“Guns don’t kill people—dangerous minorities do”
I don’t know why I always end up thinking about guns while I’m on the road. Maybe it’s because I’m not as skillful at avoiding the media as I am when I’m at home. In hotels, they stick a paper at your door every morning. Even if you glance briefly, you can still catch a headline or two (which are designed to cover the point of the piece, or at least to grab your attention—see above). In donut shops, they play news radio all day long. In diners and bars, you get the news (garnished heavily with mundane sporting events, of course). I suppose since these are my haunts, it makes sense that I would eventually be cornered. And so, thus cornered, I would like to share some opinions with you.
The first, although one I’ve held for some time, was today expressed succinctly in print by an unaccredited Canadian journalist in The Globe and Mail, Vancouver’s local paper, so I shall do them the credit of quoting them here:
“The United States has a simple choice: to turn the fight against deranged school shooters into another war on terror, and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on early warning and security systems, or to put some sensible controls on guns.
The first option is a terrible trap. It cannot work. The nation would be constantly trying to plug holes in a hundred, a thousand, a million dikes at once. And then a Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people plus himself at Virginia Tech University on Monday, would slip through anyway, because the science of predicting which disturbed or merely eccentric individual will become a deranged gunman is more than just inexact; it does not exist….
The Second option is the obvious choice. Mr. Cho, in spite of his mental health problems, was able to obtain—legally—two handguns. Virginia’s gun laws are blind to the danger of a Cho Seung-Hui. With $571 (U.S.), a green card and a driver’s license, he was able to buy a Glock 9mm handgun and bullets from a gun shop. All he had to do was pass a quick, computerized criminal-records check and answer 16 questions, such as, ‘is there an outstanding protective or restraining order against you from any court?’ He didn’t need references; he didn’t need to wait; he didn’t even need a license or permit.”
Well put. And it’s not even naïve, hyper-critical, or infeasible, as so many editorializing soap-boxers with elastic strip attitudes and balming beatitudes can be. It is important, economic, accessible logic that demands exercise.
Since I’m saving energy by letting this nameless journalist speak for me, I shall continue to do so a bit further:
“But the obvious gun-control option goes against the U.S. grain. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine called the state’s gun laws ‘models for the nation’, citing a law that limits customers to one gun purchase a month. Some model. With a single gun, any disturbed university student or high-schooler can become Rambo.”
Indeed. According to Virginia laws, a barely legal young adult would be disappointed to know that upon obtaining a semi-automatic weapon to complete their Halloween costume, that they would have to wait until after Thanksgiving to purchase it a mate, and then, would not be able to complete a threesome until Christmas morning, and we all know how hard it is for a youngster to wait for that.
But you know what? Recent studies have shown that most assailants have at most 2 hands, and can thus operate at most 2 firearms at a given time. Our most recent crazed gunman happened to be methodical in approach to his rampage, but was apt in demonstrating that not only can a megalomaniacal malcontent acquire 2 semi-automatic wmd’s within 32 days (in VA, the ‘nations model’ for gun laws, anyway), but can also use them to rack up a record-setting body count in a public campus in a few short hours (and can even take a break from going postal to go to post).
Let’s look at it from this perspective: we have the right to bare arms—we do not have a mandate. Other than for use by law enforcement officials, I cannot think of a reason why guns should even be legal, let alone available. Hunters can use a bow. Nervous city-dweller can carry pepper spray and tasers. The military can continue to use guns as they have been provided they keep that crap on foreign shores. Consider—right now the same nation that will imprison a citizen for possession of marijuana will hand out firearms willy-nilly (a dozen per year in the fine state of VA) to people without qualification. So it’s more difficult to get a gun if you have a criminal record. Great. That eliminates the impatient, unintelligent, and short-sighted mass-murderers, of which there must be very few. Do you see where I’m going? There was a Halloween episode of The Simpsons where guns (all weapons, actually), were abolished. Humanity got along peacefully until they were enslaved by aliens brandishing sticks. They eventually wrested control back from the aliens by turning on them with a stick that had a nail through it. As the aliens fled from the planet, they mocked us, saying one day we would create a stick with a nail in it so large that mankind would destroy itself. What the writers of The Simpsons know is that our lust for weaponry is both insatiable and terminal. The # of deaths due to shootings will not decrease over time. Mr. Seung-Hui’s record will not be held for long. The media will become so blood-drenched that even Sex and Politics will become minor editorial afterthoughts.
If it isn’t clear where I’m headed, let me help drive the point home: The criminals of the world are not the pot-smokers, the tax evaders, the inside traders, the smut peddlers. There will be divine justice (or, if you prefer, karma) for these people while they are yet breathing. The true criminals are the unfulfilled, angry, anti-social introverts who send blame-tapes to the networks, climb clock towers, stalk celebrities, and take it upon themselves to punish the privileged and vain. They are the sociopaths, the people who didn’t even show up to the station to catch the conscience train. But the thing is, without guns, these people are ineffective, inconclusive. They turn to pens, words, use drugs, charisma, make threats, get ulcers, develop fetishes, die alone. In any case, they become easier to spot and remain easy to forget.
These are not thoughts on social justice, per se. I can relate to the dark and pathetic. I was picked on, wrote morbid death poetry, kept quiet, despised the bullies and the beautiful, wished to be as alone outside as I felt inside. But by some providence, my hand found a pen instead of a pistol. My heart found a savior that no longer required bloody sacrifice, only gratitude and change. However, if I had had a mind to procure a gun during those times, shame on the business, city, state, and governing body that would have allowed me to do so. They are tools designed for the purpose of taking lives, animal, human, enemy, it makes no difference, and they have outlived their purpose.
These are thoughts on preserving life, no matter how much that life is for suck, no matter how much pain will be generated by that life, because sometimes the dénouement comes late. Vigilantism strips that potential.