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On the Subject of Guns and Everything Else

May 26, 2014


We see a lot of tragic loss of life in our day and age.  People are fragile things, like most stuff made out of meat.  The deaths are many and varied; natural disasters, accidents, health problems, and acts of violence all take a number of human lives that is staggering to think about.  Death happens; it is a constant companion to human existence.  Jim Morrison of “The Doors” said it best, I think… “no one here gets out alive.”

When a tragic incident occurs, especially if news of it reaches the internet, there is an outpouring of emotions.  These emotions are wide and varied, and usually run along lines of personal interests.  The closer the incident is to you, either geographically or relationship-wise, the more affected one seems to be by it.  If the incident carries some sort of political weight, then the gloves come off and everyone comes out swinging.

I don’t like to publicly jump to one side or the other of these incidents; they are incredibly polarizing and people’s views on them are deeply personal and incredibly important.  We deal with tragedy through the lens of our beliefs, after all.  That’s how we make it through, one at a time or in groups.

When these incidents focus on the use of firearms, no matter the human cost or sense of tragedy, things go very political very fast.  There was a horrible incident just up the coast from me, in Santa Barbara, just a few days ago.  Seven or more lives lost to one person with a firearm.  Before the bodies were cold, people on both sides of the gun aisle were making sure their point was made in public forums… both those people in favor of some form of gun control, and those people against most forms of gun control.

There’s something that keeps getting brought up.  I feel compelled to say something about it each and every time, and I keep telling myself “no, stay neutral.  These feelings run deep and you’re unlikely to change any minds.”

Not this time.  I’ve got a damn blog.  I’m going to bleeding well use it.  Note that the “Political Scott” icon is missing from the top of this post; that’s “merely conversational Scott” up there.  Heck, it isn’t even “Ranty Scott.”  No, I’m not going to say anything along party lines.  I’m merely going to address one argument that gets made time and time again.  In the future, when this argument is invariably made, I will simply direct back to this post.  Here we go.

No, a knife is not equivalent to a gun.  Nor is a hammer, nor are someone’s well-trained hands.  No, someone is not going to do as much damage with any other weapon as they are with a gun.

Firearms are not equivalent to anything else.  They are one of a few special cases in the history of invention.  They are strictly and solely weapons.

People who want to defend the right to own firearms often attempt to make this equivalency.  “If he hadn’t of had a gun, he would have killed just as many people with a knife.  Or a hammer.  Therefore, there is no reason to limit the use of guns.”

To which I must respectfully say “Bullsh*t.”

One:  A firearm is a uni-tasker.  It has one job; to do damage at range.  That’s it.  It is a purely destructive tool.  I understand that it can be used, in practice, to increase one’s hand-eye coordination, but that is by continually doing damage down range.  It can be used for self-defense… by doing damage down range.  You can’t cook with it, you can’t build a bridge with it, and if you’re using it to drive nails, you shouldn’t have one to begin with.  One purpose, one use.

A knife is one of the first, simplest, and most basic tools that humankind has ever developed.  It does damage, close-up or down range.  It cleans and prepares animals that have been killed so that they can be used for food and/or clothing, as well as preparing other parts of them to also be used as tools.  It can be used to prepare food, to perform medical procedures, to shape wood, and a hundred other things.  And while it can be used to do damage, it is far less efficient at doing damage than a firearm.  A few knife-wounds are often survivable.  A few gun shots are often not.

A hammer can be used to bash someone’s brains out, or it can be used to build a house.  Multi-tasker.  Less efficient at doing damage than a firearm.

Your average rock is a better multi-tasker than your average firearm.

Comparing firearms to any other item ignores the facts that a) other items have uses besides doing damage, while a firearm does not and b) other items are generally far less efficient at doing damage than a firearm is.

Two:  If a knife or hammer is as dangerous as a firearm, why would you spend so much money on the more expensive firearm and not have a knife and/or a hammer?  Hell, you can buy a sack full of hammers for what a good gun costs.  If the knife or hammer is just as bad, it should also be just as good.  There’s no reason to complain about the risks of gun control if you can still have a knife or hammer; if the psychotic with the pistol would have done as much damage with a knife, than why not just have a knife?

No… people worry about losing access to firearms specifically because they are more effective and more efficient at their one purpose – doing damage  – than knives and hammers.  Hence, the immediate, knee-jerk claim that gun ownership should be protected because other items are equally as dangerous is a simple false equivalency.  No, they’re not.


(Pause for another sip of coffee).

Now, this is not to say that I think that the ownership of firearms should be limited.  Actually, I think that people should be able to own just about anything they want, so long as they use it responsibly.  Cars are actually capable of doing a lot more damage than a firearm (although far less often).  I don’t think people shouldn’t be able to own cars, but I DO think that they should be required to use them responsibly.  Same with firearms.  Here is an item that is good for one purpose; doing damage down range.  Can you use this item responsibly?  Then here you go.  Did you use it irresponsibly?  Then you probably shouldn’t have one.

All of which is more common sense than anything else, I would think.

I’m not saying, in this post, that I don’t think people should own guns.  By all accurate accounts, despite the fact that the REPORTING of gun violence has increased in the United States, the actual INCIDENTS of gun violence have dropped.  I guess that says as much about using the Media responsibly as using guns responsibly, because the Media has been used pretty damn recklessly lately.  A lot of people I consider close friends are either gun owners or support gun ownership, and I wouldn’t challenge their right to own and use those firearms responsibly for a moment.  In fact, I’m overdue for some time on a firing range myself; it’s been long enough that I’ll need to take the basic courses again.  That’s perfectly all right; I kind of like firearms.

No, what I’m saying is that saying that a knife or a hammer is as dangerous, or more dangerous, than a firearm is inherently incorrect.  Hell, there are arguments on both sides of the gun control debate that are hogwash, and it’s time people stopped using them, and far past time that people stopped using horrific tragedies as political soapboxes.

If we’re going to say anything other than “I’m sickened by the violence and pointlessness of this event,” let it be “how do we prevent it from happening again?”  And I don’t mean by limiting access to firearms… I mean by identifying people who are hurting as badly as the shooter was, whether real or imagined, and helping them before something like this happens. Even imagined pain can lead to real tragedies.

<non-political soapbox>

Maybe if we spent a little more time on empathy, on listening, on being aware of the person next to us and their pain, and a little less time on either side of a political debate over firearms, insurance, or “why I don’t like that guy I didn’t vote for,” we wouldn’t have to have quite so much debate to begin with.

A little altruism goes a long way.

</non–political soapbox>

Ok… maybe I should have put a little “Ranty Scott” up at the top.

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