Margaret Killjoy: On Gun Control

via Business Insider

I am a Leftist, trans woman living in the rural South and a gun owner. Biden's proposed gun control legislation will only help the far right.

by Margaret Killjoy

  • After the Pulse nightclub shooting and several doxxing attempts, I decided to become a gun owner. 
  • Most people who do not own guns do not understand how complicated and arbitrary gun law really is. 
  • Biden's proposed gun legislation misunderstands gun ownership and will only help far-right recruitment. 
  • Margaret Killjoy is an author, musician, and podcaster living in the Appalachian mountains.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 
  • It was the Pulse nightclub shooting for me. I spent hours glued to the news, shaking with anger and fear. That hate crime sent plenty of people in search of more restrictive gun laws, but it sent me and an awful lot of others in the opposite direction. Over the next few years, I started going to shooting ranges more. I took a two-day concealed carry class. Now, like millions of Americans, I'm a gun owner. Importantly, I'm part of what looks like a demographic shift in gun ownership in the US.

    I'm a woman in the rural South, and I'm very visibly trans. I unintentionally find myself in the center of a culture war; the way people treat me, in cities or the countryside, has changed dramatically since Trump's election in 2016. The stares are longer, the sneers more open. Before gender identity became so politicized in the past few years, I was a curiosity. Now, I'm a walking symbol of everything the far-right hates.

    Through my activism and my art, I have found myself in the crosshairs of the local far-right. A local news outlet once ran a satanic-panic style story about one of my music videos, and the more overtly fascist groups have sent me pictures of my family alongside my license plate number and home address.

    I have always supposed that my safety is something I need to guarantee for myself — that no one else was going to do it for me. Since the people who hate people like me are famously well-armed, I determined I would be as well. 

    It wasn't a simple decision, nor one that I would ever recommend anyone take lightly. The risk-benefit analysis of owning a tool like a firearm must always be ongoing. Yet as I've become increasingly comfortable with firearms, I've also come to realize just how misguided most efforts at gun control truly are.

    Biden's gun control legislation is misguided

    Frankly, I believe that Biden's executive orders and proposed legislation will disproportionately affect marginalized groups, both in terms of enforcement and in terms of access to the tools of self-defense. Because the legislation does not understand the gun community, I also believe the proposed laws are a gift to the far-right's recruitment efforts.

    When people talk about "common sense gun laws," it sure feels like they mean the opposite. Gun owners are very aware of the labyrinthine laws that surround the ownership and use of guns, how they vary state by state, and what will and won't bring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) down on their heads. Many attempts to make laws more "common sense" end up making them even more confusing and contradictory — and can easily criminalize people who are trying to follow the law.

    Take the arm brace for example. An arm brace on a pistol allows you to shoot more accurately. In 2014, the ATF ruled that you could stabilize the brace against your shoulder, if you wanted, without the gun being considered a short-barreled rifle, which are more heavily regulated and taxed. Then in 2015, they changed their mind. The exact same legal firearm, owned by millions, would be legal if shot normally, but illegal if shot with the arm brace held against the shoulder — unless the gun owner paid a $200 tax and filed the right paperwork. In 2017, they reversed again. All this because of quibbles over the definition of a rifle, which isn't legally concealable, whereas a pistol often is.

    Now Biden wants to say people can't have this pistol, modified with the arm brace, at all without registering it and paying potentially hundreds of dollars.

    That is to say, Biden is telling millions of law-abiding Americans that they better pony up hundreds of dollars or else become criminals because of arbitrary distinctions in the length of the barrel of a gun they own. If the goal of legislation is to prevent mass shootings, calling a pistol fitted with an arm brace a rifle — and thus illegal to conceal — is the most unhelpful of legal technicalities. Shooters planning to murder a crowd of people are not concerned with the legality of how they carry their gun.    

    This type of legislation is a gift to far-right recruitment, which, according to leaked Telegram chats, relies on using gun rights advocacy and the fear of gun confiscation to push people further to the right. One recruitment guide listed gun control as a way to "find common ground" before introducing someone to more fringe ideas. Guns should never have become a right versus left issue.

    I grew up largely outside of gun culture. My father is a Marine with a medal for marksmanship, and I shot a .22 at Boy Scout camp in middle school, but guns didn't play any large role in my life. 

    When you don't own a gun, it's really hard to care about gun law. It doesn't risk criminalizing you or too many people you know. We live in bubbles in the US. If you own a gun, your friends likely do too. If you don't, your friends probably don't.

    Most advocates for gun control do not understand firearms, firearm law, or firearm culture. When people tell you what to do, while making it clear they don't have the first idea what they're talking about, it is always going to rub you the wrong way.

    I own a gun and most of my neighbors own guns. Some of them hunt. Some of them are veterans. Some of them are concerned with self-defense. My neighbors in rural North Carolina, just like my neighbors when I've lived in major cities, run the full gamut of political affiliations. None of them operate under the illusion that the police would keep them safe in case of an emergency. Safety comes from knowing your neighbors. Safety comes, sometimes, from being armed.

    Gun ownership as a symbol

    What I didn't realize, until I was in the environment I'm in now, is the importance of the gun as a symbol for many communities. A rifle in a safe, or a handgun on a bed stand, says, "I'll never go hungry, because I can hunt." It also says, "I will not be a passive victim of a violent attack." It says: "Me and the people I love are the ones who keep ourselves fed and safe."

    Taking that away from someone, or just making it even more legally complex to own a gun, will never go over well. No amount of statistics will ever outweigh the emotional and symbolic importance of that ability for self-determination. The far-right heavily leverages that symbolic weight for recruitment — perhaps more than anything else.

    I'm not advocating for universal gun ownership. I don't believe an armed society is a polite society. I also recognize that for a lot of people — maybe even most people — gun ownership makes them less safe instead of more safe

    But it's poverty, patriarchy, and racist policing that drives most gun violence, and those underlying issues are where change ought to be focused.

    There's a slogan, albeit a cynical one, that people involved in mutual aid organizing use that resonates a lot with me: "We keep us safe."

    There are people who want to hurt me for who I am, and I don't want to let them. My safety is my responsibility. Maybe it shouldn't be, in some perfect society, but we don't live in a perfect society. We live in the USA.

    There are 22 Comments

    Damn imagine being a trans "anarchist" and posting articles on Business Insider.

    It would be eponymously joyful for her I imagine.

    I could imagine margaret doing daily target practise for an hour cos that's just what a Leftist trans woman would do in the rural south, or else get the hell outta there.

    To shoot every day requires a good supply of ammo. It's real easy to burn through 100 rounds at the range. That's five boxes of centerfire rifle ammo that sold for $25 prior to the election, or two boxes of pistol ammo or (cheapest of all) .22 rimfire. The fash have stockpiled ammo for 20 years, some have well over 10,000 rounds in stock. We have been arming for a far shorter time, and really big ammo stockpiles are much less common.

    If you have reason at all to fear attack, designate a minumum number of rounds you will never shoot your supply below except when actually defending yourself. Get ammo before, not after any target shooting session that would put you under that safe minimum, or do that day's target practice on the air rifle. Any day you can't shoot your firearms is a good day for some airgun practice.

    The ammo shortage of 2020 has gotten even worse this year. Now the Ammo Zombies descend on gun stores and strip the shelves of ammo as fast as it appears, some of them then turning around to resell it at inflated prices. Last year it was a combination of Trump(for BOTH sides), covid, general distrust of the US government's ability to protect ANYONE, and on top of all else a covid-driven shortage of both brass and primers.

    Fortunately, centerfire cases are reloadable. They are now in short supply, but can be reused a finite number of times. You will need a reloading press to resize expanded cases back to their original diameter so they can fit back in the chamber, for seating primers, and seating bullets. Under normal conditions you can get several shots out of one case, and would buy bullets, powder, and primers for far less than normal costs. The press you buy once. Some muzzleloader shooters will spend nearly as much per-shot, due to relatively high prices of black powder substitutes.

    For velocities under about 2800 fps in rifles bullets cast from HARD lead can sometimes be used, and normal lead for pistol rounds. Also spent 22 rimfire cases can be reformed into bullet jackets for such rounds as the .223 with the right tools on the reloading press. This allows making rifle bullets that won't lead the barrel. Learn the details of bullet making before making rounds you intend to shoot of course, and get the right tools.

    The bigger problem is primers. Any compromise in consistancy and power in primers is going to make you shoot larger groups(wider spaced hits on target). A number of formulas exist for making primers (note that SELLING these primers might bring legal hassles but shooting them won't) from common materials. Homemade primers work but are for emergencies and shot a lot better than not having ammo does.

    Of course, the far extreme of ammo shortage is this: many years ago, there was a report of a rural resident in one community who was so far off the grid and outside the economy that a flintlock rifle was the sole source of meat in his diet. He had a lump of lead sufficient for ONE bullet, and never took a shot at a deer unless there was a tree behind to catch his bullet for recasting and re-use. Black powder can be made from potassium nitrate extracted from soil where you bury shit, charcoal made locally, and sulfer locally found in many cases. His flintlock was ignited with locally found flint he knapped himself.

    If I'd be in a state/country where a firearm can be bought as easy as a six pack, I'd get a strong-built .22 LR revolver or single-shot rifle (not bolt action) then load nailgun cartridges in it, with BB or pellets as bullets. You can get a box of 100 for like 5$. The purple even yellow ones pack the power of a .22 magnum and if you glue bearings on the tip that'll make for some high-penetration, high-velocity steel bullets too. This of course is experimental practice and should be done with caution, but it's a kind a "poor man's (or poor trans') gun ammo" with crazy shooting power.

    I prefer my pneumatic potato canon swivel mounted to my tailgate of my pickup with the bed filled to the brim w/ ammo.

    Well, the right wing and libertarian side argues that guns are necessary for self defense and law and order. Others in the left seems to be very approval of this super pro gun narrative that they been pushing for years, although they have different interpretations of self defense that differ from what the right wing says. However, I feel weird at how many anarchists are becoming so pro gun that I don't know but it reinforces the conservative fantasy of 'good guy with guns' so i can't differentiate it anymore the pro gun anarchist from the pro gun conservatives since they tend to use similar talking points.

    Note: I'm not anti gun nor pro gun control this is not to undermine the positive aspects of self defense

    We should separate the traditional gun culture that steams in many libertarian and pro gun communities from the real use of guns, which is individual ownership.

    privledges cops/military to use "legitimate force", however i personally think the argument that carrying a gun around with you for self-defense is probably a flawed one because it's very unlikely that you're going to encounter some active shooter scenario where you can come out on top as "the hero". Most americans (and margaret killjoy is making it obvious that she does this...) just buy guns to have an illusion of security

    Really, if you wanted to use guns for self-defense/threat-neutralization, you're probably better off committing a murder, even though in current archist circumstances you are very likely to go to prison for life, lol. Look at what happend to Sean Swain: he was actually using force (was it with a gun?) in the way that conservatives approve of...

    "the way that conservatives approve of..." No I think in Sean's case love was involved, he was defending someone he loved. With conservatives its all about using guns against folk you hate.

    Having lived in red America much of my life, the whole with conservatives and guns is all about property defense...believe it or not, most white people who buy guns are not doing to "kill niggers", but are typically inspired by some home invasion fantasy or just like guns...

    yeah, cuz there's no racial undertones to the "home invasion fantasy" or who happens to have most of the property... how come I know your country's history better than you dude?

    That some anon on the internet thinks he knows the single reason why every conservative buys a gun...

    ...oh, and also assumes I know nothing about US history! Nice!


    it's incredibly naive to ignore those cultural forces and they tend to exist in blindspots that reflect the failings of one's political analysis ;)

    was the person who said that "conservatives do it out of hate", to which i replied sort of, but that's actually a little bit bullshit because a lot of people just buy guns because they hear about some murder or robbery happening, or, i'll say it again, they like the idea of having a gun or they like the gun.

    Knowing that you are ignorant of some things and always will be is not a poor use of a blindspot, but denying ones own blind spot in favor of a spewing more bullshit out of your mouth about the implications of political narratives...

    NIce to see that you still love proselytizing identity politics!

    that's not actually what I said but since I'm not an idiot, it's easy to see why you took what I said, interpreted it in that shitty, lazy way and then attacked your little strawman argument instead. That's a lot easier for you, right? playing pretend?

    involves posting a bunch of extremely vague abstract words and then getting offended when someone mis-interprets what you said.

    Yes, you are an idiot. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise...there's actually great freedom (and potentially...catharsis) in understanding the extent that you are an idiot. I've tried it. It works.

    40% is property protection and random million to one psychopath house invasion. 10% is actually anarchists like Margaret with acute paranoid syndromes AND enough cash and respectability to get a gun licence and have a suitable dwelling in which to store it. The other 50% is because of an instilled hatred for anarchists, yes, our PR is lagging, always has since Bakunin and Proudhon and we anarchists have alot to explain about instilling fear into property owners. Chomsky tried but it became sooo obvious that he wasn't a real anarchist, and his efforts to make anarchism respectable,,,wait, he never tried anything, he only talked talked talked about politics and linguistics, not one single contribution to anarchist ideas, and he owns alot of property, probably owns a gun but doesn't declare it, omg, he's sooo bourgeois.....

    imagine being an outspoken anarchist and registering firearms with the state. now they know you’re an anarchist and have firearms.

    Imaginr being a "red squad" detective deciding where to shake the tree next. You have a list of activist houses, some of which appear on lists of registered gun owners.

    Care to guess who gets raided last or not at all? Remember that raids degenerating into shootouts is awful press for the cops and the Mayor no matter who wins, and.against "radicals" is even more expensive.

    Lets look at what hapoened when the far-right began arming 20-30 years ago. The shootings of a Nazi's family at Ruby Ridge followed by Waco led to such bad press most of the armed far-right was left alone by cops for about ten years. Militiamen were even able to drive around in unregistered pickups with homemade or no tags-and loaded gun racks.

    While they had the advantage of being sympathised with by white supremacist cops, normally cops still don't want unregistered motor vehicles and rival heavily armed compounds in their patrol areas.In spite of that, previously scheduled raids were called off after Waco, and we know from FBI and ATF records that other priposed raids were rejected out of hand.

    Now it's our turn

    wannabe tough guy posturing anarchists are so cute when their balls drop

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