RIght after the whole Sandy Hook massacre, there was a lot of heated back and forth discussion on the subject of why guns are bad, or good depending on who you spoke to, and whether guns kill people or whether just people kill people. The short answer to that last one is that people kill people but guns make it a hell of a lot easier. Anyhow, it appears that I do a lot of the talking (or writing) on this subject and I am, in fact, highly critical of guns, gun ownership, and the whole gun culture. Guns are a touchy and deeply personal topic for many, much like religion, especially in the United States where the 2nd Amendment is considered by many to be as sacred as any Bible and sparks no end of debate. Whenever I see one too many pro-gun postings, or after yet another shooting tragedy, I can't seem to help but join the fray. After one rather heartfelt and personal emails from a friend on Facebook, it occured to me that I needed to respond publicly and to express my feelings regarding guns and gun control (much as I did regarding my posts about why I attack religion).
I thought about responding right after the Sandy Hook massacre, but decided any message I might have would probably be lost in the shouting. And so I waited. Until now.
Unlike many who post about gun control, I'm not anti-gun per se. I am, but I'm not. Let me explain. My father's family grew up with guns; he grew up on a farm and there were bears and other predators. Guns are useful both for hunting and for protecting yourself and the livestock from larger predators. On a more personal note, I have trained with guns and, oddly enough, happen to be a damned good shot. At least, I used to be -- it's been a while since I've put this to the test. But I digress . . . Guns can be great entertainment as I can attest to having spent hours doing target practice. Getting closer and closer to that bull's eye is as rewarding a personal achievement as any other physical activity where accuracy is rewarded. While I don't get the deal about hunting nowadays, especially for us city dwellers who can go to the local grocery store for our meat, I used to go fishing with my Dad when I was a kid and I sometimes ate my own catch. Fishing is hunting, albeit with a somewhat quieter, and more human-friendly, weapon. Unless you get the hook caught in your finger. Take it from me, that hurts.
Then there's that whole question about 'protecting yourself' from would be attackers. Yes, I accept that we live in a world where there are people who carry guns and use them to kill others. And I accept that occasionally, an armed individual can protect themselves from an assailant if they are properly armed and properly trained. I can never adequately stress the importance of that last qualifier, properly trained.
I'm not a pacifist in that I know, for a fact, that if it ever came to that, I would 'take up arms against the foe', as John McCrae might have said. I'm paraphrasing, but a true pacifist would die for those beliefs and I'm not prepared to die to avoid conflict. And if I found myself in a room where a guy with a gun was taking out other people and I happened to see a weapon lying there, I'd pick it up and take the shot. I know that about myself. I'll worry about the guilt later, when the shooter is no longer a threat.
So why am I so critical of guns and so pro-gun control?
Because gun control isn't about keeping guns out of the hands of those proverbial 'law abiding citizens' everyone talks about. It's about control, and controlling access, and making it harder to purchase a gun with ammo than it is to purchase a Slurpee at the corner store. It's about making the need to protect yourself from wackjobs with guns less of an issue because there are less wackjobs with guns.
I think even the most ardent supporter of the 2nd amendment would agree (unless they're insane) that there are people who just shouldn't have guns and, by extension, shouldn't be allowed to purchase them.
Furthermore, not every person in a civilized society needs a gun, or should have one. As a mature, civilized, democratic society, we entrust certain people with law enforcement and public defence. If we don't trust them, we shouldn't allow them to carry a gun or have a job where they carry one. And if you are going to argue self-defence, surely there's a sane definition of 'personal defence' that doesn't include high powered military-grade hardware in it. Who, claiming the need to defend themselves, needs to fire a thousand rounds a minute? But I digress . . .
The vast majority of people who own guns (and let me emphasize 'vast') wouldn't know how to properly defend themselves or anyone else should the moment ever arise. What they would be, and are, is a liability and one who is likely to get more people killed rather than actually helping. As someone who has trained with firearms, I know just how damned difficult it is to use one and use one well. Even more so for handguns. At 40 feet, the vast majority of gun owners are just as likely to kill an innocent as get the bad guy. In short, I simply don't trust most people to act responsibly with a firearm.
The problems with your society (in America) and ours here in Canada (to a lesser degree) is that we are treating the after-effects of the disease rather than the disease itself or, reason help us, the actual cause. There are a lot of financially destitute people, mentally ill people, and poorly educated people, all of whom have little of hope of making it in this world. Why not direct more attention to dealing with mental illness, with violence, with education, or, reason help us, providing each and every person with a living wage; with enough money to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and access to medical care when they need it?
In the 'oh so God-loving and fearing' world in which we live, we somehow seem able to look the other way when it comes to helping our fellow human beings. Instead, we punish for every alleged transgression, blaming people for things over which they have little personal control, things that we, as a civilized society, could easily alleviate. Please don't quote me Ayn Rand, that insensitive bitch. Instead we want to put guns in even more people's hands, including, if you listen to the gun-toting NRA nutjobs, our school teachers. We want to create a world where we are scared shitless that every person near us is carrying a piece because, well, they probably are.
That's why I routinely point out the idiocy of the NRA-style pro-gun agenda and suggest that perhaps a little -- just a little more -- gun control wouldn't be such a bad thing.
I could go on, obviously, but I'm going to leave it here for now.
As usual, feel free to comment. Make your case.