The other mass shootings do not make national news because they are now rote. A “good guy” with a gun decides that people he personally knows need murdering, so he does it. The Texas mass shooter killed a man and woman in their home before shooting a neighbor and three responding police officers, then himself. We can presume that the murderer believed he had a “good reason” to murder his two initial targets; this, after all, is the very premise of American gun ownership. If some other American does something you simply cannot abide, then militia movements, the National Rifle Association, and Republican would-be presidential candidates all agree that you must be given access to a gun so that you can respond. It is called “self-defense.”
All Americans who intentionally shoot other people believe the other people have done something so egregious that they have forfeited the right to live. Sometimes it is because they parked in the wrong parking spot. Sometimes it is because they broke off a relationship. Sometimes it is because the people on the television said that such-and-such a group was a danger to America, and the person in front of them “looks like” part of that group.
The Ted Cruz argument is that all Americans have the right to determine whether they need to shoot six, 10, or 60 such people in order to “defend” themselves against a perceived threat, and the right to stock weapons capable of doing it, and The only role of policing is to sort out whether or not the law justifies the killing after the bodies are stacked up and carted away. But Americans have the right to make the choice to kill, Ted Cruz and the other argue, and their right to decide for themselves who needs killing and when must be given absolute precedence over the rights of everyone else around them.
Your only right, if someone you know or someone you do not know has decided that you dying is of more use to them than you living, is to either shoot back with equally justified vigor — or die, upon which police and political figures like Ted Cruz will examine the aftermath, weigh the murderer’s motive, and decide whether they were being “good” or “bad” when they killed you.
You have a right to lock your door in order to slow the shooter down, says Ted Cruz. But you do not have the right to not be shot at. The right of the gun’s holder to decide whether they need to shoot you trumps your right not to die.
The argument for AR-15-styled weapons, from Cruz and others, is in fact that even limiting the pace at which a “good” shooter can fire bullets at those he wants to kill would be an infringement of the shooter’s rights of “good “Murder.
For the advocates of the Good Murder Theory, the one referred to in gun and militia circles as “self-defense,” the Uvalde, Texas, mass murder was a moment of vindication. It went off perfectly, from a “self-defense” standpoint. It was a near-ideal scenario. A single shooter with no prior training, using a just-purchased gun, was able to identify targets that needed murdering and rapidly kill all of them before others could even react. When police arrived, the single untrained shooter was able to hold off the entirety of government for an extended period of time — because those tasked with responding to the murders were just that afraid of the rifle the gunman chose.
It went precisely as “good” gun owners fantasize about, when they dream of defending their families by riddling a large group of enemies with bullets or by parking themselves behind a locked door and firing at anyone who approaches. This is the point of gun ownership, say advocates like Cruz. It is the aspiration of gun ownership, say National Rifle Association hosts. Look how effective these new weapons are when you need to kill not just one dangerous American, but dozens of them at once. If society breaks down and you believe somebody may be coming to harm you or your grade-school children, just look how many victims of your own you’ll be able to claim before they do.
This is not how other countries do it. In other countries, the civilized ones that Americans like to travel to sip wine while gazing out at unfamiliar views, the right of self-defense is still recognized. It does not, however, extend to a general right to determine whether all those around you should live or die based on your current mood and access to weapons able to do the deed. You do not get those weapons. Your attackers do not get guns that can hold off entire police forces, because there is no recognized version of “self-defense” that would require a legitimate actor to do so. Carrying such a gun is de facto proof that you are a threat and your entire neighborhood has the right to subdue you, via the police, for showing up with one.
The American version is nonsensical. The militia version is openly seditious; Its lesser variations also stem from a belief that the right to murder neighbors is a right that trumps government itself. There is no non-seditious version. The Ted Cruz-backed theory is that if you believe your house is in danger of catching fire, you are allowed to burn your neighbors’ houses down to create a sufficient firebreak to prevent it. The Ted Cruz theory is that if someone around you is not wearing a mask during a deadly pandemic, you are allowed to shoot them in the head if you believe they are about to cough on you. It is basic self-defense. You calculated the risk; you determined your right to avoid danger to be superior to the other person’s right to keep living.
Every American with a gun believes they are “good” when they pull the trigger. They believe their murder is justified. It might be because their target has something valuable that the gun holder wants to have instead, or to “defend” a wider group that all share the same tattoos or neighborhoods. It might be because if they kill an important person, a famous actress might notice them. It might be because a voice in their head told them that if they commit a massacre worse than any other, they will themselves become a household name. It might be because they have decided they themselves no longer want to live, but want the momentary satisfaction of ending the lives of whoever they believe harmed them the most.
But we are still the only country that insists on elevating the “right” to decide such things above the rights of their targets. We are the only one that insists the “good” murderer be given all possible access to weapons and that society judge whether their victims truly needed killing after the murder took place. We are the only one that looks at the victims inside a bloody grade school classroom or alongside a 4th of July parade route and declares that it is good that the murderer was able to accomplish that much because it shows future “good” killers could do at least that much, in an imagined future in which the nation might depend on a sea of ”good” killers to set things right.
It is deranged. Prioritizing the rights of murderers to murder on impulse and with maximum efficiency in order to prepare for a future in which “good” murderers can dominate their enemies is absolutely deranged. The only people who would advocate for it are those that truly believe their personal or political enemies may someday need murdering, if push comes to shove.
People like Ted Cruz.
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