America's Obsession with Guns
There are a lot of hot button topics in the United States. Things like politics and religion tend to bring out the worst in us, spurring the most vile and harsh arguments on the internet (and in person). They are the kind of subjects that, even at the mention of them, people go into immediate defense mode and lash out at the nearest opposing viewpoint. Nowhere is this more apparent than the debate surrounding guns.
Guns = Jesus
So violently are guns defended by their supporters that they have ascended their status as inanimate objects to become religious symbols of worship. This is why a lot of gun control advocates struggle to gain any traction in the conversation. They say “background checks” and supporters hear “ban all guns”. They say “smaller magazines” and supporters hear “ban all guns”. They say “I don’t want to ban all guns” and supporters hear “I want to ban all guns”. There is such a large disconnect between what is being said versus what is being heard that one would think the two groups are speaking different languages. But I’ve tried very hard to understand why guns are worshipped today and I’ve run into a few common answers.
Guns = Freedom
The most prevalent pro-gun argument is the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment states that citizens of the United States have the right to keep and bear arms (guns). At the time the amendment was written, they didn’t have semi-automatics, automatics or a host of other very deadly guns, but ultimately they all fall under that same rule. So, because of this, owning a gun has become synonymous with freedom, in much the same way that saying whatever we want about celebrities, politicians and religion comes from our right to free speech. There are a great many freedoms outlined in the constitution, each one its own entity that can come under attack. So, if someone were suggesting that all guns be banned, it would technically be a request for less freedom. However, the constitution isn’t perfect. The fact that we have amendments at all proves that the original document was insufficient to the task; especially considering two of those amendments regard prohibition (one starting it and the other ending it).
There is also this idea that owning guns protects us from an overreaching government. When the U.S. was young, we didn’t have a standing army, so an armed population was the best protection. And, having just broken away from an overreaching government, it was an understandable fear. Say what you will about the current state of the American government, but does anyone really believe a stockpile of guns would protect them from a tank or a fighter jet? And, similarly, do they believe their fellow Americans (the soldiers) would so easily turn on them because a corrupt government asked them to?
I’ve also noticed that gun rights do get priority over other freedoms. This is most apparent during the Christmas seasons when religious displays go up on government property. Freedom of religion means our government will not endorse one over the other. But a lot of the same gun supporters get upset when Christianity is deemed inappropriate for government establishments. So it isn’t about freedom in general; some are deemed more important than others.
Guns = Protection
Another prominent argument is that guns provide protection against criminals. If a murderer breaks into your house, and you own a gun, you can shoot the criminal to save your family. If you live in a war-torn country, where this happens a lot, I can understand the logic. But if you live in the suburbs it’s harder to make the argument. There certainly are many cases of successful home defenses, using a gun, but they tend to be drowned out by nightly stories regarding gun deaths. Some say that criminals will get these weapons anyway, and that the laws only restrict law abiding citizens, but by that logic we shouldn’t have any laws at all. Just because a mentally disturbed person can steal a car, doesn’t mean we should remove all restrictions on licenses.
And, I certainly understand the logic behind ‘people killing people, not guns’. I’m a frequent defender of video games, which often get blamed for violence in our culture. But, I think the biggest difference between a video game and a gun, is that the gun is specifically designed to kill (whether it’s a deer or a criminal). No, we don’t blame spoons when people get fat, and yes, you can also kill with an everyday kitchen knife. But, nothing is quite as efficient at killing as a gun. Someone wielding a knife is restricted to their strength and can only kill so many people before they get taken down. With a semi-automatic, a weak, inexperienced individual could level an entire room in seconds. It’s the same reason we don’t give every citizen access to the nuclear launch codes. Everyday people shouldn’t have access to weapons of mass destruction. The founders used single bullet muskets; that was their point of reference for ‘arms’.
Guns = Manhood
One of the things that I’ve noticed about certain gun owners (and some hunting knife owners) is that they like to talk about their weapon, and they like to bring it out for arbitrary reasons. Similarly, there are numerous stories about gun owners bringing their weapons into public places, where they usually clash with law enforcement. I definitely think there is a difference between owning a gun for protection versus owning one to wave it around in front of people. I want to be clear that these people do not represent all gun owners. There are numerous hunters and concealed weapon holders that take the responsibility very seriously and cause no problems (the same people who wouldn't be affected by common sense gun laws). However, much like religious fanatics, the irresponsible people tend to be the loudest and, therefore, most visible to the general public.
Are you in favor of gun control?
Gun Control = Slippery Slope
If you’ve been paying attention, then you’ll notice that I’ve never said that I think all guns should be banned. But, as I mentioned above, there is a disconnect in the conversation. Part of that disconnect comes from the fanatics and part of it comes from the gun lobbies who are making billions off of America’s obsession. But there is also the argument that any amount of gun control will start a domino effect that leads to bans. And, maybe it’s true. However, I don’t think that potential solutions, for today, should be denied because of what might happen down the road. Similarly, we have the benefit of looking to other countries that have enacted similar gun control laws. Did it make the country safer? Did it reduce deaths? If not, what did they do wrong? How can we improve upon it?
For me, the most frustrating part of the gun debate is the lack of compromise. The all-or-nothing approach does not work in real life and it doesn’t work in a civilized society. If we don’t do something soon, then the multitude of gun deaths in this country will only continue to rise. And, blaming things like a lack of prayer in schools, or proactive criminals, is nothing more than a scapegoat.