I have refrained from writing about guns because it’s hard for me to think about the topic without intense emotion. Intense emotion can be helpful in writing, but it can also be alienating, resulting in people shutting down and disengaging. But I need to say these things because I cannot continue sit by and say nothing.
Yesterday, I posted a facetious meme about gun control. The meme was more about the fallacy of the “ban it” argument than gun control, but someone close to me took to the FB to respond with the “ban cars because drunk people drive them” argument. I have thought long and hard about that argument, but I couldn’t think of any way to respond productively because it’s an argument based on so much denial and willful blindness that it’s hard to find a common path to discussion.
Let me be clear: I despise guns. I hate them, I’m afraid of them, and I wish they had never been invented. That said, the reality is that they exist, people own them, and there’s nothing I can do about that. In the interest of a free society, and free will, I understand that there are freedoms we protect even when we don’t agree. So I won’t make the argument that we need a blanket gun ban, or that individuals shouldn’t be allowed to have them. It’s not reasonable to expect and impossible to enforce.
But something has to change and using the analogy “ban cars because drunk people drive them and kill people” to argue against the problem of gun violence is ignorant and dismissive of a serious, deadly problem in our country. Consider the following:
- A man did not take 26 nooses into an elementary school and hang 20 children and six adults.
- A man did not drive a car into a theatre and run over people sitting inside.
- Another man did not drive a car into another theatre and run over more people sitting inside.
- A man did not take a knife into a church and stab nine people to death.
- A man did not build a pyre on a military base and tie people to the stake.
- Another man did not take poison and put it in the water at another military base.
- A man did not take a baseball bat and beat people to death in a Sikh temple
One of the reasons we have made no progress in coming to a reasonable solution on this issue is because federal funding for research into the causes and impacts of gun violence has been blocked by Congress for the last 20 years. Even though funding was restored two years ago, the CDC is still tentative and Congress refuses to budget funding. If we had more information on the causes and impacts of gun violence, maybe we could start to work on solutions, but that isn’t happening.
For me, the comparison between cars and guns isn’t legitimate because cars, and all the other possible weapons listed above, serve a variety of purposes. That they are temporarily repurposed as weapons isn’t an argument in favor of getting rid of them. That people get drunk and drive is an argument for people exercising better judgment, more treatment options for people with serious problems, and so on. It’s not an argument about cars because people who get in a car usually don’t think about it as a weapon, or intentionally set out to harm or kill others.
But all the men who murdered people in the horrific acts mentioned above DID pick up a weapon. They picked it up, they did it with intention, and they knew exactly what they were doing. There was no possibility they made a mistake because guns serve no other purpose. They are designed for killing or harming – it is their sole function and reason for existence on this earth. When someone picks up a gun with intention to use it, there is no mistake – their intention is to harm or kill.
Their reasoning or motivation for that action may justify their choice and that’s something we must always consider. But the gun itself may hasten that choice, simply by its nature. Without having more information on why people decide to pick up a gun, we are presented with the false choice that’s dividing our country. Responsible individuals are angry and afraid that their rights are being taken away, and other responsible individuals are afraid to go see a movie, go to temple, or simply walk into a church and pray.
The first step in moving toward resolution is acknowledging there is a problem. Guns are a problem in our society, and we need to find a way to work together for our collective health and safety.