Vice.com has published several pro-gun-control articles as part of their recent Smarter Gun series, a series that promises to explore smart guns or the lack there of. Today, I'd like to review their article: Mandatory Carry, by Caleb March (source: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mandatory-carry).
Mandatory Carry is a fictional (supposedly science fiction) story about a man named Paul, who lives in a fictional state of the USA, 5 minutes in the future. In this fictional state, every male is required, by law, to carry a gun. They are also required to intervene in criminal acts of violence; failure to do so is punishable by death.
The story begins with Paul walking the streets of neighborhood, when he comes across an old, wounded man. "[A] man came limping around the corner and leaned hard against the stop sign, clinging to it as his body crumpled to the sidewalk. Paul took a half step backwards and froze. The man looked old, perhaps in his eighties, and even at this distance, Paul could see that the left side of his torso and his legs were soaked with black blood."
What does Paul do? By law he is required to help this man, if the man was a victim of a violent crime. Does he help this man? Does he communicate with the old man, try to figure out what happened? Does he call for an ambulance? No.
"[Paul] looked at his own hand and he was shocked to find his gun aimed steadily at the bleeding man. He didn't remember drawing the weapon but he understood in an instant why he had done it... Paul closed his eyes slowly, until tears welled up along his nose. The recoil of the gun shook his body and he fell backwards into the ringing silence, smiling as he drifted up into the ethereal shadows cast by the dancing leaves. "
Paul kills the old man, and this is where we learn that there is something wrong with Paul. I hate to use mental illness as an excuse for people's actions, and I won't use it here, but the author is clearly intending to paint Paul as mentally unstable. Regardless, as a free, independent adult, Paul made the decision to murder an old, wounded man - for no apparent, justifiable reason.
The story then flashes back to Paul's life, and we learn more about Paul and this fictional society where every man must carry a gun. Here we learn that Paul hates himself for fearing his weapon, and is relieved when he is home and can disarm (he clearly never read TTAG). We also learn that Paul fears becoming a social outcast if his fears are found out, for apparently, a new fraternity has formed around guns.
There is much to be unpacked in the next paragraphs, and honestly, I haven't the stomach nor the mental endurance to dissect all of it, and discuss in great detail all of the possible meanings. A college level thesis could be written dissecting this article. Let me then discuss what I consider more interesting parts.
Gun parties: "At these parties, the men would sit around a table and lay out their weapons under the chandelier light, watching the fragmented glare play across the polished shafts and curves, accentuating the erotic details. The room would grow quiet as the proud owners surveyed the landscape of phallic glory set out before them." Ah yes, the old Freudian Slip, where everything must be sexualized. Why? to make cis-gender males shy away from guns, thus destroying gun culture. It also harkens to penis envy and dick waving contests, this is an attempt of the author's to portray gun owners as childish and closet homosexuals. This also sets up a "No True Scottsman" fallacy - as no, true masculine man would think they needed a gun, or associate with something so feminine. There is also an element of occultism, a sort of silent praise and worship, as if gun owners all believe in the religion of the gun.This of course sickens the main character, "a steady nausea danced through [Paul's] body while he spoke [with the other men about guns], and occasionally he felt his face begin to flush, and he would excuse himself to the bathroom. In the mirror, he would watch the blood drain from his face and beads of cold sweat bloom along his hairline." Just look at how disgusting guns, and guns culture is! Why it's so disgusting, it makes our apparently mentally unstable, feminine "protagonist" physically ill! Another reason to hate guns.
Next, we are told a side story about how a drifter raped a woman and shot a would-be-good-Samaritan. The Samaritan's gun jammed, and the drifter shot him. They were both hung by a noose. The sole purpose of this side story is to illustrate just how perverse the gun culture is, and how it has perverted the law and society. This is of course an affront to old adage: "An armed society is a polite society." It also flies in the face of the research that proves a strong correlation between well armed societies and lowered crime.
Finally, we learn of Paul's fate. He is to be hung, and justifiably so. The old man was a well-connected, influential, and productive member of society. This is clearly meant to recall thoughts of recent shootings, and how the mainstream media questioned their justification. However, unlike (or perhaps like) reality, Paul's case is pretty clear cut: he murdered that man. Paul dies, a symbol failure.
As I stated, there is much to be written about this article, and I encourage you to read it and ponder the author's intent and message. This story is a failure. The author trots out the same old arguments: people are crazy and can't be trusted; guns are all about compensating for a small penis; guns are phallic symbols and gun owners are secretly gay; real men don't need guns; guns are scary; gun culture is disgusting and cult like; and lastly, guns would make a "sane" man want to kill himself by cop.
The truth is no. Men aren't carrying or buying guns to compensate for small penises. If that were true, how would they explain women who own guns?
No, the vast majority of gun owners are sane, law abiding citizens, who don't want to harm anyone unless their life is threatened.
If guns are phallic symbols, so is everything else, and when everything is a phallic symbol, nothing is. Sometimes an object is really just the object it is.
Yes, some gun owners may be in the closet, and yes, there are even gun owners who are gay. However, a person's sexuality is a private matter, and really shouldn't matter.
Yes, guns can be scary, just as everything new and unfamiliar; unfortunately, the author isn't helping, nor does he even try to analyze the protagonist's fears.
As the famous quote goes: "argue not the need." Once you get beyond food, water, and shelter, much of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is based on wants and desires. Get beyond the question of need, and start asking why someone would want a gun. The answers are to defend themselves, hunt, master a skill, to collect, as physical investments, and/or just because they're cool. The great thing about a gun is that it does all of this at once.
Gun culture isn't disgusting, or cult like. Again, most gun owners are law abiding. If you don't believe me, go to your local gun range and start asking questions. See how many people offer their advice.
No, guns don't make you suicidal. Suicidal people are suicidal before they buy guns. As the author portrayed Paul, there was already something wrong with him, and he so desperately wanted escape that he committed a heinous crime to exit the world.
The author fails one more time. As stated in the beginning, this story is part of a series of articles about smart guns, yet it never once mentions smart guns. It doesn't discuss how a smart gun could've stopped this murder (it couldn't). It doesn't discuss even potential pros, like stopping a child from shooting him/herself. The author does nothing in this story but try to destroy gun owners and gun culture. He paints us as childish, closet homosexuals, patriarchal, cultish, and crazy. He paints gun culture as disgusting. He seeks to emasculate gun owners by making his protagonist feminine. All of this is highly odd, considering it's posted on Vice's Motherboard page, which is supposedly about science and technology, and this is supposedly part of a series on smart guns. Then again, considering the disarmament crowd, it all makes sense to them.
In end, my take away is this: the right to keep and bear arms isn't just about laws, but also about culture, ideas, speech, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other. To keep our freedoms, we're going to have to be prepared to fight a culture war of ideas and narratives.