The horrific tragedy that took place on Friday, December 14th 2012 cannot be expressed in words. The actions of one gunman forever altered the lives of countless families and the discourse surrounding gun control in the United States.
I will not spend any time trying to dissect the motives or nature of the gunman; I am not a psychiatrist. It would be futile for me to attempt to do so.
So many innocent lives were taken so quickly all we can do is hope that such horrible atrocities are never seen again. I can only give my condolences to all those effected by such an awful tragedy which brought incalculable pain to so many.
The rifle most likely used by the gunman.
One issue, however, is getting more press coverage than ever: gun control. Following the massacre in Aurora, we saw a surge in discussion over possible gun control measures. Now, many individuals with good intentions are wrongly pursuing such policies once more.
Allow me to clarify a few issues before I elaborate further. First, no one wants to see his children grow up in a world of AR15′s and AK47′s. The sheer volume of death machines in the United States is frightening on any level. A world without any weapons is easily preferable to one so dominated by death and its instruments. The truth of the matter, however, is that at least 270,000,000 guns exist in the United States. Effective gun control would be impossible in these conditions and the only persons that would be affected would be working families who do not want to risk their livelihood by breaking the law.
Second, I am not a ‘gun-nut’, a member of the NRA, or even remotely conservative. I do not believe that guns have mystical qualities or that they grant the owner access to abstract conceptions of honor, courage, or bravery. Guns are only tools of death. A tool I would not want to be monopolized by the capitalist state.
The above statement easily summarizes my entire position. A position founded upon a recognition of class war and the extent of that struggle. To base the protection of gun ownership on a principle of ownership is to set your foundation in erosion. These lofty abstractions are meaningless; especially when they do nothing to challenge the material existence of the status quo. Talking aimlessly about natural rights of gun ownership only reaffirms the poverty of ethics. At most such abstractions are petty bourgeois talking-points with no sense of direction, and thus can be of no service to a revolutionary.By allowing the bourgeois state to monopolize the ownership of these tools, we only hurt the working class. The liberation of the working class must be our utmost priority, for without it, a truly ethical system is unreachable and humanity will forever be subjugated. It is for this reason, not for a love of guns, that Marx writes:
“… the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition… Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. ” – Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
Marx realized that class struggle means giving the working class every possible tool to ensure its victory. By concentrating the ownership of firearms into the propertied class, or its state organs, one is only stacking the odds against the working class. It will be argued that this quote from Marx is outdated and refers specifically to the conditions of the workers in Britain. Such an analysis fails to realize that the class war has not yet been won. Yes, times have changed, the mode of production has evolved, but it still remains firmly in the hands of the capitalist class. Any hint of socialist policies progressing in our society is illusory. Any concessions made to labor have only reaffirmed the victory of Capital and made more resolute the bourgeois position against social revolution.
Capital remains firmly in command.
As long as Capital dominates property relations, so too will bourgeois interests dominate the socio-political realm. This brings me full circle to a previous article of mine (see: The Poverty of Ethics: Dissecting the Non-aggression Principe). My primary argument being that socio-political action divorced from a contextual understanding of property relations will always serve to reproduce those same relations. Meaning (at least in this context), it is nearly impossible for a conscious directive from the bourgeois state to damage the interests of the capitalist class. This is one of the primary reasons why reformist actions have only served to re-entrench the bourgeois as the dominant class and co-opt the genuine class struggle.
Historically, this is becomes even more obvious. From a historical materialist perspective, gun control, among other weapon bans, has been utilized by the ruling class to consolidate power and crush resistance. Nearly every fascist leader has restricted gun ownership of the working class and used such leverage to execute unspeakable atrocities against those who would stand in resistance to their tyranny. Likewise, a gun ban or severe gun controls in the United States could only hurt revolutionaries and working class people, by making resistance to neoliberal policies illegal and violence against the masses impossible to mitigate.
Thus, the whole of the Marxist position on gun rights can only be a pragmatic one that exists to move the working class towards victory. This is also an important difference between a Liberal (as known in the American political realm) and a Marxist. A Marxist seeks to liberate humanity, to change the world. A Liberal seeks to propel bourgeois abstractions, to reinterpret the existing world. Unfortunately, petty bourgeois principles that ignore material conditions are just that, petty.
A completely separate question is whether or not such a wide possession of firearms will exist in a socialist society. To give my brief opinion, yes; however, in a much different circumstance and purpose than that possession exists today. Today, gun possession should be utilized to protect the worker from exploitative advances. In a socialist society, gun ownership would be maintained by the organized proletariat as a socially necessary tool to remain firmly in power. Gun controls might also be introduced, in a socialist society, against counter-revolutionaries, fascists, or belligerent class enemies who seek to restore capitalism. This, however, is a totally different issue for a totally different article.
In truth, no one want to see more children die. No one wants to see more innocent lives lost. Yet, we must recognize that gun control is not the answer, and as Marxists, resist such attempts to hurt the working class. Only then can we realize a truly safe world. Safe not only from crazed gunmen in our schools but from the masked insanity of capitalist accumulation that threatens the well-being of our entire reality.