The FBI is still searching for a motive for the Las Vegas massacre. From the other side of the earth, we can see one: the end result of the fantasy that goes with buying and possessing machines specifically designed for killing people and killing as many people as possible.
If you buy a fast sports car, odds are you have a fantasy to drive fast – and you will at some stage. If you kit out your bedroom as a bordello with (so I’ve been told) satin sheets, a mirrored ceiling and copious red velvet, it’s probably not purely with the idea of sleeping more soundly. Buy and hold a double barrel shotgun and you’ll be imagining clay targets disappearing in a puff of colour or game birds falling from the sky – unless you’re also purchasing a hacksaw.
Buy an assault rifle and thousands of rounds of ammunition, you’re imagining…
There is a seductive power to a fine and fast car, a precision and force that asks to be used, to be felt. I know, I have one. Owning such a car doesn’t mean the driver will necessarily exceed the speed limit by a vast margin and endanger people, but the idea of speed is clearly there.
With a military assault rifle, the idea of shooting people is there. That’s what they are for.
There are exceptions to all rules – someone plagued by wild pigs, the occasional supercar owner who only wants to prowl the boulevards and annoy people with unnecessary noise and blatant excess – but they are rare.
The assault weapons used by most American mass shooters are rubbish for target shooting. A “sporting” shooter after deer or a professional harvesting kangaroos wouldn’t want one.
Even if you buy into the dystopian American myth of “defending family”, an assault rifle is nonsense at close quarters. They’re best for killing at a little distance, not in the invaded home of another fantasy.
They’re the weapons of demented “survivalists”, believing they’ll need to defend perimeters from marauding gangs. And they’re the weapons of mass killers.
The fantasy is fanned by investing in it – purchasing the rifles and high-capacity magazines and stockpiling ammunition, never mind the “bump-stock” adaption to create a machine gun.
The supercar owner may explore limits by investing in track days and closed road events. The owner of machines specifically good for killing people, what do they want to do?
Removing the objects that stoke such fantasies is part of the lasting achievement of Australia’s firearm ownership reform. The step from a shotgun to semi-automatic assault rifle is not dissimilar to the step from a knife to a handgun. Possessing, collecting and handling assault weapons carry risks for the mentally precarious among us.
Most of us control our fantasies. Inevitably, some will not.
But none of this matters to the majority of American politicians who remained cowered by the minority of voters who support the NRA, the copious-enough nut jobs.
Nothing positive has occurred in the US since I wrote two years ago, almost to the day after another massacre, why Australia is not like America. (http://www.smh.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/president-obama-was-wrong-australia-is-not-like-the-us-20151002-gjztja.html )
The change that has occurred has been for the worse. Two years ago there was an American president stricken by the horror and his powerlessness to do the obvious to protect his people. Now there is an American president pledged to further the interests of the NRA.
A New Yorker writer nailed an aspect of Trump’s disconnection – even the language of empathy is foreign to him. (https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/after-the-las-vegas-shooting-there-can-be-no-truce-with-the-second-amendment )
Two years ago there was perhaps a possibility of tightening gun laws – but not really. When nothing was done after Sandy Hook, nothing was ever going to be done. Now the possibility is to further loosen them. The NRA’s weasel words about maybe, perhaps, sort-of examining the possibility of “controlling” bump-stock sales are an insult to the murdered.
After the millions of words written on mass shootings, the absurdity of America’s attitude to self-slaughter is best summed up by a headline on The Onion satire site:
“NRA Says Mass Shootings Just The Unfortunate Price of Protecting People’s Freedom To Commit Mass Shootings” (http://www.theonion.com/article/nra-says-mass-shootings-just-unfortunate-price-pro-57094 )
In a rational nation, an individual’s desire to buy a military assault rifle, let alone high-capacity magazines, is all the mental assessment necessary to forbid such a purchase. Catch 22 – if you want a people killer, you shouldn’t be allowed to have one.
But that’s in a rational nation.