This picture is worth WAY more than a thousand words. This image illustrates the fundamental reason why guns are here to stay as a centralized feature of American society and popular culture. Guns are SEXY. Guns are powerful. Guns evoke titillating emotion. That makes guns a very easy sale and everything in America is about making the sale. And say what you want about these gun manufacturers, they learned a long time ago how to sell their product to us.
On the other hand, interfering with sex, power and titillating emotion is a limp and dour proposition. You can’t get less sexy than interfering with guns regardless of how compelling the logic might be or how real the benefit to the public welfare. Guns are so sexy that their appeal is one of the few legitimately cross-cultural marketing successes in American cultural history. You can hear gun culture being celebrated and worshiped in popular hip-hop music and country music alike. On the darker side, there are haunting pictures in our archives of guns being brandished proudly by posing Ku Klux Klan members, military servicemen, Black Panther Party members, and even little children on the homestead. So EVERYBODY’S got guns because we love how they make us FEEL- even if most of us will never have occasion to use them. So the starting point for this debate for those of us who don’t get a raging hard on from guns because, you know, they keep being used to kill little kids and innocent bystanders walking down the street, is finding something that FEELS as good to folks as guns do. And there is only one thing: cold hard cash money.
If we can figure out how to really put those two together, we might really have something that works on a long-term basis.
Here’s how we might pull that off: what if we upgraded the old gun buy-back programs? Cash isn’t enough to get a significant number of guns surrendered by private owners to the government- but adding a TAX CUT with every exchange of a weapon capable of functioning like a machine gun is very sexy. We learned right at the end of last year that “conservatives” would sell their teenage daughter to R. Kelly for a tax cut so don’t underestimate the excitement that offer could generate on their end. Getting some cash AND a tax-cut for the surrender of some weapons would be a proposition that would be considered by all gun owners and accepted by enough to make it worth our while. This would involve a lot of complex negotiation but its a start and a step in the right direction. Nothing will be achieved by force as it relates to guns that are already in the hands of the public. It has to be a voluntary exchange to make any headway.
For starters, everybody needs to understand that gun policy cannot be a zero sum game. Approaching it that way is how we got into this mess in the first place. This is the one area of our legislative landscape where negotiation is at its most pure so NOBODY with any sense is going to be doing a touchdown dance at the end of a process that produces new gun policy. Trade-offs can work here in a way that they never can in debates over abortion rights or immigration policy. We should take full advantage of the fact that EVERYBODY agrees on the one key point in the discussion: mass killings are a bad thing and we’d all love it if we never had another. Extremists poison the well we all have to drink from so if we want to make any headway the crazed NRA has to be as marginalized as pacifists who would like all guns to be confiscated. That is a heavy lift but as long as they hold congressmen and senators in their pockets like nickels and dimes we will be having mass shootings forever. Or until some crazy fool in the Michigan Militia gets his hands on a nuclear bomb and settles this whole thing for us in one big shot.
Let’s remember that there is no influence that is more reliable and impactful than giving people what they want. Or at least giving them the promise of giving them what they want. Looking at the sorry state of this gun debate I’m figuring the real breakthrough has to come from the old-school, Dale Carnegie style of communication and negotiation. Nothing else has worked and it APPEARS that there is a small opening for progress to be made. But it is very small and will close very fast. Were it not for the brains and balls of the teenage victims-turned-activists from Parkland, there would be no window at all so we owe them an enormous debt. And we can pay it by setting off a negotiation that could actually work this time to get those AR-15 out of the hands of private citizens- or start that process anyway. But if a young lady wants to hold on to her piece for protection or just for cute pictures I say stay out of her way- and enjoy the view.