Opinion: Imperialism Is the Problem, Mass Shootings Are a Symptom

By Jakob Stein

On Monday, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa opened fire in a Boulder, Colorado supermarket, ultimately killing ten people before being wounded in the leg and giving himself up to police. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, the debate around gun control has once again reared its head as Democrats vie for political clout; however, the competing issues of ‘gun control’ and ‘gun rights’ do nothing to deal with the root cause of these mass shootings—US imperialism.

Every time the question of guns is raised in the US, the two imperialist parties have their predictable responses—the Democrats claim that minor reforms restricting the purchase of firearms will solve the problem, while Republicans claim that the greater proliferation of firearms among the general population will aid in neutralizing shooters quicker. In the final analysis, both sides are merely pandering to their respective bases and providing options that could hypothetically stop only a small fraction of such attacks. In order to truly stop the bloodbath of mass shootings in the US, the issue of imperialism would need to be addressed, but this issue cannot be resolved under the current system.

In the past, many have pointed to violent movies, music, and video games as the main culprits for the violent society we live in, but these are merely identifying symptoms and not the root cause. The truth is that US imperialism fosters and constantly reproduces an anti-people, misanthropic culture which sees reactionary violence as a normal and acceptable part of life. All of this is based in imperialism’s economic exploitation that fosters desperate conditions and alienation across all aspects of society.

Violence also flourishes in the nations oppressed by imperialism, but this violence usually takes a different form—it is largely motivated by politics or organized crime. While still reactionary, these violent outbursts generally have an operative goal in mind other than the senseless killing of as many people as possible. Imperialist countries, especially the US, are unique in this regard—we experience mass shootings on a regular basis and the explanation from the ruling-class media is usually nothing more than ‘the perpetrator was angry and disturbed.’

It is also worth noting that Alissa, while suffering from serious mental health issues (another omnipresent condition in imperialist society) including delusions of persecution, was also likely the victim of very real discrimination on the basis of being a Muslim and an immigrant from the Middle East in the US. Reports indicate that his family emigrated from Syria when he was 3 years old, sometime around 2002-2003—during the same time period when George W. Bush declared Syria as part of the “Axis of Evil” and the start of the Iraq War.

Democrats and Republicans alike use the issues of ‘gun control’ and ‘gun rights’ as political tools—never accomplishing anything that can actually curb reactionary violence while at the same time obscuring the role of US imperialism in fueling violence both domestically and around the globe. Aside from elections, nothing better represents the farce of bourgeois democracy than the argument over gun violence—both sides are playing the same game, conning their supporters while doing nothing to actually solve the problem.

The abundance of firearms and the massive retail market for them is certainly a problem for society, however this problem cannot be solved by longer waiting periods, more stringent background checks, or limits on magazine size, etc. The US is already awash with guns and it is no coincidence that reactionaries control the vast majority of them. Both ‘gun rights’ and ‘gun control’ have deep roots in the reactionary history of the US, from arming early settlers to carry out genocide against the indigenous population to targeting political dissidents who exercised this same ‘right.’

The Democrats specifically have shown a certain inconsistency, using the shootings in Atlanta as an example of ‘anti-Asian hatred,’ while blaming the most recent shooting primarily on gun laws. The Republicans themselves are also guilty of this inconsistency, with reactionaries claiming that the shooting was motivated by the perpetrator’s Muslim faith and a possible hatred for Donald Trump. Both sides of the debate can change their explanations for mass shootings as they see fit according to the situation.

At the end of the day, the key question in the gun debate is which class controls the guns, and in this system, it is the ruling class and their servants who are given unfettered access to weapons, while revolutionaries will be persecuted for any type of armed self-defense or organizing against the state. It is imperialism and the culture it generates that create these tragedies, and as long as these conditions persist, we will continue to experience senseless killings. The only solution is to fight to overthrow imperialism, for a society that truly values people, a socialist society that puts the working class in command of the guns and makes the defense of the new society its top priority.

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