Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The problem with guns starts with the "rationalization" of owning one

I happened upon a recent edition of the Seattle Weekly, and not expecting much. Things have changed since it went “politically-correct” in its advertising department and eschewed “adult” ads which still constitute a significant portion of the ad revenue of its beefier competitor. One local story of more than mild interest is about all it can handle, and sometimes it isn’t even the cover story. This particular issue had a quizzical piece hidden away between the adverts about the problem that the writer—the SW’s editor-in-chief and self-described “peacenik,” Mark Baumgarten—had: Are guns, and people who own them, really “bad”? He examined the pros and cons, and finally decided to take the plunge—and “discovered” the following: Guns are “exhilarating,” it gives a person “power,” and are being used by “regular people.”  The target range he went to was like a “bowling alley.” 

Now, I’m sure that a lot of people who find gun violence disturbing find such views “disturbing.” While I’m certain that the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who never intend to actually use them “for real,” the fact that people would even contemplate a scenario in which they would use against another human being demonstrates a certain danger in and of itself. I mean, if you want to feel “exhilarated” with your marksmanship, why do you need a lethal weapon to do so? Sure seems to be a waste of money at the very least.

Most of these people do not contemplate hunting game for sustenance (or even “pleasure”). The only possible “use” for guns is against other people. This is certainly the “message” that arouses white voters in places like Arizona, where politicians run campaign ads featuring their proficiency with automatic weapons. And of course the problem is that “regular people” are far more likely to die from firearm death not by the odd mass shooter or gangster, but by other “regular people,” usually right in their own homes.

In the seven years I was in the Army, I used M16 rifles, 50 cal machine guns, 45 cal side arms, tossed hand grenades and even fired shoulder-mounted anti-tank missiles. I never felt particularly “exhilarated” whenever I was required to employ them; it was just part of the job. When I left the Army, I never felt the slightest desire at all to own a gun, or ever use one again. I never understood why anyone but crazed criminals and gangs would “need” guns, and police were supposed to protect us from them. 

It also seemed to me that guns were nothing but trouble; why invite “trouble” by brandishing or even just “threatening” to use one (especially around police)? And actually using one, leading to the death of another human being? Some people do apparently regard the life of another human cheaply; some do so merely because they feel “disrespected,” and if you’re are a member of a terrorist group, the taking of innocent life is a gift to “god” and grants a place in “paradise.” And then there are those anti-government and race fanatics stockpiling their own arsenals to await the coming “war.” And for some people, using a gun against another human being is “exhilarating,” and gives them “power.”

Myself, I can’t help thinking that if I ever had a gun and was “forced” to use it against another human being, some “human” part of me will have died too. It is all too easy simply to avoid finding yourself in that situation, and the first step is not having a gun at all. It’s called “civilization.”

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