It’s always challenging to make sense of a terrorist incident, particularly one not carried out by Islamist nuts. In the case of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, America saw the 14th of February 2018 added to its ignominious list of massacre dates that could be easily avoided by controls that take weapons out of the hands of those that shouldn’t be allowed near a letter opener.
As is typical for these cases, from Columbine to Florida, the usual suspects come out in force. The arguments in favour of domestic firearm proliferation never change much, with the most nefarious being those who claim to support tighter regulations but fight tooth and nail against any suggestion.
Nobody believes the chances of these massacres can be eradicated.
Every sensible person believes that those chances can be drastically reduced.
Tragically, much of America displays a cognitive blind spot to the spread of items designed to kill people, a blind spot that they don’t seem to have for multiple other things that accidentally kill people. The reader is invited to fill in the blanks, but here are some uncomfortable things to think about:
- There is, on average, more than one gun per citizen in America.
- These are privately owned firearms, NOT military stocks.
- The population of America is almost 326,000,000.
- Firearm deaths are 99% more likely in the US than the UK.
These things, outside of context, aren’t terribly informative. What’s worse is that statistics are presented as misleadingly as possible, depending on which side of the debate you sit on. This is unfortunate. For example, we know that every single American doesn’t own a gun; it’d probably be more likely to say one third of Americans own three each, which is itself a gross oversimplification. So even if we took two thirds of firearms out of America, we still may not end up disarming a single person.
Now, of course, this isn’t to say that firearms are the only contributor, because we know they’re not.
Violence on TV/Internet/video games, a generation on prescription drugs, social de-sensitisation, instant gratification from Twitter or Facebook, or a social exclusion that leads to anxiety and depression all contribute. The ever-looming (and larging) spectre of mental illness is an ever-present accompaniment.
But these problems are universal in the western world, a culture with instant access to more information than we can reasonably process, and the ubiquity of 24-hour global news that makes everyone’s problems our problems.
And I’m not even going to mention the over-abundance of right-wing print and broadcast media that tells everyone to be angry and scared.
Professor Philip Zimbardo, known for the notorious Stanford prison experiment, has published a book called Man, Interrupted in which he and Nikita Coulombe discuss the young white males who are being left behind thanks to a world of instant-reward video games and online pornography. Given that pornography in itself is known to give rise to both sexual aggression and sexual paralysis (especially in young males), its overuse and pairing with the modern Internet community seems to have led to socially awkward, risk-averse young men who are bottoming out from schools and the modern workplace that doesn’t have a reward button. The book is recommended because of its fascinating studies, but a TED talk summarising it can be viewed here via YouTube:
So we know that a lot of things contribute to the debilitating social exclusion currently being experienced by potentially record percentages of young white males… Who also happen to be the ones carrying out these brutal, lone-wolf massacres. From Nikolas Cruz to Anders Breivik, an axe to grind can turn deadly.
But here’s the reality:
A person without a firearm CAN NOT shoot someone.
And while disarmament is obviously challenging, that doesn’t stop the goal being worthwhile.
But into this, we can throw the Neopagan community and the reality that (from what I can tell) the nigh-exclusive condemnation of these attacks and a call for stricter controls in the United States where these awful things keep happening with what seems to be increasing regularity. Most groups and individuals, being pro-life, are quite clear that the federal government needs to act, at least in ways that matter and can bring some of this gun-related violence to heel.
All but one organisation, of course – the Church of Satan.
Here’s the Church’s long held view:
Via their social media account, the Church has been adamant that it is not for the organisation to dictate the political views of its members. This is in keeping with the individualist bent that Satanists prioritise, and the organisation espouses. The eighth word, “which”, is important because it’s a qualifier: it suggests that the Church would not firmly stand against control measures that keep weapons out of the hands of irresponsible people – probably easiest to categorise at the moment as minors or the mentally ill.
But the other inference is clear.
Namely, that the Church supports “responsible” people defending themselves and their property with firearms. Given that we know persons and property can be defended by means other than firearms, as evidenced by most other civilised nations, this logically becomes an overtly pro-weapon stance that is anything but apolitical. One needn’t look over too many of the peons’ commentary to figure out that Satanists are, perhaps unsurprisingly, almost exclusively pro-arming.
When questioned about this curiosity via their Twitter channel, this was the result:
When pushed on the subject, the Church simply bows out of the conversation in a huff about spoon-feeding.
It’s not a great look.
But the interesting thing is that the tone, and approach, is incredibly instructive… And common. Rather than self-reflecting or meaningfully discussing the topic of firearm proliferation, something the Church is relatively clear about its support for, it instead deflects away and acts as if it’s they who are obviously correct without bothering to actually establish why.
This is a shame because, in the present case, we’re speaking about the foremost religious entity that exists today with regard to the pursuit of study, logic and common sense. You will not find another Neopagan group that so consistently applies its source canon, developing this with supplementary publications, while remaining loyal to the core principles. The current High Priest, Peter H. Gilmore, even wrote an extremely lucid piece about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; so the hierarchy understands these issues explicitly.
The cognitive blind spot that I referenced earlier seems to exist here, too.
Rather than an honest debate about the subject, accepting that firearm proliferation is a problem in a country that has the issues with young men we’ve already mentioned (and are exasperated by the economic austerity that has people working ever longer hours for ever worse pay, particularly amongst this generation), we get the deflection that’s all too common from the Conservative pro-gun lobby.
They just don’t want to talk about it.
Personally, though I think it’s an especial shame that this silliness is coming from such a strong organisation intellectually and magically, I find its position absolutely extraordinary when applied to a religion that is pro life.
I suppose every Superman has his kryponite.
And just like everyone else, it seems the Church of Satan being pro-gun seems to rob it of its senses.