Concealed Carry Signage (Anon)
From the curators: We are familiar with signage that alerts people to the fact they are entering a zone where weapons are not allowed—concealed or otherwise. The signage above, however, is also becoming more prevalent. Simple and direct, the graphic treatment belies a dramatic cultural shift in the public’s relationship to handguns. As the animated GIF at the bottom of the post shows, there has been a drastic change in the laws regarding “concealed carry” over the past three decades in the United States. “Shall issue” states, where private citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons, are now in the majority. In these places, authorities shall issue a license to anyone who seeks one if basic criteria are met. Illinois became the last state to have its no-issue law overturned in July 2013.
There is nothing more emblematic of modern violence than the firearm. It is the epitome of the worst kind of power and authority that seeks dominance through threats of harm or death. The distance from which it can be deployed amplifies the gulf in empathy between the person shooting and the human being shot. The knife, the rope, the bludgeon, the fist: all require an intimacy with the target. The gun separates and makes death nearly effortless, even impulsive. We see no blood upon the metal; it has no future, no past, no soul.
Some talk about their firearms like others speak of loved ones. The gun is cold even as they warm to it. American culture is so removed from the horror of gun death that filmmakers and television producers routinely use it as entertainment. Consumers purchase these weapons—leaving unexamined the justifications for launching bullets in the first place—in denial of the long-term physical, emotional, financial, and relational consequences of the movement of finger upon trigger. Are they in love with the power of having control over the explosion from the barrel, or the feeling of dominance, a false facade of strength? If so, over whom is the power exerted? The guns grow bigger and bigger as the heart shrinks smaller and smaller.
Automatic weapons, for which there is no explicable need in any modern social setting, multiply the violent potential exponentially beyond ordinary guns; these weapons have the power to wipe out a community in little more than a heartbeat. No emotional tie to the weapon’s design or its place within the constitutional history of our country can usurp the emotional devastation of those who have had bullets rip their flesh or the flesh of one they love.
Firearm violence has a distinctly male face all the way from trigger to victim. Nearly 90% of shooters are men and boys, as are 90% of those buried by gun violence. So violence is a men’s issue; we are the ones doing most of it; we are the ones being maimed and killed. And yet the suggestion that men need to get involved in stopping it meets with remarkable resistance and charges of “male bashing,” as if merely talking about it in gendered terms is a bigger problem than the violence itself. Those that profit from violence pander to the American taste for retributive justice with catch phrases like “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” (Never let the data get in the way of a good argument.) Statistically, the one most likely to be injured or killed is the “good guy” who owns the gun or someone who lives in the same home. Restorative justice is so far from the discussion that most people don’t even understand the concept.
If we take contemporary pop culture as a measure, then it seems as if we are more interested in the entertainment value of death than the destruction of citizens, right up until they become those citizens who are our family and friends or those who live in our neighborhoods. Then we build a memorial and let the 24-hour media roll in until we are ready to move on to the next spectacle. We act as billiard balls that bump into one another now and then rather than as interconnected nets; in the way we participate in the spectacle of gun culture, we end up becoming the locus of violence.