How should socialists relate to what seems to be a growing movement among some high school students in favor of some sort of increased gun regulation – in particular banning assault weapons?
So, it seems we should start off by agreeing with their basic call to ban assault weapons. But we have to think this through. Simply banning the sale would make matters worse, since there are already up to 8 million such weapons in circulation, and the minute such a bill were even drafted up, millions would rush out and buy even more. So it has to be to take back all existing such weapons – to confiscate them.
Then matters get more complicated: How are you going to go about confiscating them in the present political climate, where the NRA gun fanatics/the racists are feeling so powerful and on the offensive? You are going to end up with one shoot out after another, and with a rebellion from among the police themselves, many of whom are also members of these racist groups. Today, being armed to the teeth is normalized among many millions. So, you have to reverse the entire political direction, the entire political climate here in the US. That means developing a political movement that takes up all the basic things that are bothering working class people here including economics, racism, sexism, and the environment.
We also have to take a look at what direction the US has been headed in since Ronald Reagan (at least). Under him, we had the cult of the individual. The idea was that the only thing that matters is one’s own personal advancement. If you “get ahead”, if you get a job as a bank executive and make several million per year, that is the only thing that matters. If you leave some lying in the gutter while you advance, no worries. If you manipulate others so that they end up broke and homeless, that’s okay too. This cult of the individual is expressed by the present Narcissist-in-Chief. If all that matters is our own individual advancement, if it’s fine to cut ourselves off from the conditions of others and of our community as a whole, then how can we expect that not to have negative consequences?
Violence Abroad; Violence At Home
Then there’s another issue: For far too long the great majority of people in the US have at least passively accepted the immense violence that the US government metes out on people all around the world. We have stood by while the US government kills entire families in drone attacks and dismisses it as “collateral damage”. Imagine if one of our younger sisters or brothers or a cousin were killed in such an attack and we were told, “sorry about that. Collateral damage.” When such mass killing is normalized, when it is accepted, then it is inevitable that in one way or another it will come back to haunt us.
Finally: Nobody is under the illusion that we’re going to resolve this overnight. And one thing has been proven: Neither the police nor the FBI is going to protect us adequately. So, what to do?
- First, we think that students and workers have the right to know if a fellow student or fellow worker
who they think is unstable is arming himself. (And it’s almost always a “him” or “he”.) They should have the right to have elected representatives of theirs demand that information from local law enforcement.
- Second, if they consider such a person to be a legitimate threat and the police do nothing (as was the case in Lakeland), then they should be organized to walk out and shut down their school or work place and be guaranteed no reprisals.
Two added points:
- Some argue that “we” need our guns to protect ourselves from an oppressive state. This is one argument (among a few) that is shared by the far right and some socialists, with socialists opposing “disarming the working class”. It’s just simply silly. No matter how many assault weapons workers have, it will be as nothing compared to the most powerful killing machine the world has ever known – the US government. How can any number of assault guns stand up to tanks, fighter jets, drones and howitzers? The solution to the threat of state repression lies in winning over the rank and file of the military, especially the National Guard, who are really just workers in uniform.
- A more serious – and more dangerous – argument is that of Trump and the NRA, that some teachers should be trained and armed. In the first place, which serious teachers even have the time to take proper arms training? More important, which teachers would it be? It would be the most disciplinarian, the most conservative and the most racist teachers. We can hear it already: “He was going for my gun,” or “I thought he was armed”, after some teacher shoots a student. Next we will have the call for teachers to carry “less than lethal” weapons like tasers and billy clubs. We already have cases of cops intervening in what are purely school disciplinary issues and even arresting students over such issues. This proposal would further blur the lines between being a teacher and being a cop. Schools are like prisons enough already without making teachers formal cops or prison guards.