Friday, September 5, 2008

On Guns

" Guns don't kill people, We Do!" A quote from Kiss Me Kate, the Cole Porter musical. It pretty much sums up the NRA position, all joking aside. I'd like to talk about that for a moment. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. If that is the case, I'd suggest to anyone who truly adheres to such a statement, that they give a fully loaded (including one in the chamber, with the safety off) handgun of any caliber above a .22 to a three year old child, standback and watch as that child explores what the trigger is for. Enjoy especially the moment when they discover the cool dark hole at the end of the gun, the one that's cool and smooth. Smile as the three year old points the gun at them while learning exactly how much pressure they have to exert in order to pull the trigger. And then continue to maintain that the three year old with gun inhand is maliciously intent on doing them severe bodily harm, knowing full well what havoc the device in their hands is capable of inflicting. You get my point here. The three year old is not going to kill anyone, yet with a handgun placed within their reach, and with someone, anyone, near them the potential for death is high, BECAUSE OF THE GUN!
Guns are not pieces of art for arts sake. They were not invented FOR their aesthetic value. They are not implements of creation. They are devices with a single reason as to their existence, ending a life. They weren't made so humanity could poke holes in things really quickly and they sure weren't made so we could stick flowers in their barrels. The point of a gun is to propel a very hard, very small object at such a fast rate, so as to penetrate the living flesh of a possible source of food, or that of a possible predator. Wounding something was not what the gun makers were going for. If you wound a prey, then eating that prey will prove to be difficult. likewise if you only wound a charging predator, you probably willstill be overtaken and summarily dismissed from this life. Death, and providing the means to inflict it as quickly as possible, was on the minds of the gun's creator(s). How can we stand at a safe and/or adequately camoflauged distance and still be able to take down our quarry, be it hostile or otherwise?
Most people today are not out participating in the predator/prey dance. Grocery stores, slaughterhouses and commercial agriculture have done a good deal of work to eliminate the one-on-one time we as a species used to have to invest in the procurement of our food. Now guns are primarily used for "sport" and self-defence. The self-defence part is what remains of the prey instinct we all have. None of us wants to be the victim of violence, be it administered by a grizzly bear, bengal tiger or a fellow human. Since we primarily have no run-ins today with grizzly bears or bengal tigers, we are left with the violent tendencies of ourselves to deal with. The "Right to bear arms" that is so often touted by the NRA folks, is cast in the light of being able to defend ourselves from unwanted violence from our fellow man. There is really no argument to that desire. The real argument is that the "right" invoked by the language is viewed as being higher up the ladder of important rights than it should be. You see, we all have a more fundamental right than that of being able to bear arms, and that is the right to being ALIVE. I am not a member of the NRA. I don't own a gun, and never will. I grew up with a hunter father. He taught me how to handle all mannerof guns safely and responsibly. I have hunted and killed (as a teenager, on hunting trips with my dad). I have shot many types of guns. I will never own a gun. The reason is because, although I recognize the necessary protocol in having and possibly using a gun, what reasonsmight exist for using one, in what circumstances the use of a gun is warranted, etc... I also recognize that the gun's very existence is a violation of serenity and peace. A person will pull the trigger, but a trigger pull will result in death if the trigger is attached to a device that can fire a bullet at a target. It doesn't even have to be an intended target, many people are innocent bystanders who "inadverdently" get shot while putting their groceries in the car during a driveby. GUNS KILL PEOPLE. People might use guns to kill particular people, that is where the people side comes into play, but it is the gun which puts into play the death march.

Which brings me to other objects that can be used to kill, knives, bows and arrows, blunt objects, swords, etc... All of these objects and devices existed before guns did, and they all have been usedby people to kill other people, so doesn't this repudiate my entire argument? Not in the least, and here's how. Knives were invented to kill prey. Have you ever tried to kill something with a knife? You have to either be really close ensuring accuracy but sacrificing concealment and/or personal safety or far enough away, ensuring concealment and/or safety but sacrificing accuracy. Neither way proved to be the optimal method for getting food or avoiding danger. So goes the description of the use of blunt objects as instruments of death. Probably, blunt objects were used before knives (sharply-edged stones) were anyway. Bows and arrows offered more distal accuracy, but only marginally so at first, and it also left a lotto be desired in the lethality department. A puncture that only goes through the outer layer of skin doesn't bring down a prey very efficiently. Swords probably were not used for hunting much, for the same reasons knives led to projectile devices. Which brings us to guns. They offer the best of both worlds: distance = safety and concealment, and accuracy = really fast, really small projectiles. Yay!!! We don't have to worry as much about food now. Except you and I don't live in this pre-civilization world, yet guns still exist and have gotten more deadly and more accurate. For what purpose? We've already spoken of that. None of these other devices are of the depth and scope of a gun's complexity. In order to use any of the devices listed above well, it takes a great amount of skill and diligent practice.
How is it that all of the implements listed above still exist today? How is it that guns have not relegated them all to the museum as laughable growing pains of our youth as a struggling species? It is because they work. None of them was a failure, they all contributed heavily to our survival. It's just that guns made our lives more convenient. It made it easier to kill things, leaving us moretime to waste on other pursuits (worthwhile or not). Now that we live in a world where we don't HAVE to hunt our food, the convenience offered by guns can only be manifested in one arena, that of self-defence. Guns make it possible to kill anything that comes close to us, and quickly, whether or not that thing is a danger to us. We use them to "protect" ourselves from ourselves. We also use them to exert self-dominance. We no longer are subject to the dangers lurking in the forest or the savannah. No longer do we require a method of quick preemptive striking on would-be attackers from species other than ourselves. In the resulting evolutionary gap of species dominance we now live in, we manufacture artificial subjectivity within our own species and we commandeer once-necessary death agents and reassign them prime position in our arsenal of species-wide auto-subjugation. Those who really think guns are our natural, god-given right, are going to ensure they never go away, and thus no amount of gun-control will ever make a dent in the self-inflicted violence humanity indulges in on a minute-by-minute basis. Sarah Palin is a sad reflection of the lack of thought behind the rhetoric of gun enthusiasts. Let's hope that, we don't get another Dick Cheney in the vice President's office, or else we'll have another hunting "accident" in a few years.