Sunday, 20 January 2013

In the back of your head

"Alonzo's Gun" by Jim McGuire
It seems pretty much impossible to write about anything other than the debates going on about gun law for this post on American news, but try as I might, I can't seem to formulate what I consider a decent post about the current situation. From an outsider's point of view, the vehement protection of the right to privately own guns seems paranoid and worrying. Owning a gun does not automatically make you safe in the same way that being religious does not automatically make you a good person. Choices are involved in both situations, and they are down to the individual and, consequently, the collective behaviour of a population. However, I am aware that my personal bias towards a society that does not allow, for the most part, gun ownership on this level means that my knee-jerk anti-firearms reaction is not really a balanced one. And I'm finding it hard to get over that to write in a more objective way.

I don't like guns. I think there's too much risk involved with owning one, even with training, because it could get into the wrong hands. I understand that a society without guns does not mean a society without violent crime, but I also think the argument for guns and regulating them being the same as owning a car and registering that (because they can get into the wrong hands too) is just fallacious. A gun's primary purpose is to kill, and training isn't required to own one. A car's primary purpose is transport, and Driver's Ed/a license is required to drive one. Of course that doesn't mean that people won't drive illegally (be that uninsured, unlicensed, or under the influence), but a car is means of getting from A to B. A gun is a means to kill. I don't care how paranoid you are about your house being broken into; having a gun in the house increases the likelihood of death outside of that situation and inside of it. What if the burglar doesn't have a gun? Is shooting him/her reasonable force? Or is it reasonable to take any measures to protect your property here, whatever the situation?

It might be naive to feel this way, but I'm all right with that. The belief in the right and need to own a gun seems to me to be a product of misinterpreted history (my understanding is that the Second Amendment was originally to allow people to own firearms in case of war), paranoia, media encouragement, and a hyper-individualistic society. It's so entrenched in the people now that I doubt there will be a great change, or at least not quickly, when it comes to licensing and reducing the number of firearms. For me, I would prefer to believe that I will not need (and know that I do not want) a gun, even in a situation where someone else has one.

In order to provide a more balanced perspective, I've linked some relevant sites and posts below:

Sam Harris - The Riddle of the Gun
Gun Show Injuries - USA Today article
Josh Fielder's Two Cents - Status update
Morning Joe - Reaction to new NRA commercial
The Citadel - A planned community of 'patriotic Americans'


Okay, so only Sam Harris' article is really "balanced" out of that list, but I've already admitted to my inability to step away from what is culturally ingrained in me: guns are not the norm, and in the UK shootings are treated with shock not just because of the human tragedy, but because of the infrequency.

Being allowed to own a gun whilst untrained in how to operate it safely is a terrifying reality. Not having to register all guns is equally scary, and is no doubt contributing to both the lack of training enforcement and the circulation of illegal firearms - amongst law-abiding citizens and criminals. Open discussion and a willingness to compromise is going to be essential for establishing a safer country where guns are allowed, but regulated, registered, and owned by background-checked, trained individuals. To quote Annie Lennox, "Dying is easy; it's living that scares me to death." We need to move past fear and work together to create a secure, trusting, and more peaceful future.

12 comments:

  1. The USA is pretty much alone nowadays in terms of having lax gun laws. I have lots of American friends who are anti-gun, but the pro-gun lobby is strong and there is a strong emotional attachment to the idea of ownership, especially in the South, where guns are a kind of tradition. Then there are all the constitutional hurdles, of course.

    I wish Obama all the best on this issue. The stricter the gun laws, the safer I'd feel and the happier that I'd be, personally. Guns don't make people safe in my estimation. The US has very lax laws on ownership and a gun murder rate 6 times that of any other developed nation. The stats speak for themselves.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Paul. I agree that the laws are what need changing, not to ban guns, but to regulate them. As you said, you only have to look at the statistics. I don't feel it is my place, not being from America, to say guns are "right" or "wrong", which is why this is such a subjective post. But I wish it were possible to simply have guns for sport and for the Police, rather than for the "average Joe" to keep in his bedside table. By that, I mean I wish it were a society where people didn't feel so constantly threatened by what are actually just other Americans. Pertaining to Marco's point below, the society itself is what need to change, not the consequent apparent need for firearms.

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  2. tell me again how nobody uses drugs because they are illegal. The second amendment is in place to protect the citizens from it's government. the constitution is not a "hurdle" as in something to be overcome. Our pathological society has symptoms which rise to the surface. We cant fix the problem by alleviating the symptom.

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    1. Marco, I already admitted to not being a part of a society that understands the need for guns. I'd appreciate a less aggressive reply. I know that making guns illegal will not stop people who wish to use them for illegal purposes doing so. But licensing and registering guns just seems sensible to me.

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  3. Hi Eve, I was just thinking about my tone as I stepped off of my soap box. I read someones comment and went off, sorry for that. I agree with licensing and registering also.

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    1. S'okay. :) I figured it was just passion in the moment, and it's hard to tell tone from text. I do appreciate you taking the time to comment. And I agree with your points about societal issues rather than symptoms of those issues.

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  4. People forget the part of the second amendment that says "well-regulated militia." I'd say we've been violating the constitution all along by not regulating guns! :-)

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    1. Yes, I was reading the Second Amendment to research this, and it does seem somewhat... not followed in several ways!

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  5. If you are naive then so am I. I am in favor of stricter gun control and will not have a gun in my home.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. :) I feel exactly the same way, though I welcome debate to the contrary. I think listening to one another is the only way we'll ever really move forward. The bipartisan nature of not just elections but politics and America in general seems to be causing a lot of problems, even in the short time I have been here.

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  6. Eve, I used to feel just as you do when I got here, indeed until a couple of years ago, as a Brit not used to guns I think it's normal to be against them. But I live in a totally different area to you where gun ownership is just normal, you're rarer if you don't, my area was the original wild west.It is also a really big area for hunting, people fly in here from all over.

    I don't see any need for public ownership of military and AR rifles, I think limiting magazine size is a good thing too as are stiffer background checks.

    I never thought I'd be a handgun owner but I am now am, a trained one and about to take my concelaed carry. My reason is I now travel away from home to some big cities on business and it's for my own protection. Hopefully I will never need it!

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    1. I read that post actually - welcome back! I'm not so much morally against them as thoroughly afraid of them, both in the hands of trained individuals and laypeople (though the former are of course preferable). It's more the idea of their necessity and the potential for accidents that really upsets me.

      Background checks and assessments just seem logical to me, from a safety perspective and even from a pro-gun perspective. Why would the pro-gun population want untrained, unassessed, unlicensed individual to be able to have their good name in their power? I'd like to think all responsible gun owners are like you: taking classes, doing it gradually, and doing it because of a genuine belief in a need for one, not simply because it's their "right" [as an American].

      In any case, your post was really interesting, and I really appreciate your comments also. I hope you will never need the gun, and I hope you pass your concealed carry!

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Thanks for taking the time to write! I try to reply to everyone, and I love to read your comments.