Last year, not long after I became a dad and moved to New Jersey, I watched the news of the Sandy Hook shooting play itself out online. I found myself oddly moved by this event. Having a kid of my own had seemingly turned on some kind of circuit in my brain that made me feel a kind of proximity to events like these that I never had before.

Following the event, I did something fairly rare for me: I spent a bunch of time on Facebook. Specifically, I found myself reading over discussions on friends’ pages that involved some amount of debate or dialog between those people opposed to gun rights in the US, and those in favor.

As a Brit relocated to the US, I couldn’t really understand the enthusiasm around gun ownership. I didn’t want to be angry with the people promoting guns. I didn’t want to berate them or challenge them. I wanted to understand them. I still want to understand. I still really don’t get it.

I understand that people are concerned about personal freedom. But shouldn’t those people most concerned about freedom be against gun ownership? After all, more guns means less freedom. The one thing about a gun is that when somebody owns one, they can point it at you and make you do things. That’s what they’re for. It’s either that or killing people.

So I simply can’t see how having more guns can possibly make more freedom. By definition, every gun that you add to society makes the amount of personal freedom decrease.

I believe that the popular notion is that if both people in a problematic situation have a gun, then the power of one person to control the other is zeroed out. But this requires that those people reach for those guns at the same time. It seems to me that we’ve known since Wild West shootouts that that doesn’t happen. Instead, someone has a gun first and the other person reaching for their gun gets shot.

And then there’s the notion of personal defense. A person with a gun can hypothetically defend themselves more effectively. But that requires that the person doing the defending bring their gun out before there’s an unambiguous threat. Which means they have to assess the potential threat correctly one hundred percent of the time. Which means there are going to be mistakes and that some innocent people will die.

And finally, there’s the notion of the right to bear arms to protect oneself from one’s government. But the US government can listen in on all phone conversations, can see postage stamps from space, and has more nuclear weapons than anyone else on Earth. You can’t defend against that with a handgun. In fact, you can’t defend against that at all.

What I saw on Facebook was a lot of people on both sides of the debate feeling angry and entrenched, and a lot of dialog not going anywhere. That seems counterproductive to me. And at the same time I do have an opinion. What’s a dual citizen to do?


6 thoughts on “Guns”

  1. I think this is not a rational debate. Gun nuts exist but they are a minority. The gun industry is huge and has a powerful lobby. Their arguments are emotional and hollow. You quite rightly point out how ridiculous it is to advertise guns as a safeguard against dictatorship.

  2. What you’ve got to remember is that what the gun control lobby plays on are fears, bigotry and emotion. Like the Republican party they don’t appeal to people’s thought processes, but to basic insecurities. If you look back on when Katrina flooded New Orleans, our government was more concerned about the poorer folk (read people of color here) looting then they were galvanized by the need to save these same citizens from drowning and starvation.

  3. Ah, the cult of ‘freedom’! It sure is a tricksy word, and everyone means something different by it (although most people don’t think so, and think “everyone knows what freedom means”).

    Carrying a gun is not, in my opinion, rational behaviour. It’s almost purely emotional, and it’s highly delusional, too, as you point out. Hardly anyone will be able to use one in the heat of the moment, and just reaching for one will almost certainly get you shot.

    Those that preach for the gun lobby aren’t really interested in rational debate anyway, as you can easily see from their laughable arguments and slogans, which tie up with virtually everything else on the right-wing platform that restricts freedom. They want power and freedom for themselves, but not for those who aren’t like them. PErhaps they know that they can’t get what they want by reasonable argument, and would rather champion ‘might is right’ which certainly does end arguments, if not actually solve them.

  4. What’s a Brit to do? May I suggest going home? My friend the Chief Inspector from the midlands tells me the streets there are quiet, because most assaulters use knives and clubs. On the other hand Mr. Maxim’s invention is perfectly legal to own in the islands, so there is that.

    1. Hi Bill!
      Thank you for your reply! I respect your perspective. Thank you for choosing to share it. Here’s the thing though, I am home. What is America? It’s a country founded by transplants from elsewhere and dedicated to a set of core principles. People who care about America don’t show up, have an opinion and leave if they don’t like the consensus that happens to exist. If that had happened, this country would never have been built. Instead, new citizens they state what they feel, engage in debate, and try to make the country a better place.
      I should state that I’m a believer in the second amendment, I just think that it’s got fuck all to do with guns. Owning a handgun to protect yourself against a government with nuclear weapons isn’t going to do much. It’s a feeble tool in the modern world. What does help is the right to privacy. The right to not be spied on. The right to organize and cooperate in ways that the government doesn’t necessarily like. The right to use mechanisms like the internet to express collective power or effect social justice. The right to obstruct the flow of goods or information. The right to call into question the accumulation of huge quantities of the nation’s wealth in a few hands. These are the arms that count today.
      I can see and appreciate people using hunting rifles in the wild. But to my mind, the right to own something like an automatic weapon is something different. It’s a turd that’s been sold to the American public when they should have in their hand a golden spear instead. Rather than being granted the tools to preserve rights and collective autonomy, we have allowed the system to derail us into a conversation about tiny weapons that exist to service individual desires for empowerment rather than expressing the will of the American public.
      Is that good enough? Is this great country really going to settle for that? I don’t think it should. I think we can do better.

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