The recent appalling and tragic massacre in Charleston underscores once again the “debate” about gun control in the US. I put the word in quotes, because, in reality, there is no debate, just competing declarations of faith in either guns or gun control. I won’t beat around the bush; I blame the NRA and gun supporters for this impasse, because of the utterly uncompromising stance against any and all attempts to even regulate guns. The NRA has even had the unspeakable gall to blame the pastor of the church in Charleston, himself a victim, for the tragedy because of his position against allowing guns in his church. As if an all-out gunfight would have resulted in a better outcome. It’s hard to have a conversation, and literally impossible to reach a compromise under these conditions. And let’s not forget that one side is armed to the armpits while the other is not; not particularly conducive to a productive dialog.

It is a truism that banning guns will not stop murder, even murders by gun. For one thing, there are now enough weapons at large in the US to arm every criminal for the next several generations; the gun lobby has ensured that their mantra, “criminals will always have guns,” is true. So let’s instead talk about their proposed solution, that everybody else arm themselves.

Leaving aside the obvious point that that would make even more guns available for criminals, who by definition have no qualms about stealing weapons from law abiding citizens, there are other issues concerning the value of being armed as a deterrent to crime. First and foremost, if a criminal inclined to murder you thinks you have a gun, why wouldn’t they simply shoot first? Why wouldn’t this become commonplace as more people carrying guns becomes commonplace? Indeed, it seems to be happening already, judging from news reports.

Anyone familiar with the news knows how difficult it is for even trained persons, such as police, to properly judge when shooting people is appropriate. How is an average joe with a few hours of mandatory “training” (which, by the way, the gun lobby is also against) going to be able to do it? It is not unusual for those who have, in fact, killed someone in a situation they thought warranted it, to regret it for the rest of their lives (George Zimmerman notwithstanding). Are you ready to kill another human being based solely on your own judgment in a tense, confusing situation? I’m not asking for a public answer to that; it’s likely to be standard, and reflective of your politics anyway. I don’t need an answer. You do.

One other factor is at play here, and that is the corrosive, shoot-em-up atmosphere in our society. We revere the maverick, the lone wolf, the rebel who breaks laws and jaws with impunity to achieve some kind of primitive, retributive justice. There is no doubt that the Charleston murderer sees himself in precisely that light. It breeds contempt for law and inculcates the belief that revenge supersedes all interests of the society at large.

You might say it’s just rhetoric, just words. But language is what we humans do. We live by rhetoric and symbol. It might well be the most important factor here, as it drives the non-debate, and paralyzes the will to take effective action.

13 thoughts on “Guns

  1. Words are vital. Having one label rather another for something has been proven to influence behaviour as strongly as consciously assessing options.

    When I was attacked, bringing myself to punch someone was hard enough; the idea of a society that expected me to kill is unnerving at best.

  2. It’s interesting how NRA and gun lobbyists like to push the idea that “guns aren’t the problem; guns are the solution.” While I believe that people should be allowed to own guns it’s delusional and straight-up dangerous to think that the best way to take down a crazy is for anyone/everyone within the vicinity to open fire. While I don’t think guns should be banned, the other extreme is insane. That’s why the points in your last paragraph are perhaps the deepest and most pertinent; the way we choose to discuss these issues shapes the ways we perceive them. There are possible solutions, but they most likely lie within the grey, nuanced realm that politics likes to eschew.

  3. Well said.
    It’s telling that no politician running for office or hoping to hold a seat is saying
    anything about guns. It’s easier to blame this on racial hatred, because almost
    everyone will agree with them – little controversy there. Of course the problems of race
    are important, but this, in my view, is about guns, and it seems we can’t even have a public
    conversation about gun regulation.

  4. I think we can have a conversation, and I think it’s a fairly simple one. First, I’m grateful to live somewhere where I get to have a choice. Second, if you don’t believe in guns, don’t own one. (See item #1.) For what it’s worth, and I know it’s not much, I am a mother of five who lives in the middle of nowhere and am alone with these in my care a lot of the time. I’m about as tender, sensitive, and anti-violence as they come, but I do like having the option of a gun should the situation (God forbid) ever present itself that someone should attempt to harm these in my care, in this space.

    • I’m not against people having guns for whatever legitimate reason they may have. I’m against holding guns up as some kind of sacred, sacramental right for all people of whatever motivation or inclination, including those whom you fear will harm your family, to have whatever form of immense firepower they desire, just because. What in God’s name is the problem with regulation of firearms? Do you really want them available to anyone, no questions asked? Yes, criminals will always be able to get guns, but that’s because they’re so easily available. Live in NYC? No problem, just hop down to NC and pick up any number of guns at a roadside dealer, no questions asked.

  5. Pingback: Guns, revisited | Omniop

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