Regarding Guns

Well, it looks like it’s going to be a discussion whether we want it or not. And to be clear, I do not. But if talking’s happening, I’ll be a part of it.

Today’s tragedy would not have been possible if we had stricter gun laws. If you disbelieve that statement, you’re failing to function on a rational level. Yes, other tragedies have occurred with other weapons. But this one in particular, and its ilk, are made possible directly because of the guns we have available to us.

Apparently there was an incident in China yesterday that also grievously involved children. None of the headlines I’ve seen flash along my Twitter feed have suggested that anyone died from that. Injured, shocked, yes. But not dead. Their futures were not permanently cut off. And even had there been deaths, they would not have been nearly as numerous. Guns are none of the other things which are misused to tragically end life. Guns are guns, and guns are designed with a single purpose: to end life.

Is ending life an inherently immoral thing? No, at least not from a Judeo-Christian standpoint. If you disagree, read Genesis 9, in which God institutes both consumption of meat and capital punishment. And to the former end, we need effective means of hunting, less today for subsistence than for population control (though I applaud those who do hunt for food as a means of simpler living). There are very few guns, however, which are recognized as either ethical or effective for hunting. Fur or feast, good hunts rely on efficiency to preserve the animal for consumption.

A great many guns, then, are legally available but serve no practical purpose beyond shooting other people. I say practical here because I recognize that shooting ranges and competitions have always enjoyed a great deal of popularity among subsets of the population. I do not think an honest cost/benefit evaluation, however, would justify the reality of school and shopping center shooting galleries on the basis of fringe entertainment.

Of course, when you get past the “I need guns” argument, the next one is “I have a right to, and the founders of our country agree,” and since I tend to agree a great deal with the founders of our country and don’t want to undermine their legitimacy or foresight, allow me to suggest this: you’ve already lost the right they were trying to secure with the Second Amendment.

The actual text of the Second Amendment says more than “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That’s the “then” of an if/then statement, and is predicated on the assumption that “a well regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free state.” These words were written by people who had just fought off a strong, centralized government, and were putting together a union of sovereign states.

Perhaps you read that differently from how I do, but it sounds a lot to me like, “in order for the states of this union to ensure they will never be subjugated by the federal government we are instituting, they must be capable of having their own military to fight against that federal military, should it ever come to such extremes. Rather than a standing army, this would simply be a collective of citizens of the state who would, if needed, defend us — using their own guns.” They recognized the value of militia in overturning an oppressive regime, and wanted to make sure that going forward, that militia capacity never went away.

Nevermind the myriad ways in which state sovereignty has been trampled on in almost every way imaginable over the past two and a half centuries; the intent of these words is clear: we need guns because the government will have guns, and without guns the common man is defenseless against the government.

Well, newsflash. The government has access to a lot of things we don’t. Not just guns (though plenty of those), but bombs and intel and drones. A conflict between Washington, DC and any individual state in the United States of America would be hilariously asymmetrical. Even armed with the most powerful weapons legally available to citizens today (that is, even if gun control got no stricter), there is no way a state could form a militia that came close to having the capacity to win in that struggle. In a worst-case scenario, entire cities or swathes of a state could quite literally be disintegrated at the push of a button.

And so, if the reason for having guns was so that John Doe could defend his hometown from government attack, and he has no ability to do so, whence the reason for having guns?

Self defense against fellow citizens, I suppose. That’s what people will say. And you know, considering the criminals don’t care what the law says (hint: that’s why they’re called criminals), only the law-abiding citizens can be hurt by gun control, because they’ll be gunless while the criminals use the guns they’re not allowed to have to do things they’re not allowed to do.

I’ve used that argument before. It kinda sounds valid. But you know what it doesn’t sound like? An argument predicated on the founders’ beliefs and the Second Amendment.

So if you want to say you need a gun because someone might break into your house with a gun, or rob your store with a gun, or whatever, okay. I’ll let the researchers squabble over how often self-defense gun ownership results in its intended consequences (as opposed to, say, young Bobby finding the shoebox in the closet and making terrible mistakes).

But don’t conflate that argument with the inalienable right argument, because first they aren’t related and second, the inalienable right argument is already (as I just suggested) moot.

It’s stupid, really stupid, that we blame tragedies like today’s on guns rather than focusing on the monsters who perpetrate the actual acts, the people who would willingly hurt defenseless children and underpaid educators (and holiday shopping families and minimum-wage-earning store employees). The culpability focus is definitely skewed whenever some potentially political hot button news item arises.

But if you’re going to have a knee-jerk reaction, at least try to put a little thought into it before smearing the Internet with a record of your political leanings. Even if it’s ultimately the fault of the shooter rather than the gun company, what I said in the beginning is still true: today’s tragedy would not have been possible if we had stricter gun laws.

So love your guns, your shooting galleries, your hunting trophies, and your self-defense monologue. But if your kids were coming home in a body bag today, would you still be so self-righteous?

I hope to God the answer to that is no.

EDIT: Addendum. It’s worth noting that a lot of people don’t want anyone to get political over this, not right now. I agree with that sentiment, and that’s why I addressed it in my opening sentence: like it or not, it already is political, and our options are to ignore it or to take advantage of the opportunity for discussion and strike while the iron is hot. I’m not one to suggest overturning centuries’ worth of precedent while caught up in an emotional frenzy, but I think capitalizing on the sting of tragedy is the best way to remind us of what tragedy actually feels like, what sorts of emotions and thoughts we’re trying to prevent from reoccurring. We callous quickly, and then the issue becomes fringe and unimportant all over again. The only time the majority of the nation thinks about guns is when something like this happens; and since that’s true, we must engage the topic now, like it or not. Be sensitive, but don’t be quixotic. In all things, charity. End Addendum.

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