around with him the firmly established national self-confidence whose morality and righteousness he personally represents, so that one holds the appearance of the state power itself often to be somewhere between superfluous and harmful. The central government is present anyway in the rigidly habitual suspicion that it interferes at every turn in the rights of its citizens and restricts them instead of handling as ordered the liberation of both private as well as national success. It’s bad enough that Washington extorts too much in taxes from its successful citizens in order to subsequently squander it on single mothers and their kids – it’s even worse when it intends to get its hands on the citizen’s brand name of freedom, “Smith & Wesson.” The upstanding American does not let his gun as a badge of his intact morality be taken from his hands because he carries it, in the end, for America – anyone who tries to, vice versa, attacks America. That’s why, firstly, the “gun lobby” is so “powerful” in the US and, secondly, neither Congress nor the government has much ambition in this regard. The insistence of the decent citizen on cultivating his American national consciousness by decking himself out – only in case of necessity – into his own over-armed private army is just not an anarchism that would be worth stopping, but the extreme form that citizen’s consciousness takes in this “God blessed” country.