With 12 dead and 58 injured, the recent The Dark Knight Rises midnight massacre is currently the largest mass shooting in American history. With it comes the familiar conversation of whether or not to have an actual conversation about gun control. Even when a congresswoman gets shot, Congress doesn’t seem interested in discussing the issue past “This was a terrible and violent crime. Our prayers are with-” and I don’t know the rest, because I stopped listening, because prayers don’t actually do anything. Except of course in Forrest Gump, when Jenny turns into a bird and flies far, far away from there.
“Dear God, please make me a- B’KAWWWW!”
But I’m not here to argue how many times prayers have been answered (according to Wikipedia, as many as but not exceeding 404 times!). Nor am I here to give concrete solutions about the gun problem our country and planet faces. NOR am I saying that gun control is the ONLY problem in these cases. As some have pointed out, a better mental health system would likely reduce the amount and frequency of these tragic events. NOR am I here to offend gun nuts by referring to them as “gun nuts.” I’ve shot guns a few times, and I have guns to thank for helping me look the coolest I will ever look.
I just wanted my kids back.
But guns are still a part of the core problem. If everything goes as expected this time around, not much will happen. But if nothing goes as expected, maybe we’ll finally end up in a real conversation about guns and safety. And if we want that conversation to move beyond a simple “Well, that was tragic, here’s hoping something like it doesn’t happen again, and again, and again,” then we need to stop saying the following four things, because they lead to nowhere. And as we all know, nothing gets done nowhere.
#4. “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”
I almost didn’t include this, because it’s such a silly and empty dodge of the real conversation behind it. I hear and read it so often, though, that I decided to include it. You can tell by you reading this now. Here I am, including it.
Now, people DO kill people. That much is true. It has always been true, before we even had tools. Before we were even people. And that killing truth is indeed part of the problem. Humanity is persistently inconsistent and complex, even in the reasons we kill: desperation, survival, anger or accident, to name a few of the big ones. Insanity, to name the currently most relevant one. Bottom line, though, is that many of us are killers. It’s what half of the above saying means: Human nature is deeply intertwined with violence and killing, and we as a species need to evolve past that in order to move forward into the vast playground of the Universe.
Yes, people kill people, and that is terrible. But guns? Guns also kill people. The first gunpowder weapon to exist is the fire lance, and it was created by the Chinese around the 12th century. The first description of their use was in the Shou Cheng Lu, an account of the siege of De An in 1132. It describes the Song forces using fire lances against the Jurchens, presumably because they were such jerk-ens. Since the beginning, guns were invented by the people, for the people, to kill the people. They puncture your flesh until you die. That’s what they’re for. Yes, guns can also be used for hunting, or maybe for nope just hunting. Killing people, and killing animals. Guns don’t do anything other than kill. Guns kill. That’s, like, the fucking point.
Not labeled: The “Fucking Point.”
So the true saying here isn’t “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People.” That’s, I’m sorry, fucking stupid. It should actually read “Guns Kill, and People Kill People.” If the problem is really “people kill,” then the solution shouldn’t be “Here, people. Have this instrument that makes it super easy to kill.” If we perpetuate the thought that killstruments are OK, we will never be able to evolve past our violent roots. “People Kill People” will always be true as long as we create and nourish a culture where killing is an option.
One could say, though, that killing is always an option, even without guns. There are countless tools at our disposal that could double as instruments of death. So …
#3. “Fire and Drugs Kill People, Too. You Wanna Outlaw Matches and Drugs?”
As far as that first bit is concerned, I couldn’t agree more. Fire and drugs kill people. I am so agreeing with that right now. But in this article by Scott L. Bach, president of guns and stuff, he puts forth an argument in favor of guns and stuff that takes it too far. It is a very common yet very broken argument, so I’ll just copy/paste it for you right here:
“When an arsonist lights a match that burns a building, is the match at fault? Are match manufacturers responsible for the fire? Should laws be passed prohibiting you from having and using matches, or restricting which types you can have, and in what quantities?
“The obvious answer to these questions is no. The same match that is misused by the arsonist lights the fireplace that warms us, and the stove that feeds us. The match has no mind of its own. It is not an evil invention. Its purpose is to ignite, nothing more. If it is misused, the solution is to punish the individual wrongdoer. Everyone else should be left alone.
“The same is true of firearms.”
OK. Simply put, “Nuh-uh.”
A match has many uses completely unrelated to causing death. A match is not manufactured or intended for death. And the same goes for drugs (unless of course you’re talking about the death of the walls confining us to our limited understanding of perception, man). In fact, the same goes for basically anything other than a firearm. Tools are misused to kill people, it’s true. But tools are meant for something else entirely. Tools build and fix and aid and improve. Firearms do not. If used correctly, a firearm is meant to, in an instant, kill or destroy something. If a gun is used incorrectly, it would actually mean that something doesn’t get shot.
Again, I’m not saying we should outlaw guns. But the conversation can’t progress if people keep using arguments that ignore what guns actually are, and what they are used for. Likening a gun to a match or recreational drugs or an icicle or [anything else that can cause death] is an attempt to lighten the weight of a firearm’s actual purpose. Guns and [anything else] are not the same. They should not be discussed as though they are.
OK, then how do you propose I get my goddamn kids back?
Oh, right, what of me and my situation with my kids? What of the people who use guns to stand in the way of those who would use them for killing? “What of those people?” I am forcing you to ask right now. Because guns don’t only kill. There’s hunting (read: killing), target practice (read: practicing killing) and defense! Forgot about defense! Yeah! That’s the one! Defense! Because as we all know
#2. “Guns Save Lives.”
After last week’s shooting, some are saying that the tragedy could have been avoided if someone in that audience had been holding a gun. Ignoring the intense panic and huge crowd, the tear gas filling the theater and the body armor the shooter was wearing, sure, maybe someone could have gotten a good shot off. After all, there are many success stories of defensive gun uses, or DGUs. Around the Internet, many people toss around the number “2.5 million,” as in “There are 2.5 million DGUs a year.” That’s quite a lot of lives possibly saved. Now compare it to, say, the 75,684 gun-related injuries back in 2000, or the 31,224 gun-related deaths in 2007. Two and a half million! Wowzers!
Scientists confirm: “Wowzers.”
Except “2.5 million” comes from a single study back in 1993. A study that involved calling 4,977 people across the country, asking them a few gun questions and then adjusting the number to fit the population of the whole country. The number is both highly cited and highly disputed. Not only are the figures not enough to make an accurate estimate (other studies range from 50,000 to 2 million), but the results don’t actually translate to “lives saved thanks to gun use.” They refer to a gun being involved in the presumed protection of a person or thing. This could be a life-threatening situation or a situation where a gun wasn’t needed at all. DGUs include people who were in actual danger of losing their lives, as well as people who were George Zimmerman. Regardless, the general consensus is that 2.5 million is a gross exaggeration.
So we have a mixed bag of “guns saving lives” scenarios. In some cases, guns will stop a crime. In others, guns will kill a maybe criminal. In others still, they will be a part of a terrible accident. It’s quite a gamble. Like Russian roulette, only no one knows they’re playing it. And now, since the Dark Knight shooting, gun sales have gone up thanks to a healthy dose of fear. More potential to save a life, and just as much more potential to end one. I of course don’t want to belittle the success stories, though. A life saved is fantastic, and however many lives saved is however many fantastics.
But the real problem with a “guns save lives” argument is the language used. People talk about “defensive gun uses” and their right to defend themselves and their property. But there’s actually nothing defensive about a gun. They are all ATTACK. They are made and used for offense. “Defense,” on the other hand, is resistance against an attack. Defense is protection, something that STOPS an attack. Wearing a condom is defense, whereas punching yourself in the balls is offense. Protection is a bullet-proof vest, or mace, or a security system. A gun is not defense. The widespread use of an actual defensive weapon would potentially save more lives than a gun because, again, guns are for killing, not protecting. The sooner we are all provided a weapon LIKE a gun that merely incapacitates a person, the sooner we can safely defend ourselves, instead of defending ourselves by killing each other.
OK, that poster isn’t super relevant. I just felt like lightening the mood. Because I don’t want to say that “Guns Save Lives” is absolutely meaningless. But it is muddy. It’s just not all there, which makes it not have true meaning in the context of the larger conversation. The truth is, “Guns Have Saved Lives. Guns Have Ended Lives. Guns Are Meant to Kill.” The issue isn’t whether or not we have the right to protect ourselves and others, it’s whether or not guns are the best instrument to do the protecting.
Speaking of rights, none of this actually matters, because …
#1. “Well, the Second Amendment Says …”
Stop it. Technically yes, the Second Amendment says what you were going to say before I cut you off, but stop it. I’ll tell you what the Second Amendment says.
“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.”
There’s quite a lot of debate over what this actually means, and many will argue that the amendment only refers to people in a militia. So if you’re not in a militia, then you should not have a gun. Except in 2008, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects the right of an individual to possess a firearm. So there. The Second Amendment wins. You can grab your gat and go get your kids back now.
Except that court ruling doesn’t have as much meaning as you think, in the long run. The very nature of the Constitution is not permanent. We’re talking about the Second Amendment, after all. The Constitution is supposed to be amended. Not only that, it’s supposed to be completely rewritten. Take it from Thomas Jefferson:
“Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.”
Our Constitution, of course, has not been rewritten in more than 200 years (read: ever). But people change, and nations change. Ideals and rights change. Life was, ya know, totally way different 230 years ago. It’s quite possible that the people no longer require or even want every citizen to have the ability of point-and-shoot death. We should also consider what “bear arms” meant when it was written. Back then, guns were muskets, and muskets could fire about three incredibly inaccurate rounds per minute. Today, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle can shoot off more than 60 rounds per minute with extreme accuracy, and reload in seconds. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate our needs and freedoms. In fact, regardless of the gun control issue, perhaps we’re about 200 years late on reevaluating our needs and freedoms.
All I’m really asking is that when the conversation starts, let’s actually have it. These basically meaningless phrases always seem to stop the conversation from even beginning. Let’s move past that, and really look at ourselves and our country and our planet and our future. Let’s consider who we are on a larger scale, and who we want to be, and where we are headed.
“Wheeeeeeeeeee!” – humans