Extreme gun violence is a fact of contemporary American existence. The painfully obvious and effective way to combat this cancer (judging by its successful deployment in similar countries, such as the UK and Australia) is to pass serious legislation restricting firearms sales. Banning the sale of assault weapons designed to kill humans with maximum efficiency is basic common sense. Assault weapons are not for hunting deer, or ducks, or agricultural nuisance animals. They are for hunting people, period. AND YET in yet another tragic confirmation of America’s national schizophrenia, the likelihood of such legislation getting passed is roughly nil.

Yes, a large part of this political intransigence on gun control results from the incestuous cluster-fuck of power and money flowing between arms manufacturers, influential lobbies (the NRA), and politicians. But despite the massive sketchiness of the NRA and their nationalist jingoism, the fault doesn’t stop there.

Assigning blame at the top of the politico-industrial complex risks ignoring reality in a way liberals should be all too familiar with following the 2016 election: a large amount of the American populace wants these firearms. Which, in an utterly fucked way, makes sense, when you consider the fact that gun violence is more American than apple pie and always has been.

Consider this: America has continually defined itself through war. The Revolutionary War kicked things off, and the genocidal expansion of the Western frontier by white settlers continued unchecked until World War One. This period was punctuated by large and small wars of course: the War of 1812, the Mexican American War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and so forth. With WWI, America had the Germans to beat. Then there was a desperate financial collapse, then there were the Germans to beat again in World War II. Then there was the Cold War with the Soviet Union, accented by a series of proxy wars that appear to be little more than techno-ideological flexing by the military industrial complex. Then there was 2001, and the ongoing war against nebulous brown-skinned terrorists.  

All of this is just to say that America is a war-like nation. Violence is inextricably tied up with the myth of Old Glory. Our national anthem is literally an English drinking song remixed by Francis Scott Key to describe the glories of battle. Football is an unabashedly violent game. We love hockey fights. Soccer is girly. Sex earns movies R-ratings, while good, clean violence only gets a movie slapped with PG-13. It’s why Call of Duty – functional assault weapons training, disguised as a bloodless repository for toxic masculine impulse – remains a bestselling video game franchise.

America loves violence. It always has. This is an incredibly deep glitch in our national psyche, and one with a body count both international and domestic. Even the most deranged mass shootings have roots in America’s enduring fetishization of violence.  

Legislation can curb this flesh-eating pathogen but to root our most violent impulses out, to really eliminate them, we have to deconstruct these myths. To recognize that violence is not glory. We have to pacify ourselves in order to survive.