Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guns! Again!

So here we are once again having a discussion of guns and gun control. As you doubtless know this latest concern with guns was motivated by the slaughter of 20 innocent young children and 6 noble adults trying to protect them. As you also know this is hardly the first time we have had to endure mass killings involving guns. Will anything meaningful happen this time to control guns or will it be like all the other times, just talk and no action. I am hoping for the best, at least a semblance of common sense and at least a minimum of control, but don’t bet on it.
On the one hand this can be seen as a pretty easy and straightforward task, controlling guns, that is. I don’t believe there can be a truly successful way of controlling all guns in the U.S., and there will always be some deranged minds that will violate whatever rules or laws there may be with respect to guns. The simplest way to approach the subject is to just consider what kinds of guns are involved. As we have a history of hunting in the U.S. that still continues there are hunters who need their guns, shotguns and rifles. So be it. Then there is the question of handguns, revolvers and semi-automatic pistols, arguably valuable for home or personal protection. Hunting, except perhaps in rare rural instances is basically an anachronism, certainly not a necessity as it once was. It is now considered a sport rather than a necessity and much of it is conducted for trophies. Personally, I think trophy hunting is disgusting but I doubt there is any chance it will be abandoned soon. Anyway, granting the legitimacy of hunting, either for sport or meat, it is obvious that shotguns and rifles are here to stay.
This leaves the more gnarly issue of handguns. Many people, like myself, own handguns. They have no purpose other than presumably offer home and personal protection. Many people believe this is a perfectly sensible use of such otherwise basically useless guns. I suspect it is only in exceedingly rare cases that such firearms are ever employed, but let us grant the legitimacy of owning such weapons.
This brings us to the more difficult question of guns, gun ownership, and types of guns, particularly those guns that have no use other than basically killing other people, military type arms like assault weapons, special high-powered ammunition, silencers, and enlarged magazines capable of giving a shooter more firepower. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to own or use such weapons and arguments to the contrary are basically absurd. Some say we need such weapons to protect ourselves from our government. The idea that a few individuals with AK 47’s or even 50 caliber machine guns can protect themselves from the state or federal governments is no more than a kind of childish fantasy. Another argument, that if everyone had a gun, we would be protected from others with guns is equally foolish. To say, for example, that if the wife of the football player who shot her and then himself would have perhaps lived had she had a gun makes no sense at all. Let’s say she might have lived, but then he might have died, or even worse, both of them might have died. And the idea that if people in movie theaters were armed they could have protected themselves from a shooter is equally fantastic, unless, of course, you envision an all-out battle in which many more would be killed. Similarly, the notion that if you have extra rounds to fire you might be safer assumes that individuals killed with guns are killed after several minutes or hours of firing back and forth at each other, not a situation that actually occurs, except in the movies about the standoff at the OK corral.
No useful purpose is served by ordinary citizens owning assault rifles, high caliber machines guns, extra magazines, and so on, none. Nor does it make sense for people to go armed to church, schools, and bars. This idea seems to assume that the people you might encounter there are just as crazy as you are, a very unlikely case to be sure. The major problem here, I think, is that those in charge of the NRA are lunatics. Maybe they are not lunatics but, if not, they are psychopaths who believe that enriching themselves by promoting the deaths of others is somehow a legitimate profession. Apparently promoting guns, and more guns, and thus enriching the gun manufacturers and themselves is considered by some to be a respectable. It is not. It is anti-social at best, and at worst an attack on government and society in general.  But it is also much more complicated than it seems. Someone observed the other day that we are awash in an ocean of guns, which is true, but more importantly we are awash in a culture of violence. Our entertainment has become more and more violent over time. The vast majority of our movies and television programs feature violence, our video games likewise, our favorite sports, all violent, and not only violent often the worst kind of violence, scenes that would never have been allowed when I was growing up. Sure, we had cowboys and Indians, and detectives and such, but the violence depicted was nowhere near what it is today, and the good guys always won. Now, even as a nation, we believe the way to achieve our goals is through violence. And that violence leads to more violence and on, ad infinitum.
There are so many guns in the U.S. I do not believe there is much of a solution to the problem of guns in general. But at the very least we could ban assault weapons, enhanced clips, and all of the military-type hardware that has no place in a civil society, and we could insist upon universal background checks. I hope we will soon do so.

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