Or, an open letter to Rep. Bob Gannon
In an eerie bit of coincidence, I was at a mall here in the Milwaukee area last Saturday at the same time when, at East Towne Mall in Madison, there was a shooting. In the same way, I was teaching high school in 1999 when Klebold and Harris shot up Columbine High School in Colorado, in the same way I was sitting in an airport in 2006 at the same moment British officials broke up the trans-Atlantic terror plot and forever consigned us to carrying shampoo in 3-oz. bottles. (Note to self: stop going places.)
What I mean is, I don’t walk into my opinion on this randomly; I have given some thought and have some experience to back up what I am about to say, which is this:
Shut up. Just shut your stupid, idiotic, racist pie hole. Staple it closed if you have to, but just. Shut. Up.
Because this is you:
“Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scum bags,” Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, said in a statement on Monday. “Criminals no longer have any fear of our courts or our prisons, so it’s time that the citizens of this fine state stand up and fight back.”
Gannon said a “gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding CCW holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass, as this is how you’re trained to eliminate the threat these creeps pose to you, your family, and all law abiding citizens unwillingly dragged into their public crime spree.”
Look, Rep. Gannon, I don’t know who you’re trying to impress here, but I certainly expect that sitting in your exurban Slinger house-farm home there on Big Cedar Lake, among your WASPy neighbors, you feel like a big man. In your mind, you’ve tied on the headband and you’re ready to be the big defender of freedom, liberty, and white folks everywhere.
And along those lines, why don’t you just go ahead and break out the n-word? “Gang-bangers, thugs, and scum” is so cumbersome, and we all know what you’re thinking. Just go ahead and say it.
But here’s where I’m going with this. If there are any white people out there likely to face a situation where some “gang-banger” pulls a gun on them, it’s not you. It’s not randos at a mall. It’s people like this blog’s proprietor Zach whose job puts his safety on the line every day, and he thinks you’re insane.
Or it’s me, since I go to work every day not in quite the same dangerous situations that Zach does, but to teach a bunch of black and brown teenagers, most of which I’m guessing if you saw them being loud and having fun at the mall, you would probably say are “gang-bangers, thugs, and scum” and you’d wish you had your gun there with you in case something went down.
As I wrote in that Columbine post linked above, these kids don’t scare me. Even the ones who walk into my class after having been absent for three months straight and tell me they were in jail for battery or assault or whatever, they don’t scare me. When I see them at the mall, as I sometimes do, even the ones who are already felons, they don’t scare me. Despite what you may think and despite what Donald Trump may tweet, you and I and the white folks you pander to are not likely to be shot at by black or brown people we don’t know.
Because here’s the thing, Rep. Gannon: If some kid at my school, or in the mall, has a beef with some other kid–as is apparently true in the shooting that happened last Saturday–any violence will be constrained to that beef.
Does it mean that there are never innocent bystanders hurt? Of course not–that happens too often and it’s one of the reasons why I fight not to have more guns on the street but fewer: how many more Sierra Guitons would there have been if bystanders started shooting, too? How many more funerals would my fellow MPS teachers and I have to go to if the vigilante society you want comes true? Because we go to too many already (and never see you there, by the way).
Your vision of the world is different, though, informed not by reality but by your membership in the gun-makers lobbying group the National Rifle Association and its influence-peddling PAC spending on your fellow GOPers. You buy the line that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, that an armed society is a polite society, that–as you put it to the WSJ–the gang-banger is going to “think twice” if he’s worried someone else with a gun is standing behind him lining up his center mass for a kill shot.
That line, to put it politely, is bullshit.
For one, there are almost never instances when someone without law-enforcement or military training has stopped a mass shooting. Indeed, concealed carry permit holders are much more likely to commit such shootings. The fact is, the profile of your average, median mass shooter in this country is someone who looks like you, Rep. Gannon, not someone who looks like my students. Suburban white kids with rage issues shoot up schools and murder their teachers, not my students.
And in the kind of incident that happened Saturday at East Towne Mall, when apparently two groups of teenagers were beefing, the gun came out even though the perpetrator may well have thought his victim himself was armed. (I have often said that homicide stats from places like Chicago or Milwaukee, where armed men and teenagers shoot and kill other armed men and teenagers, disproves the idea that more guns would reduce the amount of crime and violence.)
The last thing that needed to happen in a situation like Saturday’s is for some pasty-faced Rambo wannabe to start shooting. No one else was targeted by Saturday’s shooter than the one who got shot. But imagine the chaos when that shooter whips around and starts shooting back at Rambo: how many innocents get hit when the number of bullets flying escalates exponentially?
Worst of all, there’s people like you, the ones who think it’s their job to make sure that gun manufacturers keep profiting with no regulation, even though their products kill more people, now, than cars do, even though thousands of children are killed by guns every year, even though gun violence collectively costs American and Wisconsin tax payers hundreds of billions a year. And, when violence does happen, when we should be mourning the dead and plotting how to stop the spread of such violence, your first thoughts are bizarre revenge fantasies and deadly vigilante scenarios–let’s kill all those n-words, you say, maybe not out loud, but that’s sure what it sounds like when you translate the code words from your statements.
So shut up, Rep. Gannon. You don’t have the moral high ground, you don’t have the facts, and you sure as hell don’t have an ounce of real compassion for the people whose lives are actually touched by gun violence. What you do have is the profile of someone much more likely to be a killer than to be killed, and a track record of trying to multiply the number of guns around us any and everywhere. You scare me. You, sir, are the problem, not the answer.
Note: Until the end of the year, I am giving away this song I wrote last summer after the on-camera deaths of a reporter and her cameraman. Pay nothing, or pay something–all proceeds will be donated to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.