In early August 2019, Americans found themselves shocked by the occurrence of two more mass murders at the hands of armed gunmen in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. I facetiously use the word shocked because men killing people in the United States is hardly a rare occurrence. As of September 17, 2019 there have been a total of 298 mass shootings, meaning we have had more than one mass shooting per day of the calendar year. The question many of us within the United States, and around the world, continue to ask after seeing this statistic is “Why are Americans, particularly males, so fervently urging our government to avoid any form of gun control that might curb these senseless acts of violence?”
The answer to the question of why may lie within the reasons 2nd Amendment advocates and NRA members give for needing to own weapons. These range from the benign and almost understandable to the horrifying. For example, the basic reason that gun owners give for needing a firearm is to protect themselves from a home intruder, to prevent themselves from being mugged in the streets or to go hunting. As a Southern gun owner, I can empathize to a point with this. And yet, despite this, crime in the United States is nearing an historic low in the post-World War II era, and home invasions and break-ins are increasingly rare.
However, from that point on the logic for owning a weapon gets a little scary as some gun owners dream of being heroic ‘cowboys,’ claiming that they need a weapon to save others if they are ever in an area where a mass shooting occurs. The times good guys with guns have stopped bad guys with guns are nearly non-existent. Worse yet, some go as far to the right-wing extreme of declaring the need for a weapon so they can fight off the ever-looming tyrannical government.
For these reasons, gun-nuts give millions to the National Rifle Association so that association can lobby Congress to “protect their rights to bear arms”.
Inaction flies in the face of what many of us would call common sense, but to these gun-wielding men, the rights and liberty associated with owning a weapon trumps any form of protection that gun control may offer. In other words, their need to be in complete control of their lives and the primary protector of their friends, family and neighbor is sacrosanct, and is to not be tampered with even if gun control makes them and the people that they love safer. To the men of the NRA and the Republican party, their gun is not only a toy, or a tool to obtain food. Their weapon is an extension of their manhood.
That last point should both scare and anger everyone reading this. The men of the NRA are putting the protection of their fragile masculinity on a pedestal far above the lives of the children and women that they claim to protect. Their masculinity is more worthy of protection than a child, take a moment to just let that sink in!
I am not one to use the term “toxic masculinity” lightly. However, it is undeniable that hyper-masculine men, and their shaky egos, are playing the largest role in Congress’ failure to do anything about gun violence in America. Those men who envision themselves riding in on a white horse saving the women at the local Wal-Mart with their AR-15 penis extender, and those men who envision themselves saving the Republic of the United States from a tyrannical government from coming in and giving us all healthcare, are a tremendous threat to all our health and safety.
As much as we want to blame the NRA and gun manufacturers for stoking the fears and ignorance of hyper-masculine men…the truth is that with or without the NRA and gun lobby these men, and the problems their toxic masculinity cause, would still exist and they would still be pushing their elected officials to protect their rights to be a hero. While we do have a corporate and lobbying problem when it comes to gun control, we also have a ‘man’ problem.
A fragile male ego is not more important than any man, woman or child’s ability to go out in public without fear of being shot down in cold-blood by some dirtbag who could not handle rejection by a romantic partner. No man, woman, or child should live in fear of a stray bullet flying in the window and killing them as they watch T.V. with their family. No migrant should fear death because some fragile male cannot handle being replaced by someone with a better work ethic.
If we want to end gun violence, we must do more than just take weapons off the streets. We must have a long, deep and difficult conversations with the men in our lives about how their egos should be placed in check, especially when a failure to check their egos put us all in danger.
On a final note, let me use a portion of my time to write a “man-to-man” letter to the men who genuinely oppose gun control because they are worried that gun control will lead to them losing the ability to protect their homes and/or to go hunting. I address this to the men who are misguided not just by their hyper-masculinity, but by the misinformation presented by the gun lobby. We need to be able to sway them to become our political allies and support common-sense gun control if we approach them in the right way. We need thee allies as the threat and occurrence of mass shootings continue to rise.
We cannot always be the hero, and that is okay! We cannot always save the world single-handedly, and that is okay! We do not need to prove our toughness with the violence of a weapon to be a man, and that is okay! Women do not need our protection, and our ability to play hero has no effect on our manhood…admitting that is okay! If you are like me and you enjoy hunting, and you enjoy going to the range for target practice, then let us work together and help write legislation that both protects our rights to enjoy those activities as well as taking weapons of mass death and destruction out of the hands of the people who should never be within fifty yards of a weapon. We can no longer accept the status quo of doing nothing. Something has to give, and the children of this country are tired of giving their lives. It is time that we lay some of our weapons down, if for no other reason that my nieces have a chance to live a long and healthy life
A male gun owner with common sense.
The time to the tackle the problem was yesterday and though it may seem too late we can still stop the bleeding. However, we can only do so if we admit what the problem is. The problem is the male desire to put their masculinity, and the objects associated with their masculinity, before the safety of the rest of the country. We can only stop the problem if we reach out to male gun owners who could be our allies. We now know the problem and the solution, let us begin to act on these solutions.