This is going to be a rant. Like everybody else, yesterday’s shooting in Newton, CT has me livid and sad, and doing a lot of soul-searching. I’m not a fan of political discourse (frankly, I’m just too stubborn), but the conversations that have spun out of this tragedy have only frustrated me further. I’m choosing to write my thoughts here, but it’s not with an eye towards promoting discussion, or even being particularly cogent. Consider yourself warned.
The most salient discussion that has spun out of yesterday’s events is about gun control vs. gun rights, but I feel like both sides are missing the point: guns should just be banned outright. This isn’t about restrictions on killing machines or some misguided notion of a right to own killing machines, this is about killing machines being a fucking terrible idea in the first place. I won’t accept that that maniac could have killed them with a knife — he could have smothered them with a teddy-bear if he wanted to — but the fact is, he walked in with two devices specifically designed to kill things. This wasn’t the abuse or misuse of a tool, this was an act of using that tool to its fullest potential. They simply shouldn’t exist.
For my own understanding, I’d like to lay out and dissect what I see as the case for gun ownership in order from least compelling to most compelling.
I hate to begrudge anybody their pastime, but if giving up something I loved could have prevented yesterday’s tragedy, I would gladly do it. If banning baseball could somehow prevent any future school shootings, I would absolutely advocate for that. Or giving up ice cream. Or comic books. If banning guns means hunting becomes a casualty, so be it. Those kids’ lives are worth more than whatever you do for kicks on the weekends. I’m not sorry about this at all. Also, try bow hunting, you lazy ass.
I’ve heard arguments that perhaps tragedy could have been averted in Connecticut if someone else in the school had had a gun. I suppose it’s possible that adding another gun to the situation could have somehow resulted in a peaceable cease-fire, but it also seems possible that more guns and more ammunition could have lead to much more death. (Also, if we’re just wishing for ways things could have been different, why not wish the maniac didn’t have any guns? Then nobody needs guns in the scenario at all.)
More importantly, this isn’t how guns work. They don’t magically prevent you from being shot. I haven’t looked up any statistics, but I can pretty much guarantee that the vast majority of gun violence victims in history died holding a gun. You want protection from gun violence? Buy a bulletproof vest. I’m not advocating for the banning of bulletproof vests.
3 Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
This is equally true of EVERY WEAPON EVER. Why is nobody advocating for their right to own surface-to-air missiles or sarin gas? Those are also just “tools” people use to kill each other. I could at least understand if people were advocating for the notion that everybody should have all access to every weapon ever invented, ever. It’d be crazy to me, but at least it wouldn’t be so contradictory. The middle ground — that semi-automatic weapons are cool, but Scud missiles are bad — makes no fucking sense to me. I honestly have no idea what the difference is between those things and guns. Is it because those things can kill MORE people? How many dead people is too many? Is 18 schoolchildren really an acceptable loss?
4 If we ban guns, only criminals will have guns
Again, this is true of EVERYTHING THAT IS ILLEGAL. Pipe-bombs are illegal. Some criminals make and use them. That doesn’t mean everybody should be allowed to. Criminals already have access to guns now. Wouldn’t making that a more arduous, expensive process keep at least SOME guns out of their hands? Sure, massive criminal organizations could afford to import them or whatever, but the meth-head on your corner sure as hell couldn’t. THAT SEEMS BETTER TO ME. I get the impression that people are more worried about random muggings or robberies gone wrong than accidentally getting mixed up in gangland warfare, in which case, making guns difficult to get would solve these problems.
5 It’s our right
I’m not a constitutional scholar. I’m not going to debate that the second amendment does, in fact, guarantee the rights of individuals to own weapons (though it seems clear to me that it is debatable). What should be clear to everyone, however, is the reason the second amendment exists in the first place. The text in full:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The order of clauses is a little weird, but its clear to me that the reason “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” “shall not be infringed” is because “a well regulated Militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State.”
Again, I’m not a constitutional scholar, but my understanding of the “Militia” that it refers to is independent of the US Armed Forces, and in fact, may fight the US Armed Forces if the government ever became oppressive — the very same way Washington’s Continental Army had risen up against the British Army. This notion seems a little paranoid in my mind, but even if we accept that necessity, every State and local militia has been woefully outgunned for over half a century. Never mind that an individual city or state or group of states that rebelled would be facing the single largest militarly power in the world, the US also has THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of atomic weapons. I’ve never heard of anyone advocating that States, local governments, or private citizens should be allowed to own nuclear weapons, but literally anything short of having 8,000 nuclear bombs means your militia doesn’t stand a chance.
In fact, in this nightmare scenario where the US government is considering deploying nuclear weapons against a rebelling state (lets be clear — I don’t think this would ever happen, but for the sake of argument, let’s go with it), that threat is FAR more likely to cause in-fighting within the milita between people steadfastly standing up for rights, and those who just don’t want to be vaporized. In that case, allowing us to have piddly pea-shooters we can destroy ourselves with is actually in the US government’s best interest. WAY TO PLAY INTO BIG GOVERNMENT’S HAND, GUYS.
Stupid intellectual exercises aside, I think this ties back to my Scud missile example by asking “what is an arm, anyway?” I need a non-arbitrary reason why we should ban rocket-powered grenades but not a 9mm. I’ve never heard one.
Ultimately, I do sympathize with defenders of this amendment. As a big believer in the first amendment, I often find myself defending the freedom of speech after some asshole abuses it. The difference, though, is that if speech is harmful — though defamation or just shouting “fire” in a crowded theater — it isn’t protected. ALL GUNS ARE HARMFUL. Sure, not everybody who uses a gun is going to point it at a school full of innocent kids, and not everybody who spreads lies about a person actually harms their reputation, but I don’t think that’s enough to protect our “right” to defamation OR guns.
What it’s really about
Ultimately, I suspect the arguments I detailed above are simply ways people try to defend the simple fact that they like guns. They like having them, so they feel like they’re a god-given right, even though there are all kinds of other things that they’ll gladly accept that they don’t have a right to own. Here’s the thing, though: even the ickiest feeling that giving up something you like might bring isn’t half as bad as giving up your life, or your child’s. Anyone who thinks their “right” to own a certain kind of object supersedes the right of those parents to pick their kids up from school that day, or for those kids to receive the Christmas presents their parents had already wrapped for them, or for them to just hug their mom one last time, you can go straight to hell. For allowing guns to continue to exist in our society, we all have the blood of those kids on our hands. It’s time to do the right thing. No more pussyfooting about “control,” we just need to fucking ban them outright. We’re far too late in doing this, but let’s not allow this tragedy to repeat itself.