Guns in the Hands of Entitled Men

Dear Joel,

I’ve been thinking about those 47 guns that Stephen Paddock legally purchased prior to his massacre of concert-goers in Las Vegas last week. In our search for “red flags,” that is a powerful one.

When I was a child, we had a rule at our house that might seem mean or silly but that serves us well: We didn’t collect things. This made sense for our family. We were poor and lived in tight quarters. We didn’t have money or room for stacks of baseball or (for my younger siblings) Pokemon cards, Beanie Babies or My Little Ponies. (The exception to this was books–I don’t think my parents ever said no to a Scholastic Book Order request, even when I chose junky titles.) With this rule in place, we had a good defense against advertising and competitive consumption, and I never felt the urge to go buy something because it had just come out or would complete my collection. More importantly, we also appreciated our fewer things, and there is real peace that comes from that–from knowing how to be content with enough.

Which might be why, even today, there are few things that I own 47 or more of. Books and music, and that’s it, and I definitely get pleasure out of them proportionate to their space and cost. But nothing else. I don’t have 47 pairs of shoes or 47 shirts or scarves. I don’t have 47 pieces of kitchen gear (which I could easily do if I didn’t practice being content with enough) or pieces of flatware, though we like to host dinner.

So 47 guns–ranging from $5,000-$10,000 each–doesn’t make sense to me. Even if you like a thing–like I like kitchen knives or spices–you can’t make use of 47 of them. They either duplicate each other in function or don’t perform with distinctions that are meaningful in most circumstances.

Perhaps the same reason that prompts a person to own four houses and two planes?

When gun rights opponents try to find reasons why we shouldn’t regulate gun ownership more carefully, they point to “evil”: evil individuals or a “godless” culture. They don’t point, though, to the entitlement of shooters, tied up in their masculinity, of the sense that the world owes them something (usually women but also money and fame).

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 3.23.58 PM

Above, a screenshot from the website of Dixie GunWorkx, in St. George, Utah, where Paddock was a customer. The copy next to the picture of a gun says, “Why get a suppressor [silencer]? Because you can!” 

I think that 47 guns is a sign of a dangerous entitlement. That makes it a warning sign and something worth noting in the first place.


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