Guns don't kill People... Really?
People kill people...
except, they don't. Not normally. I was brought up in a town of 50,000 people, on the West coast of Scotland. My childhood and teenage years were the 50s and 60s. Our parents had lived through the horrors of the 2nd World War. Now, they were living through the peacetime hardships of shortages and rationing. But of one thing they were certain: the killing had been an aberration; normality had returned, where people live in peace. Where people don't kill people. Where people don't need guns.
On cue, within minutes of every new firearm atrocity, the tired old gun lobbyists (hereinafter, the Globbies, ok?) crawl out of the woodwork with their tired old incantation- Guns don't kill people... People kill people, and every time I shake my head and think- not in my World, they don't. And before any Globby tells me that small-town Scotland is a very sheltered corner of the planet- check my Profile page for where I've lived and worked since leaving there. I still say, forty years later- not in my World, they don't.
Guns don't kill People... Bullets kill people
It's a truism that without ammunition a gun is a pretty useless weapon. It could serve as a bludgeon of sorts, but the balance is all wrong, It would be no match for a baseball bat, far less a machete. But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's step back and quietly consider some aspects of violence.
For one adult to kill another in unarmed combat, assuming both are in reasonable health and physical condition, is actually no mean feat. It requires either great effort and determination, or considerable knowledge and technique. Or, just conceivably, diabolical 'luck'. It also requires an absolute awareness and total involvement with what you are doing, something the vast majority of people would pull back from, in total revulsion at the enormity of the act, and its consequences.
Bring a knife into the equation and everything changes. We are all capable of lashing out in anger and, with a knife in hand, a single strike can be fatal (though usually it is not). But again, let's step back, to small-town Scotland and the day one lad brought a flick-knife to school.
He had no intention of using it, of course. He just wanted his moment of glory impressing his friends or maybe frightening a few juniors. Inevitably, he was uncovered and the knife confiscated. On the following morning the Headmaster addressed the school: Unable to make an impression on his fellows on equal terms, the culprit had sought an unfair advantage. In trying to command fear in others, he had merely betrayed his own fear. In trying to be the bully he was not physically cut out to be, he had shown himself to be - a coward. The psychology was exactly right. No-one ever again brought a knife to school.
The Headmaster was right. A knife is a coward's weapon. Yet, while it gives an unfair advantage, it still requires a degree of closeness to, and interaction with, the victim. A quick and lethal thrust does not compare with the white-knuckled sweaty intensity of wringing out a life, bare hands around the throat, and yet... A knife will still transmit its passage back from blade to haft to hand. You will feel the changes from cloth to soft tissue, to muscle wall, to vital organ. The scrape of steel on bone. You will know what you have done and most of us could not do it, or live with it afterwards. Quite literally, you will have blood on your hands.
At best, then, the knife is a half-way house. The true coward's weapon would further reduce the involvement between killer and victim. This is where the gun comes in. The gun, or at least its bullet, kills at a distance. There is no need for the killer to feel any involvement whatsoever with the victim. You point, s/he dies. It feels no different from shooting at a target. Easier still is the automatic assault weapon where you don't even need to know who or how many have died. Isn't this the very epitome of cowardice?
Guns don't kill people... Cowards kill people
What we've seen thus far is a progression, from unarmed equals, to knife-wielding wimps, to gun-toting cowards, to the craven cowards with automatic weapons. Is this the limit of inhumanity? Sadly no, it is not. Crasser still are those who kill by proxy, who pay others to do their dirty work. Those who profit from the manufacture and sale of weapons. Those who foment conflicts and wars to advance such sales and maximise their personal fortunes.
As it is simply distasteful to dwell too long among such miserable specimens, let's look instead at the opposite end of this continuum to see what manner of people can be found there. These are the people who never pull a gun or draw a knife. Who rarely if ever raise a fist. Who will argue and agree to differ. Who will walk away and get on with their lives. Some are quite famous: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth. Most are relative unknowns on the World stage: me, my friends and work colleagues, the grocer on the corner.
Oh, and most of the women in the World.
Thank you for reading.
Postscript, March 2013
In a little over six months, this hub attracted more than 500 comments. Some of the discussion was informative and constructive, some less so. If I were starting over, I would write the article slightly differently, but only slightly. In particular, I would be more careful and accurate in my use of such terms as automatic, semi-automatic, assault, military, etc. This is because some gun enthusiasts pick up on any technical inaccuracy and try to use it to discredit the work and the author. This is, of course, a mere distraction; what matters is: can the gun in question be used to kill a large number of people quickly, say twenty in thirty seconds? If the answer is yes, then it is surely legitimate to ask whether such a weapon has any place in civilian hands.
I also take the view that the desire to own such a weapon is of itself reason enough to seriously question any civilian's mental fitness for such ownership.
I am not calling for a ban. I am not calling anyone insane. I am not even talking solely about America. But anywhere in the World, it must be valid to question any expressed desire to proliferate highly lethal fire-power through society at large.
Again, thank you for reading and thanks to all open-minded respondents who have contributed positively to the discussion in the comments section below.
Second Postscript, March 2013
Reluctantly, I have closed the comments section as it was being hijacked by a highly vocal minority. I added this final summary:
The situation is really very simple. Gun technology has evolved to the point where, for a small outlay and with no training at all, it is possible for someone to acquire and (if so inclined) to deploy weaponry capable of, and arguably designed for, fast mass extermination.
This situation did not obtain at the time the American Constitution and particularly the Second Amendment were drawn up.
It is the right, even the democratic duty, of all citizens to decide for themselves if they are happy with the situation. If a majority is happy, no action is indicated; if unhappy, further action, perhaps legislation is called for.
And that is my and everyone's final comment on this hub. I am closing the comments section as it has degenerated into a showcase for tiresome bullies. My sincere thanks to all who supported my efforts to encourage rational dialogue. Onwards and upwards!
Third Postscript - April 2013
I have reopened the comments section, but with moderation activated, in case any new readers would like to express a view. Closing it went against the grain, but there was no other way to control the situation.
Fourth Postscript - August 2013
Comments are again fully open as I just don't have time to be forever moderating. However, wholly inappropriate comments will be deleted.
More by this Author
Qatar's demographics are unsustainable. 80% immigrant and heavily male biased. Something has to change.
Government censorship of the Internet is not uncommon around the World. Is it in the public interest or is it an infringement of basic rights? Have your say.
A quick, reliable way to make cider without specialist equipment, ingredients, or knowledge. An ideal summer drink.