December 26, 2012

Another Word On Gun Control

Since I am a writer and I have a blog, and since I am American and human and disgusted at the violence against children we value so highly, I'm going to weigh in on the gun control debate that is consuming our country. (Spoiler alert: gun nuts may want to stop reading right about now.)

The gun control debate is a distraction.

That we're even arguing about gun control and gun rights in the wake of 20 dead children and 8 dead adults is ridiculous. I've been reading about guns and gun rights and gun ownership and gun violence every day for a week and have heard the full range of opinion from all sides. In the end, I've decided "gun rights" is an oxymoron. Americans should not have the right to own a gun. No one should have the right to own something designed exclusively to kill.

But what about protection? While guns may be purchased under the assumption that they will only be used in cases of self defense (for example, in a home invasion or robbery), guns are not typically used for protection. Guns settle escalating arguments (hardly a noble motive), guns provide a means for letting out anger against another person, guns are used against friends and family members, and guns are fired accidentally during play or cleaning or "empty" threats. But guns are not used - widely, at least - to protect their owners. Sure, there are some people who are able to defend their lives and property against someone else with a gun because they have a gun, but those people are in the extreme minority.

But what about hunters? I don't know many hunters, but the ones I do know use more traditional weapons - single bullet rifles (or bird shot), knives, single line fishing rods, etc. I do not know of a hunter who uses or claims to need an automatic weapon for hunting. Nor have I ever heard of a hunter who claims to rely on an automatic weapon. In fact, hunters widely take pride in their skill at killing a fleeing animal with a single shot (or maybe two). Blindly shooting into a forest to kill a deer and anything else in your path is not a skill, and is not the point of hunting (any hunters out there are welcome to correct me). There are rules, regulations, and etiquette that hunters follow, and those who deviate are fined, banned and/or ridiculed by their fellow hunters. A "hunter" who shoots up a deer half a dozen times and uses absolutely no stealth, strength or aim to kill is not the same as a hunter who tracks and cleanly kills a deer causing almost no disruption to the rest of the forest. A hunting rifle will have 5 or 6 bullets in the magazine, while a military style automatic weapon (of similar structure) will have a magazine that can hold dozens, if not hundreds, of bullets.

But what about the second amendment? Bullshit. In all likeliness, the 2nd amendment was not created so that all citizens can freely carry automatic weapons, hidden in coats in public places armed with bullet proof vests and military armor, it was created to ensure a prepared military. Which we have. In fact, we have the most highly trained military in the world, full of fucking volunteers, who want to do nothing but be in the military. Our country spends more money arming and preparing the several branches of our military to respond to any situation imaginable. There's no chance that many millions of people, most of whom probably join the military to protect the American people, would go along with a government take-over that the seemingly paranoid NRA believes could happen.

But what about my freedom and right to own a gun? If your freedom to own a gun - something that's sole purpose is to kill - means that my freedom and right to live is at risk, I'm going to argue that your freedom is less important than mine. Because by law it is. The NRA saying that we need more civilians to be armed with guns to prevent murders from happening means I need to rely on others to protect me. Since no one is saying every American should have and carry a gun those who are uncomfortable with that prospect don't have to carry one. But it also means that we can't stop certain people from having and carrying guns, if it's a right bestowed on all Americans, which means I'm at the mercy of all those potentially unstable gun toting citizens. But hey, that's their right, right?

So what if it's unlikely that I'll actually use the gun I bought for the reasons I said I bought it, I still have the right and still want the opportunity to use a gun for those reasons. Again, I have to call bullshit. If you know that a gun at home is far more likely to kill a family member (or yourself) than an intruder and you still want one, you're not thinking clearly. And anyone who is not thinking clearly should not have a gun. Let's, for argument's sake, say you buy a handgun for protection against home robbery. Let's say you wake up in the middle of the night because you  hear someone coming into your home (and let's assume it's not your kid coming back late, the dog making a racket, or someone you know doing something completely innocent) and you have your handgun at hand. Because you're worried about protecting yourself, you don't keep your gun in a safe, and it's always loaded. After arming yourself, you creep down the hall to where you hear the intruder. It's dark, but you obviously can't turn on any lights. You find the suspect in the living room, snooping around. Fortunately, he hasn't noticed you yet, so you have the advantage. You shoot. What are the odds you hit? Perhaps the gun had more of a kickback than you remembered the last time you used it. Perhaps it was darker than you thought and the suspect was the easy chair, which now has a nice hole in it. Perhaps your hand was shaking at the prospect of killing a person (even an intruder) and you missed entirely. Perhaps you hit the person but didn't kill him or her. What now? You're in your PJs, the intruder has every advantage now. Chances are the intruder will now fire at you, and because he or she is more accustomed to holding and firing a gun and because he or she has grown accustomed to the darkness, you're hit. You may not die, but now the intruder is gone and you need an ambulance. And that's the scenario if all goes well. If the "intruder" is your kid or your dog or someone you don't want to kill you're totally fucked if that bullet finds its target. If, because you want easy access to it in case of an intruder you don't keep your gun in a safe, someone else finds the gun and accidentally kills themselves or someone else, will you still advocate owning a gun for protection? No one can answer this until it happens. You absolutely cannot speculate how you would feel until your kid or your parent or your spouse, or even your dog, is dead because you had a gun.

Yes, people will still kill people even if no one has a gun. But it'll be a lot, lot harder. Kids won't accidentally die after finding a gun kept for protection, arguments won't escalate to the point that someone grabs his gun, 20 children won't die in 15 minutes because someone had a gun. Yes, we'll still have cars and knives and bombs and cross bows and even airplanes that will kill mass people. But not more than 8 thousand people in one year. And that's the point. No one is saying that we will eliminate murders or suicides if we eliminate guns.  But there will be far, far, far fewer.

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