My friend Wyswords just wrote a good blog post about “Open Carry Firearms“. Thought provoking and worth a read.
The debate of guns = good / bad is quite philosophical and fraught with pitfalls. I’m not debating that here. As Wyswords points out; guns are a fact in our country, the only actionable question is whether we are dealing with them responsibly.
I’ve had an odd relationship with guns over my life. Growing up they were strictly forbidden. Even squirt guns were admonished as glorifying the type of violence that was wrong in the world. So naturally as I grew I wanted to see what they were really all about. I remember one after noon when I was a teenager I went up with a friend into the forest and shot his rifle. I wasn’t very good. He asked me if I would like to try the shotgun and I declined, feeling a bit embarrassed at how unlike the guys in Red Dawn I had turned out to be.
In my thirties, my job in game development had me occasionally hosting game developers from places like Sweden. When they visited, after work it was customary to do something fun (team building, that great excuse to use the company’s money). Sometimes these guys were into racing go karts (we were building racing games after all) but other times they wanted to hit the local shooting range.
I even went on a blind date once with a woman who was a security guard. She took me to the range to teach me how to shoot. Said I was a natural with the desert eagle.
So that’s all to say I don’t really have a fear or disgust of guns. Any more than I would a wrench or a car. They are devices that do the things that their handlers instruct them to. However, while it’s true that “guns don’t kill people”, I think Eddie Izzard has the right take on this.
And unlike a wrench or a car, the gun has one purpose: to kill. And this is a problem in our country. I’ve seen a few videos lately that seem to be stark examples of the issue. So first off we have things like this:
Basically that’s a video of a guy walking around the neighborhood with an AR-15, and proudly asserting that he’s breaking no rules, he doesn’t have to show a permit, he doesn’t have to show ID, etc. There are many, many videos like this.
It’s the gun-enthusiast equivalent of when your mom said “don’t touch your brother” back when you were kids and so you’d hover your finger centimeters from his eyeball and taunt him with the fact you weren’t touching him. Until he finally broke down crying and then became a lawyer, inspired by your nuanced ability to flaunt the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of it.
Only it’s a lot more than that in this case. Imagine, if you will:
You are hanging out in your neighborhood. Nice warm sunny day. Maybe out on your front lawn with a lemonade. Kids playing mutant ninja space cowboys vs. robot magic wizard chiefs while running around the lawn. Like ya do.
Then a guy comes walking up the block with a large assault rifle. Is your reaction: “hey there person I don’t know, good on ya for brandishing your constitutional rights and trolling for cops so you can display the fact that you know your rights and are happy to waste their time!”
Or is your reaction: “I don’t know this person, but I do know there have been many, many crazies with large weapons in our recent history, and I sure as hell don’t want to stick around to find out if this guy is homicidal. Kids, inside – NOW”.
I’m betting most people have that later reaction. And this is one problem that I have with open carry enthusiasts. Their eagerness to show off their constitutional carry rights increases fear and tension wherever they go. They might be most mentally and morally stable people in the world, but there is NO WAY ANYONE CAN KNOW THIS. If you are to protect yourself and the ones you love, caution will always be the first reaction.
However, it’s always instructional to try to understand the values and passions of those you take issue with. So then I ran into this lovely video which takes a very popular extremist and gives him a forum to lay it all out.
Near as I can understand, this guy feels:
- Gun ownership is responsible for the drop in violent crime.
- The only thing holding back a tyrannical government is a well-armed populace.
- The blame for mass homicides in the US rests squarely on Prozac makers and their ilk, and they fund people like Piers Morgan to spread the sickness.
- The government is already killing us in large quantities, and he has proof that 9/11 was a government job as clear evidence of this.
So, a few things on this. First: wow I feel sorry for that guy. His entire world is ruled by fear; fear of his country, his government, foreigners, liberals, etc. What a painful life that must be.
Second: everyone seems to have their own statistic to credit the drop in violent crime. I haven’t seen anything that shows causation with gun ownership, just correlation.
It seems unarguable that mass homicides / suicides would be greatly decreased without guns. The killers would still be deranged and try to harm others, but if all you have is a knife or a rock, you just won’t be able to do as much damage.
As for his conspiracy theories, that’s a whole other blog post. But in summary; most conspiracy theories turn out to be wildly wrong or overblown, the government is just not effective enough to orchestrate the kinds of things that they are accused of. With the exception of the bloody NSA debacle, which honestly did shake up my thinking on this point a bit, its hard to think of another conspiracy that holds up to the slightest bit of empirical testing.
So, I believe we have a rational set of humans asking “hey, why don’t we have the same controls in place for gun ownership that we do for car ownership? Both are deadly weapons in the wrong hands”. Which wouldn’t solve everything, but would be a step in the right direction. Competency tests, background checks, etc.
On the other hand, we have people driven by zealotry, gun fetishism, or just outright fear of their own government who seem to be incapable of having a logical debate because their values aren’t logic-driven, they are emotion-driven. I have read some great thoughts from gun enthusiasts that are actually logic and reason driven, and those folks seem to be all for stricter controls. It seems though, in this case the extremists rule the roost, especially at places like the NRA.
So how to move forward? Well, you can’t convince people driven by fear with logic and arguments. I think they need to try a new reality and see that their fears are unfounded. You can point to all the countries in the world with low gun ownership and a distinct lack of tyranny, but that won’t sway them. You can point to statistics that show gun availability increases violent crimes, but they have their own statistics that say the opposite. And when you come right down to it, they just love their guns.
In short: this isn’t a debate. I won’t be solved with reasoned and logical discourse. It is, however, high time we stopped being afraid of what MIGHT happen and react to what has happened.
Mentally unstable people need to be kept from access to firearms, and the onus for gun ownership needs to be squarely on the individual to prove they are competent and responsible enough to own a gun.
And in the meantime, if I see these guys walking around my neighborhood, my initial response is not going to be “ah, the sweet smell of freedom.”