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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Muckers Of Zanzibar

John Brunner wrote in the late '60s what is one of the first New Wave science fiction novels "Stand On Zanzibar". His story was set in  our developing distopic early 21st century world. While he was mainly commenting on the effects of overpopulation, and missed the microprocessor revolution he did nail one artifact of our time. He would drop a "Mucker" into the plot at random points. In his vernacular of the future a Mucker was a person who ran amok, killing everyone he or she could. Brunner was an Englishman, and didn't understand the leverage modern firearms give individuals bent on destruction. In his novel the muckers were driven mad by the pressures of pervasive media and overpopulation. I divide mass murders into two categories, tortured students and tortured adults. Make no mistake, they are tortured by their inability to fit into their circumstances. By this definition, many of us are tortured, but the reaction of the killers lies way way out on the far end of the curve. Student killers are incapable of developing coping strategies because of their inexperience. These guys, and yes they are almost always guys, seem to find the Rambo solution most appealing. Kid killers usually don't expect, or want to live through their blaze of rage.  Older mass murders are usually getting even after finding themselves in a situation, generally at work, where they are backed into a corner (in their minds). Most of these guys are out for revenge and don't want to get caught, although thanks to their faulty logic they fail. 

How can we, as a political society curb this unacceptable activity? Could or should we confiscate  all firearms? We have 300 million citizens with as many guns, although not everyone has one. Guns are small, durable and popular. Licensing would be the only way out of the hardware side of this problem. I have a concealed pistol permit, so can claim I have been vetted, however I know that the check is only a criminal background check, and doesn't address my mental state or proficiency with firearms. I swear that I've never been institutionalized for mental problems. As a part time crazy person, I resent this question, but what are you going to do? In Washington  State our concealed carry permit requirements are totally inadequate, in that it only covers pistols, and not other firearms and is as flimsy a fig leaf  of a law as can be written on the subject. The mental part of this problem is probably unsolvable. Some would have the media hush up publicity about the shootings, but that solution didn't work for Aeroflot's abysmal safety record in the bad old Soviet days. Planes went down, and passengers just disappeared. 

There is no cure for muckers with firearms, but criminals could be another matter. Disarming the enemy has a lot of appeal, but getting around the NRA will be daunting. If only Nixon could go to China, then only the NRA can disarm the criminal element. For various social, political and historical reasons a large part of the populace doesn't trust the public sphere with the regulation of firearms. Not in your lifetime. As Americans become more urban, better educated and less inclined to hunt the gun culture will decline. 

The school killers that are in the headlines almost every couple of weeks threaten few of us, but the people threatened are our most genuinely beloved people, our kids. Like the September eleventh attacks the effects of these murders exceeds the actual damage done. Over reaction is what does the real damage. Our over reaction in Iraq is a good example of the damage that can be done by a cynical leader and frightened populace. Fear of the weird kid or the Moslem next door will drive us nuts and accomplish nothing.


Squidin the Sun said...

This is one of my favorite posts so far.

Rojak1 said...

Interesting to hear about Washington's carry permit procedure. I got mine in New York State twenty years ago, and I was vetted for four months before the permit was issued. My neighbors were talked to, as was my employer and my five references. I was of course fingerprinted and had my background checked. It's hard to imagine what else I could've been subjected to before fruition. I didn't mind, however. People who are unlicensed in NYS are mandatorily jailed for a long time if caught with a handgun. I think this process should be rolled out nationwide.