Learning from the Uvalde Shooting and its Political Aftermath

All too predictably, the usual suspects spared not a moment to capitalize upon the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas for the advancement of their own political purposes. A few points:

First, the idea that it’s possible to “stop” so-called gun violence, whether of the school shooting variety or of any other criminal sort, simply by passing yet another restriction on the distribution and ownership of guns—on top of the thousands of such laws that already exist—doesn’t deserve to be dignified with a response.

To be clear: No thoughtful person beyond adolescence can possibly believe this. The notion that mass shooters would be deterred by a law nominally intended to accomplish what none of the other thousands of gun laws have thus far been able to accomplish is the spawn of delusion and dishonesty. It is categorically unserious.

And for this reason, given the stakes involved for innocent lives, the immediate cry for “sensible gun legislation” warrants unmitigated contempt.

Second, the very term “gun violence” is sophomoric. This is political rhetoric designed to advance an agenda. Politicians, their apologists in corporate media, and social activists know that if they say it often enough, the term “gun-violence” will mesmerize the masses so they will regard the gun as possessing talismanic powers. “Gun violence” is a crude anthropomorphism in that it personifies an inanimate object.

That it is only when guns are used for nefarious purposes, or by criminals, that the term “gun violence” is employed is a further tip of the hat that the term is valued on account of its political expediency—and not for its accuracy. Are Russians and Ukrainians currently engaging in “gun-violence?” Are those law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers who stop mass shooters and other criminals by shooting them engaged in “gun violence?” Did the American soldiers who stormed the beaches of France on D-Day partake of “gun violence?”

Automobiles and other objects are also used to commit violence, including homicidal violence. When, for example, a black male with a history of expressing anti-white animus drove his vehicle into a group of white people who were participating in a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, there were no cries—nor should there have been any cries—denouncing “car violence.”

A tenet of Confucianism is known as “the Rectification of Names.” The sage’s point was that in order to know reality, we must strive to recognize things for what they are. Politicians and partisan media propagandists who evade reality by trading in labels that advance their ideological ends are not, and cannot be, interested in saving lives.

Third, many of the most full-throated defenders of the Second Amendment, particularly those who own guns, tend to anthropomorphize the gun just as much as its detractors do.

It’s true that a gun can be a great equalizer. It’s not true that a gun is a great equalizer. Like hammers, pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers, etc. the gun is just a tool. Just as the possession of even the most enviable toolbox does not a carpenter make, neither does the possession of all of the guns in the world make the possessor a dangerous person.

The gun is only as good or as effective as the person wielding it. It’s not a “magic wand.” Being an excellent shot at the range or even while on sniper duty is one thing. Being able to shoot and kill under duress and within the ever-changing dynamics of a gun fight is something else entirely.

Just as a person with a toolbox must practice to become a carpenter (or, at the very least, to become relatively handy in the use of his tools), so too is it the case that practice is necessary if one is to become handy with a gun for self-protection. This practice, though, can’t just be limited to shooting stationary targets so many times every so many months (or even multiple times per month). 

The gun, being an artificial weapon, is merely an extension of one’s natural weaponry, one’s body. More specifically, in that it is for the purpose of getting the jump on the villain or villains that one obtains a gun for the protection of oneself and those in one’s care, the gun, in this context, is a function of the efficiency with which one moves one’s body.  

But—this is critical—this maximal economy of bodily motion is itself the fruit of training that must include psychological conditioning of a precise sort. The efficiency of physical movement upon which the student of self-protection should be focused is not efficiency for its own sake. The movement is animated by a goal that transcends mere matter insofar as it is centered in the will.

And this goal is nothing more and nothing less than the annihilation of the enemy: The more efficiently, the more smoothly or fluidly, a person moves, and the more deceptively he moves, the greater his chances of being able to disorient the sense of timing of bipedal predators just long enough to . . . excise them from the human species that they’ve betrayed by preying upon innocents.

The simple possession of a gun and target practice at firing ranges is no substitute for martial training—that is, the training necessary to make oneself into a peerless combatant and, thus, a danger to the predators of our world. The gun can make one’s job of dispatching bad guys easier, certainly. It is, however, just an instrument, a function of oneself—a fact of which far too many arms-bearers seem to lose sight.

Finally, whether the police acted dutifully or not in Uvalde is not relevant, as far as present purposes are concerned. The painful fact of the matter is that the law enforcement response on that fateful day serves as a glaring illustration of something with which all adults should have long ago reconciled themselves: Grown men and women, particularly the “posterity” of the those who bequeathed to them the Second Amendment, must assume responsibility for their own protection.

Even had the Uvalde police arrived immediately upon having been notified of the shooting within the school, and even had they acted immediately, they would not have been able to prevent at least some lives from being taken precisely because they were notified after the shooting had already begun. The police are the clean up crew. They arrive in minutes when microseconds count.

This, though, is always the case, and can’t really but be the case.

The conclusion, then, to draw from all of this is that decent human beings must train to become a danger to the indecent. And to this end, it is imperative they abandon the potentially deadly delusion that the gun is the be-all and end-all, the quick fix to challenges posed by guttersnipes to their safety and that of their loved ones.

There are no quick fixes. If one is serious about maximizing one’s odds of securing the well-being of the decent, then one must train. Train physically and psychologically so that if one should ever find oneself in circumstances that demand a violent response then, at the proverbial flip of the switch, one can become merciless—and turn the hunter into the hunted, the predator into prey.

My late father used to say that, as far as he was concerned, operating a car with an automatic transmission wasn’t real driving. It was steering. In stark contrast, driving—which is a skill set—was achieved while learning to operate a car with a manual transmission. My old man’s characterization, while an oversimplification, is not an altogether inapt analogy to draw in connection to the subject of self-protection. After all, anyone who knows how to drive a stick shift knows how to operate an automatic. The converse, however, is not the case.

Similarly, and as I have been at pains to show, those who train to protect themselves with their natural weapons can protect themselves with whatever artificial weapons are placed into their hands. 

The lesson here is: Don’t fetishize the gun. Don’t rely upon the police, or anyone, to do what you can and should do for yourself and whatever innocents are in your orbit: Treat with the utmost seriousness your right and obligation to protect yourself and your loved ones by training to become the stuff of the nightmares of the worst of the worst.     

Any reader who is interested in pursuing this topic further, see here, here, or contact me.

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About Jack Kerwick

Jack Kerwick earned his doctorate degree in philosophy from Temple University. His areas of specialization are ethics and political philosophy, with a particular interest in classical conservatism. His work has appeared in both scholarly journals and popular publications, and he recently authored, The American Offensive: Dispatches from the Front. Kerwick has been teaching philosophy for nearly 17 years at a variety of institutions, from Baylor to Temple, Penn State University, the College of New Jersey and elsewhere. His next book, Misguided Guardians: The Conservative Case Against Neoconservatism is pending publication. He is currently an instructor of philosophy at Rowan College at Burlington County.

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