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Dunn And Guns: The Spiritual Pathology Of The Violent Imagination


I have a confession to make. I harbor moments of true rage at those who produce high decibels. They might be the drivers of unmufflered motorcycles, theater owners who crank movie soundtracks to a deafening level, and every band I’ve ever endured for the time it takes to support a friend who insisted my presence was indispensable to the evening. I think very bad thoughts about all of them indeed.

When customers of the drug dealer across the street double-park and wait as their friend runs up to cop, a surprising number of them seem oblivious to the inherent discretion you’d think their task would entail.? In the little world of their tinted-windows vehicle, they blare their music with a bass so pounding I imagine myself tossing a large rock through the windshield, or at the very least, pelting the car with eggs. ?I am appalled by the lack of consideration, by the presumption that their pleasure in the musical stylings of whatever artist they have on is somehow going to be shared or appreciated by everyone within earshot.

So, generally speaking, I can understand Michael Dunn’s initial irritation at the loud music emanating from the SUV in which Jordan Davis was a passenger.? I can understand him asking them to turn it down, and being pissed when they didn’t comply.? I’ve had those moments of verbal conflict with litterers, with dog walkers who won’t clean up after their pooch, with smokers. But I rarely bother saying anything anymore because it never works.? The fact is that the vast majority of people react defensively to public reproach, especially if it’s delivered with what they perceive as a self-righteous or condescending tone.? Rather than comply, they tend to double down. It’s human nature. ?If either party has a chip on his shoulder, the situation can easily escalate. That’s human nature too.? And when you throw in guns and racism, you get another black teenager dead whose worst crime was no crime at all.

That’s not human nature, it’s just the United States.

But the problem with America’s armed Stand-Your-Grounders is far more fundamental than a fear and loathing of young black men. It underlies our country’s entire love affair with guns.? It is the idea that violence is an appropriate response to conflict. ?


The Dunn defenders – like Zimmerman’s before him – have been smart enough to dress up this notion in the semantics of self-defense, but we know that’s bullshit, or they’d be screaming for the acquittal of every battered woman who finally said “enough” to one more fistful of abuse. ?Those truly interested in self-defense needn’t even bother to load their guns.? There isn’t a burglar in America who wouldn’t prefer you to be out of the house; the vast majority of those who miscalculate will run for their life at the appearance of a gun barrel.?? The percentage of women who successfully defend themselves with a gun from a would-be rapist is miniscule — the nature of that crime makes it almost impossible to prepare for.

Unfortunately, movies and television have done an extraordinarily effective job of creating an illusory world where the 2nd amendment works beautifully.? In reality, cops may shoot a gun once or twice a career, on TV, guns are used on almost every episode of every crime show.? This false narrative makes ratings sense — it’s inherently dramatic. But the use of firearms is overwhelmingly associated in the public mind with resolving the problem.? How many times have we heard: “Drop it. Now!” followed by cuffing the perp? How many times does the bad guy get caught because he is shot by the good guy? ?But what proportion of the 30,000 deaths last year to gun violence reflected this good guy/bad guy scenario? What percentage of the 8 children killed by guns each day needed to be stopped by a bullet?

Pumping 10 rounds into a carful of unarmed teenagers was obviously not planned by Michael Dunn when he went out to get gas.? But his readiness to resort to violence over something as inconsequential as loud music represents a form of pre-meditation nonetheless. ?He had to buy the gun, keep it in his car, and go get it.? He had to feel so justified in his actions that he didn’t bother to call the police afterwards, so calm about what had happened that he could order pizza and enjoy a bottle of wine with his girlfriend.

The truth is that Dunn had no doubt imagined shooting at perceived “thugs” thousands of times — not with dread, but with anticipation. Millions of firearm-impassioned Americans live this same spiritual pathology every single day, itchy trigger fingers just waiting for an opportunity.? “Stand Your Ground” laws have now reassured them that the scenes they play out in their violent imaginations would not only be justified, but part of the solution.? They suffer no moral quandary about their fantasies; they don’t question them any more than the Klansmen who lynched young black men for hundreds of years, bringing their families to picnic at the sight of strange fruit swinging from rope in the southern breeze.

Edited/Published by: SB

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Written by Mark Olmsted

Mark Olmsted (@marquismarq) has been blogging for the Huffington Post, and personally as "The Trash Whisperer," since 2006. He recently obtained a M.A. in the Humanities from Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, where he lives and works as a screenwriter and editor.