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?