Monday, March 27, 2017

The Point

The cultural divide (if that's what it is) was never clearer to me than in these paragraphs from Edward Ball's article, "The Mind of Dylann Roof" in the New York Review of Books, March 23, 2017.  (Though NYRB offers free access to a lot of articles, this one beyond the first few paragraphs requires subscription.)  Who is Dylann Roof?  See paragraph 3.

"Guns are embedded in South Carolina culture, with every attempt at firearm regulation trampled by the state legislature. Fathers give their sons, and some daughters, guns in rites of passage... 
This is cheaper than...

Dylann Roof got his gun. His father gave him money for it on his twenty-first birthday. “Happy Birthday! Here is $400 for the gun and the concealed carry permit,” the card read.

I went to the gun warehouse that advertised AR-15s to see the pistol Roof used for the massacre of nine African-Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015. Palmetto State Armory, in the Charleston suburb of Mt. Pleasant, is the size of a big box store. It was previously a supermarket. (The company’s motto, on its logo, is Desperta Ferro—“Awake the Iron.”) The idea that a young man shops for guns in a 40,000-square-foot store with Van Halen playing on the ceiling speakers is, in this part of the US, unremarkable.

In the middle aisles are ammunition, gun sights, accessories, gun cases, and targets—bull’s-eyes, plus targets in the shape of men, like a guy in a hoodie. On the left side of the store are racks and racks of rifles, shotguns, and assault weapons, propped like rakes, by the hundreds. And in dozens of locked glass cases, like jewelry, the handguns.

I walk along one hundred yards of glass cabinets, past the Smith & Wesson case, the Browning case, past Springfield, Sig Sauer, Kemper Pistol, Uberti, Baer, Beretta, and arrive at the Glocks: engineered in Austria, manufactured in Marietta, Georgia. Roof used a Glock 41, a .45 caliber gun that feels like artillery in the hand—black, nine inches long, thirty-six ounces loaded.

“That’s the big daddy,” says the salesman, “for target and home defense. Holds thirteen rounds, strong recoil.” The salesman is a small man with a tenor voice, which he throws an octave lower to assist in male bonding. “I have a Glock 36”—he pulls back his jacket to show the holstered gun—“smaller, better for concealed carry.”

Roof added a laser sighting to his Glock, which throws a red dot where the shot will land, and he used hollow point bullets. Hollow points are more lethal. When one hits a person, body fluids enter the tip and cause the metal slug to spread and deform into a spiked wheel, which continues to progress, shredding internal organs. They cost about seventy-five cents each, twice the cost of a standard bullet."

We'd like to believe that the gun culture is primarily about "sport," either target-shooting or some traditional practice of hunting, within the law and with respect.  But this excerpt makes clear that "concealed carry," targets shaped as men and especially the hollow point bullets, have nothing to do with either image of sport.

Hollow point bullets, which have no function other than to shred the internal organs of human beings, sell for seventy-five cents.  You can't get a Milky Way for that.

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