Scared white guys spur Black Friday gun sales to record high

December 3, 2014 Originally published on SFGate

How to unpack the creepy, disquieting factoid that gun sales over the Thanksgiving weekend shot, as it were, to a record high?

True. Upwards of 175,000 requests for background checks over Black Friday, the FBI says, which is about three requests per second, which is triple the norm but still just behind December 21, 2012, right after the Sandy Hook massacre, when gun sales freakishly skyrocketed. Because nothing says “We need to come together to stop all the gun deaths” than stocking up on bullets in case the scary black president comes to take away your Glock.

The scary black president! He’s part of the problem, no? He’s one of them, the real reason so many people bought a gun this holiday. According to at least one shop owner, a large percentage of gun buyers mentioned one singular event as a motivating factor for their purchase. Can you guess?

That’s right: Ferguson.

Ferguson? You mean the place where the white cop murdered that unarmed black kid, and wasn’t even indicted for it, and the police responded to the subsequent outrage/heartbreak from the local black community with even more brutality by way of a shocking assortment of military-grade weaponry: enormous tanks and tear gas and riot gear, all of sufficient scale and ruthlessness to outfit an army unit in Afghanistan, because that’s exactly what it was? That Ferguson? Yes indeed.


It’s just like a bookstore, except really violent and paranoid and creepy and only white males who smell like old cheese and musty underwear shop there.

So. Want to try and unpack this creepy factoid? Break it down a little? It’s not difficult:

You’re a scared white person, almost certainly male. You do not live in a major city, or near a university or intellectual hub of any note, nor have you ever traveled very far from your home town, much less out of state or anywhere further than, say, Mexico. Once. And that was enough.

You do not read complicated books. You do not like new or weird things. You watch lots of TV, mostly Fox News, which rejoices in showing you endless images of angry foreigners and minorities in pain: tear gas explosions, fights in the streets, looting, this time involving sad, small-town black people in Ferguson, all of them protesting the acquittal of that murderous white cop.

“But it’s not only Missouri!” squeal a number of crudely pink-faced blondes on Fox News. “Angry black people – and white liberals too! – are protesting everywhere, from Oakland to Chicago to New York, perhaps even somewhere within, say, 200 miles of where you live!” Too close for comfort, that’s for sure.

The vast majority of the Ferguson protests were peaceful and full of urgency and genuine pathos. But what did media focus on? This. What did Fox News fetishize? This, times 1,000

The vast majority of the Ferguson protests were peaceful and full of urgency and genuine pathos. But what did media focus on? This. What did Fox News fetishize? This, times 1,000

While some part of you heard that the vast majority of protests were, of course, peaceful, and the injustice was, of course, heinous, that’s not what you see. You see only the nervous (and white, and male, like you) Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, do something really weird: declare a state of emergency – not because of a hurricane, or a flood. But because of… an imminent jury verdict.

Whoa! Even the possibility of black people protesting a brutal injustice is, you quickly surmise, worse than a deadly act of God. Who needs a tornado? Underserved minorities are despondent! Better get the tanks ready.

Which is more dangerous: a paranoid, under-educated, middle-aged white guy with a gun, or an unarmed black teen?

And so you think, “Well, now I have two reasons to buy a new gun: scary black people protesting within 200 miles of my home, and a dangerously out-of-control police force who might someday storm my house and confiscate my illegal taxidermy collection.” Ah, the perfect collusion.

Wait, make that three reasons: Toss in a Black Friday mega-sale at the local Gun Barn (30% off the AR-15, AKA “America’s gun,” the same semi-automatic rifle used in lots of massacres, and that killed a couple kids in Oregon just last year) and it’s off to the exhausted feds with your application.

There is, to date, no obvious fact, no impossible-to-deny piece of data that will convince the scared, paranoid gun fetishists of America that firearms are not merely dangerous, but also savage and cruel, tools of hate that invite not only more violence and suffering, but their own inevitable destruction.

We know guns do not make you safer. They do not prevent crime. They do not protect families. The NRA cannot trot out a single stat that proves guns improve society in any conceivable or measurable way; in fact, it’s just the opposite. Every piece of data we have proves guns are spiritual, moral and social poison.

The NRA can, however, trot out one epic, undeniable stat that trumps all the others. It’s the same stat that fuels the Republican party, Fox News, the Tea Party, homophobes, GamerGaters, racists and global warming deniers, et al.

That stat is about fear.

The matrix is simple enough: The more scared you are, the more isolated, the less educated and the less traveled and the less exposed to unfamiliar ideas, to different modes of life, to the Other, to the staggering and effervescent variety of human existence, the more you will see a gun as an obvious and necessary choice.

But here’s the surreal catch: it’s not for protection, per se. It’s not about the childish fantasy of how the gun defends against the rapist, or the drug dealer, or the Russian mafia kingpin who kidnapped your daughter for the second time, and this time it’s personal.

The gun is uncomplicated, primitive defense against something far more terrifying and murky: everything you do not know. Guns provide an illusion of security, a violent, make-believe defense against a world that’s too complex, with injustices too prodigious, rage too tempting and calm, peaceful acts of love far too difficult to locate. They make you feel, in short, like you might have a chance.

But as the Ferguson/Michael Brown tragedy proved (for the 10,000th time), despite all that savage promise, the gun fails. Like it always has. Like it always will. Every. Single. Time.

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Mark Morford

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