Too many gun deaths, not enough guns

A college of photos Vester Lee Flanagan II sent to his old roommate

A collage of photos Vester Lee Flanagan II sent to his old roommate

“Please keep working out, player,” Vester Lee Flanagan wrote in a letter to his former roommate, shortly before he shot three people and killed himself. “When the heads stop turning, it’s awful.” Flanagan was 41, recently fired from his job as at WDBJ in Virginia, and nostalgic for his days as a male escort. He disliked Alison Parker and Adam Ward, but he was mad at something else. And his gun gave him the power to shoot anyone who didn’t shoot him first, if not precisely the authority.

If only Parker and Ward had guns, too—they might have killed Flanagan instead of the other way around, and this story would have a happy ending. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun who brings it to work, identifies the bad guy, and shoots him before he can do anything. If the good guy shoots the bad guy after the bad guy shoots a bunch of people, it’s a tie. That’s the tack I take in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, which is satire. No irony is too broad for the gun control debate, though, and I presume that I will be inundated with support and condemnation from people who take me seriously.

It is a serious topic, after all. But the way we talk about it is often indistinguishable from satire, particularly in the once-shocking but now hackneyed argument that only more guns can reduce gun violence. Remember when Wayne LaPierre was a crazy person for saying that? Three years later, it’s a slogan, like “life begins at conception” or “liquor before beer, in the clear.” What starts as absurdity ends as cant, if you don’t respond firmly enough.

I think we should start responding firmly to the fantasy that the way to reduce gun violence is for more people to carry guns. There’s no statistical evidence to support it. If it turns out not to be true, the exponents of that argument are indirectly killing people. The belief that more guns means fewer shootings is not a personal opinion, like “abortion is wrong” or “the government should use taxes to redistribute wealth.” It’s a claim of fact—one that appears manifestly untrue. We should not let it calcify into a political position.

I guess what I’m saying is that I urge you to mock people carrying guns. They’re living out a power fantasy already, so they should probably be reminded that the ability to kill someone is not the same as a mandate. A vocal minority of wanna-be cowboys and unscrupulous salesmen have made America the most violent developed nation on Earth. Perhaps they could withstand a little mockery—and if they can’t, all the better.

Kentucky clerk defies Supreme Court for religion she joined four years ago

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a court order

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses since Obergefell v. Hodges

The Supreme Court rejected her religious objection case on Monday, but Kim Davis still refuses to sign marriage licenses in Rowan County, Kentucky. When history looks back on the civil rights movement of our time, it will be disgusted that the creator of Garfield clung to bigotry so. Hang on—the Combat! blog interns have informed me that Jim Davis is the creator of Garfield, and Kim Davis is the Apostolic Christian county clerk who has refused to sign marriage licenses since the Supreme Court affirmed gays’ right to marry. Now the interns suggest I use the delete key rather than transcribing these errors and corrections in real time, but I don’t let college kids tell me what to do. When history looks back on the civil rights movement of our time, it will remember this week as a turning point in the right of all Americans to do whatever by saying it’s their religion. Kim Davis is the Rosa Parks of hating gay people.

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Combat! blog recovers from database error, rests comfortably

Combat! blog

Combat! blog

The first thing I did this morning was revise another essay, so I did not discover Combat! blog’s grievous database error until around noon. Then I had lunch. The intervening period was a hold in three acts presented by GoDaddy, whose customer service lives up to their standard as the lowest bidder for my web hosting needs. In the end, they disconnected me, but some how they fixed the problem too. We’ve written about GoDaddy’s problematic advertising and problematic CEO Bob Parsons before, and I urge you to revisit that one today. The videos don’t work with the new WordPress, but the puns are evergreen.


Trump on Bible: The whole thing is good

I don't know why you have to Photoshop the sign in this perfectly good picture of Donald Trump buying a Guatemalan.

Someone photoshopped the sign in this perfectly good picture of Donald Trump buying a Guatemalan.

Now that Donald Trump is a Republican candidate for president, he has to lie about how often he reads the Bible. Last week, he told interviewers from the Bloomberg program With All Due Respect that it was his favorite book. They asked him to cite a favorite verse. Instead of just saying “Jesus wept” and staring at the hosts until they fell silent, he ad libbed:

Trump: I wouldn’t want to get into it, because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into verses…The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.

Interviewer: Are you an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy?

Trump: Uh, probably equal. I think it’s just an incredible…the whole Bible is an incredible…I joke, very much so, they always hold up The Art of the Deal, I say “my second favorite book of all time.”

It tells us something about our present politics that the man who called Mexicans drug dealers and rapists during his announcement speech won’t just say he doesn’t read the Bible. Video and close reading after the jump.

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Friday links! Landscape of contemporary discourse edition

Contemporary discourse (artist's rendering)

Contemporary discourse (artist’s rendering)

I will never get tired of using Heironymus Bosch images in posts, which is good because A) there are a lot of them, and B) they are the art our time demands. That’s totally what communication on the internet looks like: wounded ears with knives between them, arrows shot through the dead, people living inside a smug burgher’s butt. It’s awesome that we’ve invented the largest, fastest, more democratic communications medium in the history of humankind, and people spend hours a day looking at it, usually on their phones, often during brunch. If only it were just as fast but a little more considered, or just as democratic but a little less vulgar. Today is Friday, and popular discourse is good, but there is no good popular discourse. Won’t you look out over the plebes with me?

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