The atrocities committed by white male shooters are part and parcel of US behavior both domestically and around the world.
“’Gun control’ entails giving the state a monopoly on weapons, whose foot soldiers (the police) are armed, racist, and militarized.”
“Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.” – Karl Marx
Many have correctly pointed out that the wave of mass shootings which plagues the United States is almost exclusively perpetrated by white men with similar social discontents, and occurs here in the imperial core at a far higher rate than abroad. However, little has been said about why this is the case. The truth of the matter is that, as a settler colony, mass murder is fundamental to our history as a nation, which was birthed by the brutal and horrific white supremacist conquest of indigenous peoples. The US is a parasitic, settler nation, having built itself on the backs of African, Asian, and Latino labor, and sustained itself by practicing imperialism in the nonwhite nations of the Global South. The atrocities committed by these white male shooters are part and parcel of US behavior both domestically and around the world, a transmogrified expression of the sick death cult that is white supremacy.
“The United States is a unique nation because it’s always been an empire. It’s never been just a nation with ordinary people. From its very beginnings, it has been an illegitimate nation in the sense that, in order to become a nation, it had to conquer other people, take their land and enslave them. There literally has been no point in American history where that wasn’t true, because that’s the basis of what being American is…” (Sakai 424).
“As a settler colony, mass murder is fundamental to our history as a nation.”
The white settler force, both a puppet and willing participant in the genocidal American project, stampeded west, overwhelming the various indigenous societies which laid between the Pacific and Atlantic. Pogrom-like shootings by white males are not as historically aberrative as gun control liberals make them out to be:
“The European invaders-Spanish, Dutch, English, Portuguese, and French simply killed off millions and millions to safeguard their conquest of the land and provide the disposable slave labor they needed to launch their "New World”... Genocide was the necessary and deliberate act of the capitalists and their settler shocktroops” (Sakai 7).
Pursuing its perverse destiny west, the settlers encountered the Mexican nation:
“In the 1840's as the Empire annexed the Northern 40% of Mexico and by savage invasion reduced truncated Mexico to a semi-colony” (Sakai 28).
The final chapter in the history of settler expansion-- to the modern day states of California, Oregon, and Washington-- has been greatly suppressed. These areas had been long settled and worked by Chinese migrants, who had developed a thriving and diverse economy:
“Chinese junks were then a common sight in California harbors, and literally thousands of Chinese seamen lived in the numerous all-Chinese fishing villages that dotted the coast from San Diego up to Oregon. As late as 1888 there were over 20 Chinese fishing villages just in San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, while 50% of the California fishing industry was still Chinese. Farms and vineyards were also founded on Chinese labor: in the 1870's when California became the largest wheat growing state in the U.S. over 85% of the farm labor was Chinese. Chinese workers played a large part as well in bringing out the vast mineral wealth that so accelerated the growth of the U.S. in the West. In 1870 Chinese made up 25% of all miners in California, 21% in Washington, 58% in Idaho, and 61% in Oregon... Between 1865 and 1869 some 15,000 Chinese laborers carved the far Western stretch of the Transcontinental rail line out of the hostile Sierra and Rocky Mountain ranges” (Sakai 33).
White settlers were threatened by the prosperity of these Chinese migrants and parasitically stole their economy and wealth as they had to various societies in the centuries before:
“Tacoma and Seattle forced out their entire Chinese populations at gunpoint. In 1885 the infamous Rock Springs, Wyoming massacre took place, where over 20 Chinese miners were killed by a storm of rifle-fire as European miners enforced their take-over of all mining. Similar events happened all over the West. In 1886 some 35 California towns reported that they had totally eliminated their Chinese populations” (Sakai 36).
“As late as 1888 there were over 20 Chinese fishing villages just in San Francisco and San Pablo Bays, while 50% of the California fishing industry was still Chinese.”
How myopic must one be to reduce this history, with roots deep and nourished with blood, and the capitalist mechanisms which shaped it, to the need for “gun control?” Furthermore, liberals, committed to the preservation of institutions such as ICE, whose function—dispossession—is fundamentally the same as that of the settlers who drove Mexicans, Chinese, and other Native peoples from their homelands at gunpoint a century ago, belies any sort of “pro-immigrant” stance they try so hard to cultivate. (Even Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who pledged support for the grassroots campaign #AbolishICE while campaigning, immediately capitulated and voted to fund the DHS on her very first day in office).
Many of the recent mass shootings have been inspired, according to shooters’ manifestos, by an Alt Right (extreme right/white nationalist) ideology called the “Great Replacement”—the fantasy that whites are being systematically dispossessed in an effort by Democrats to achieve electoral majorities. A look at history tells a far different story—it is white settlers who have consistently dispossessed and replaced indigenous peoples, serving as the foot soldiers of empire.
Atrocities similar to those described above, motivated by the same capitalist and imperialist tendencies, persist to this day at the hands of the US government. Consider the Haditha massacre of 2005, in which:
“US Marines from Kilo Company, Third Battalion, First Marine Division killed 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, execution-style, in a three to five hour rampage. One victim was a 76-year-old amputee in a wheelchair holding a Koran. A mother and child bent over as if in prayer were also among the fallen. “I pretended that I was dead when my brother’s body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet,” said Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year-old girl who survived by faking her death. Other victims included six children ranging in age from 1 to 14. Citing doctors at Haditha’s hospital, The Washington Post reported, “Most of the shots … were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into walls or the floor… Allegations that US troops have engaged in summary executions and willful killing in Iraq have also emerged from other Iraqi cities, including Qaim, Abu Ghraib, Taal Al Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra, and Salahuddin. There are similar accusations stemming from incidents in Afghanistan as well” (Cohn).
“It is white settlers who have consistently dispossessed and replaced indigenous peoples, serving as the foot soldiers of empire.”
Acts such as these have covertly infected our psychosocial consciousness, a process described by Aimé Cesaire in his seminal “Discourse on Colonialism”:
“First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and "interrogated," all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been distilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery” (Cesaire 35).
It is pure insanity to believe that a nation of people can carry on the way we do abroad without causing a boomerang effect to bring the sickness home. The very same politicians who claim to call for gun control on behalf of the people are the ones who cheerlead for slaughter abroad; they are the ones whose pockets are lined by the military-industrial manufacturers who create the technology which permits, intensifies, and proliferates mass violence which denies the humanity of nonwhite people of the Third World. They have no words of grievance until the dehumanization returns here at home, then our politicians, harbingers of mass death, call for action, and claim sympathy with victims. What hypocrisy, what depravity! Why trust this same government, which committed genocide against the indigenous inhabitants of this land and which practices imperialism across the globe, with even more power by willfully disarming? The most progressive and revolutionary aspect of our Bill of Rights is the right to rebel with arms; white supremacists and settlers being the last ones who would ever give up this right. In the face of armed white supremacy, ascendant and teeth baring, calling for “gun control” is as pernicious as it is misguided:
“You cannot have progress here (in the US) without violence and upheaval because it is a struggle for survival for one and a struggle for liberation for the other. Always the powers in command are ruthless and unmerciful in defending their position and their privileges. This is not an abstract rule to be meditated upon by Americans. This is a truth that was revealed at the birth of America and has continued to be revealed many times in our history. The principle of self defense is an American tradition that began at Lexington and Concord” (Williams 72).
“The very same politicians who claim to call for gun control on behalf of the people are the ones who cheerlead for slaughter abroad.”
The increase in mass shootings since the 1980s can be explained in part by the increasing precarity of “white working class” settlers due to neoliberal restructuring, who no longer see a future for themselves. Just like the settlerism of the 18th and 19th centuries, a parasitic economic motive underlies this reawakened white male violence. The journalist Chris Hedges identifies the condition of anomie, or the disintegration of social bonds, as a motivating force behind mass shootings:
“The shattering of these bonds has left tens of millions of Americans adrift. Society, Durkheim wrote, is no longer ‘sufficiently present for individuals.’ Those cast aside can participate in the society, as Durkheim wrote, only ‘through sadness.’ The self-destructive pathologies that plague the United States—opioid addiction, morbid obesity, gambling, suicide, sexual sadism, hate groups and mass shootings—rise out of this anomie” (Hedges).
The deadly psychological combination of a white supremacist settler history, the practicing of murderous imperialism globally, the rise of neoliberalism and the mass unemployment, precarity, and anomie which accompanied it, are responsible for these tragic atrocities. The problem runs far deeper than guns. As Hedges prophetically points out:
“If we do not heal these wounds, if we do not restore the social bonds shattered by predatory corporate capitalism, when the next financial crisis arrives—and it will arrive—this collective anomie will explode. Frightening demons, harnessing these dark, self-destructive pathologies, will rise from the depths of the ruleless morass” (Hedges).
Liberal calls for “gun control” as a panacea conveniently circumvent the deep roots these atrocities have in our history and society. Furthermore, the reformist, institutional solutions advocated by these liberals, committed to the capitalist and imperialist systems which motivate mass shootings, will inevitably have racist and oppressive consequences. “Gun control” entails giving the state a monopoly on weapons, whose foot soldiers (the police) are armed, racist, and militarized. Additionally, it invites the state to further regulate the people psychologically, inferably ushering in an Orwellian surveillance program in the form of “background checks” based on the false belief that an individual’s mental health, and not a macro social illness, is to blame for mass shootings. Additionally, it doesn’t take a psychic medium to predict who will be the primary target of this desired crackdown on guns: black and brown Americans, the threatened populations who need the weapons most. These groups will surely be the most persecuted given general racial disparities in policing and imprisonment; “gun control” will expand the racist carceral state which liberals played a critical role in building in the first place (see: Murakawa, “The First Civil Right”).
The history of “gun control,” just like the “drug war,” is inseparable from its racist intent, first employed by the NRA and Ronald Reagan against the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a revolutionary movement for justice which represented a bulwark against the settler violence described at length above, and never against whites, the real perpetrators of gun violence on a mass scale.
“The ruling class has always supported a heavily armed white citizenry to keep colonized people under the boot” (Sakai, PM Press).
Rather than gun control, we need to encourage the arming of oppressed communities to defend themselves against a very real threat: masses of racist whites armed to the teeth who have psychosocially internalized the deadly behavior of empire.
Cesaire, Aime. Discourse on Colonialism. Monthly Review Press, 2001.
Cohn, Marjorie. “The Haditha Massacre: No Justice for Iraqis.” Truthout, Truthout, 31 Jan. 2012, truthout.org/articles/the-haditha-massacre-no-justice-for-iraqis/.
Hedges, Chris. “American Anomie.” Truthdig, 24 Sept. 2018, www.truthdig.com/articles/american-anomie/.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League.” Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League by Marx and Engels, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/communist-league/1850-ad1.htm.
Sakai, J. Settlers: the Mythology of the White Proletariat. Morningstar Press, 1989.
Sakai, J., and Gabriel Kuhn. “Entscheidend Ist Die Besatzungsmentalität: What's Crucial Is the Mentality of Conquest and Occupation.” PM Press, 13 July 2019, www.pmpress.org/blog/2017/02/21/entscheidend-ist-die-besatzungsmentalitat-whats-crucial-is-the-mentality-of-conquest-and-occupation/.
Williams, Robert F. Negroes With Guns. 1962.