So since everyone seems to be talking about the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook, I figured I might as well join the bandwagon. Well, that isn’t really my motivation. It comes more from the news coverage.
It’s been said many times, but I like the British band Jethro Tull’s rendition of the tired old phrase. In their song, “I’m Your Gun,” they create a narrative depicting a sentient gun trying to justify its existence. Toward the end of the song, the gun says, “I take second place to the motor car in the score of killing kept thus far. Just remember, if you don’t mind, it’s not the gun that kills but the man behind.” We probably all know this sentiment very well by now. It’s been repeated ad infinitum, or better yet ad nauseum. It is also 100% true. No non-defective gun has ever killed anyone without human intervention. I get tired of people trying to solve problems by focusing on objects rather than people. People, including children, have been killed, even in mass, before guns were ever a twinkle in any inventor’s eyes. Before Smith ever met Wesson, people burned other people to death, ran them through with swords, and hit them with blunt objects. The gun is just an evolution in killing, and not even the final evolution. Even if it were possible to keep people who truly intended harm from getting their hands on guns, another even more lethal invention would come about.
So on to the news coverage. Among the usual gun control banter, one congressperson on the panel talked about taking measures to ensure that “nothing like this ever happens again,” or words to that effect. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves in these situations. No legislator on Earth has the power to guarantee that. The sentiment is purely emotion driven, and leads to bad decisions because it is emotion driven. We can try to pinpoint the people who will cause such a massacre, but no laws can keep them from committing heinous acts. The only people who respect gun bans are law-abiding citizens, and they are probably the very folks we would most want toting guns, if only to responsibly and expertly defend against the scumbags who don’t give a damn about the law – otherwise they wouldn’t shoot people. But even if bans and restrictions could make guns less easy to obtain, they would never eradicate them from existence. They have been invented—you can’t put them back in Pandora’s box. As long as people know how to make these devices, they will, and nefarious people will get their hands on them. At best you can diminish the incidents, but stop trying to claim that legislation will eliminate all of these incidents. We don’t even know if stricter requirements or outright bans would have prevented any of the shootings that have occurred. Banning drugs certainly didn’t stop people from buying them. Maybe the wackos would have just found a different source for their weapons—or used a bomb.
Another commentator talked about how the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was in conflict with safety and implied that it was wrong or outdated. That is one of the biggest issues of this whole debate. Quoting the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This is unique in stating that people derive their rights from a power higher than man or government, and that these rights are inseparable by either of those entities. Furthermore, it states that a government that secures those rights must derive its power from the consent of the governed. In other words, if the governors do not like a restriction place upon them by the Constitution, they may not circumvent it without approval of the governed through amendment. Neither emotion nor fiat may supersede Constitutional guarantees of rights and freedoms. We as a people have all too often given up our power and let government restrict our rights unduly without consent by amendment, but that doesn’t make it Constitutional. I’m glad the Second Amendment is an obstacle to government. It makes them have to go through us in order to gain the power to restrict us.
A third commentator spoke of how nobody needs automatic weapons, certain types of ammunition, etc. This reeks of another argument that has arisen in the United States recently: the rich don’t need all that money. To that I say, who the Hell is a person to tell anybody else what they do or do not need? Perhaps it is just my Constitutional upbringing, but all mankind should be given the freedom to conduct their lives whichever way they see fit. Yes, they shouldn’t harm others in the process, but owning a certain type of gun isn’t harming others. To anyone who tries to tell me or anyone else what they can or cannot buy with their hard-earned money, I partially quote Bioshock: “Would you kindly mind your own damn business?” I don’t completely disagree with the sentiment, but I’m frankly not willing to let government circumvent the rights of its citizens without their explicit consent, as stated above.
Finally, one of the commentators brought out the hoary old “violent media” argument. His take on it was actually not a bad one, and I agreed with most of it, but the subject has come up so often, and media is frequently blamed for violence. Violent movies, violent video games – these things are said to be underlying the violent culture of America. I’m no psychologist, but I might see some merit to the argument that “clean” violence often depicted in these movies and games desensitizes us to the real brutality of violence. People don’t usually die instantly when shot. Yet other movies and games take it far in the opposite direction as well – excessive blood and gore leading to gladiator-like entertainment. But it still boils down to the person. I’ve seen violent movies and played violent video games most of my life, and I wouldn’t dream of harming another person. I don’t even own a gun, nor do I want to. Even people in less-violent areas of the world play violent games and watch someone like Stallone kill people on the screen and it doesn’t jack up their crime numbers. I actually see violent games, in particular, as a release of feelings that might otherwise lead to me snapping and going postal. I think they are cathartic and probably lead to fewer incidents of violence. I am, in part at least, well-adjusted and don’t take the fantasy of media into real life. Unfortunately, some do.
That’s where it all comes back to the great Jethro Tull. It isn’t the gun that kills, but the man behind. We must look at this not as a problem with availability of objects, but issues with people, and how to better understand the human psyche. How do we detect the signs that a person is going to do this? How do we provide them with the help they need? We certainly can’t go all Minority Report on them and imprison them before they commit a crime. Laws aren’t going to fix this—people are. We, as an alert and compassionate populace, can be attentive to the signs that accompany these acts. We can fight against the hatred and isolation that leads otherwise normal-seeming people into these rampages. We can show our kids the love that they would otherwise seek in gangs. Jesus said it best when he said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” There really is no other way, no matter what you think about the book it came from. We are our brothers’ keepers, and it is up to us to overcome this problem.