Gun Control

There certainly has been a lot of news about shootings lately and everyone all over the Internet is buzzing about the topic.  So, I'm going to compile a bunch of arguments that I've heard concerning the matter of gun control and say I how I feel about them.

The first argument is along the lines of "criminals don't follow the law, so making guns illegal won't stop criminals from owning them".  This statement can be demonstrated to have several holes in its logic.  First, we try to apply the same principle to something else.  "Criminals don't follow the law, so making theft illegal won't stop criminals from stealing."  Certainly, this is true, since there still are people who steal things even though the law forbids it.  However, the conclusion "therefore theft should be legal", which is analogous to the conclusion from the gun argument "therefore guns should be legal".  By definition, criminals don't follow the law.  It doesn't matter what the law is.  We should not base our laws on whether we think everyone will follow them.

Second, let's try the same argument with nuclear warheads.  Nuclear warheads are illegal for civilians to buy, and the fact of the matter is that common criminals simply don't own any of them.  You don't hear of cities being blown up by nuclear weapons.  If, on the other hand, we were to make these weapons available for sale to the public, then I think there would be many criminals who would purchase and use them for destructive purposes.  So, making things illegal really does influence how many people own them.

Just a few hours ago, a friend posted about this story on his wall.  An angry man with a gun killed his girlfriend at a restaurant and then ran into the movie theater next door.  The situation could easily have become another like the one in Colorado, but an off-duty police officer was there and shot the man before he could harm anyone else.  The conclusion was "The only way to stop a man with a gun is with a gun."  I do not accept this conclusion.  I will concede that in many cases, such as this case, a person armed with a gun is an effective way of stopping someone with a gun, but I will not go so far as to say it is the only way to stop someone with a gun, nor that it is even the best way to stop someone with a gun.  I personally believe that there are better ways, non-violent ways.

I think the problem with this concept of using violence to stop violence is exhibited very well in Dr. Seuss' book The Butter Battle War.  We escalate and escalate until everyone involved is dead.  That accomplishes nothing.  A simple argument can quickly turn into a physical fight.  If both parties involved had more compassion and less pride, then it might not escalate to a screaming match and then into a fight where someone is physically injured or even killed.  I imagine in this case, perhaps the couple was having a fight as couples often do.  Perhaps the boyfriend felt that he had done nothing wrong and that his girlfriend was being unreasonable.  Clearly something made him feel like the only solution was to end her life.  This is a sign of desperation.  He is at the end of his rope.  He clearly has no effective coping mechanism.  This is a problem that we can prevent.  We have sufficient psychological understanding to help people process their emotions in a more healthy way.

One of the biggest problems I see with those defending gun ownership rights is that they often present gun control as if it is an all-or-nothing thing--that all guns are illegal for everyone to own or that there are no gun laws at all.  This is simply not the case.  We have plenty of gun laws in effect right now, in other words we do have gun control, but certain classes of weapons are available for purchase for anyone with a clean background.  When we talk of stricter gun laws, there's still plenty of room from where we are now to a complete and utter ban on all guns in the country.  Many people talk about how implausible it would be to gather up all the guns in the country, and this is true.  But I don't believe anyone actually advocating that is in any position of power or is taken seriously.  This isn't the question being asked.  The question is more along the lines of "Should assault rifles be legal for public purchase?"

Probably the single most common argument I hear is that guns are necessary for the people to own in order to protect their freedoms.  This is ridiculous.  I will grant that it's conceivable that a government will attempt to oppress its people, as we can see it happening all throughout history and even now in the world today.  But, let's be realistic about using guns to protect ourselves.  Recall that in Tiananmen Square, the military had assault rifles and tanks.  The protestors didn't stand a chance.  A person with a gun will still be flattened by a tank running over him.  If you truly fear your government oppressing you, you should attempt to wrest control of such heavy-duty military forces from them, not arm yourself with weaponry that won't stand a chance against it.  But be honest and admit that owning a handgun or a hunting rifle will not save you from tyranny.  This belief expresses not only paranoia but also a disconnect from reality.

Personally, I think we should all lay down our weapons of war and seek reconciliation.  I often hear the argument "We need to arm good people to protect us from bad people."  Well, what's your definition of  a "bad person"?  Someone who kills other people?  Then, how are we the "good person" when we kill the "bad person"?  Is it not more reasonable to conclude that since our motivation for owning weaponry is to protect ourselves from other people who would harm us, than other people's motivation for owning weaponry is the same?  We make such a big deal about Iran owning nuclear weapons and yet we ourselves have nuclear weapons.  Why do we as humans feel a need to be so destructive?  Why do we feel the need to make such powerful weapons that can slaughter hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of seconds?  And why do we think that we are advancing the banner of liberty when we use such destructive weapons?  How is a dead person more free than a living person?

There are those who say "You just can't reason with some people, force is the only thing they understand."  My rebuttal to that is that as soon as you make that argument, as soon as you jump from discussion to destruction, you have become that very person you're describing.  You are the person who is now impossible to reason with and who will only understand force.  So, when you say "some people", understand that you need to be including yourself in that, thus "they" should really be "we".

As a last note, I simply want to point out the irony that the most avid gun supporters are also the most radical Christians.  The Jesus described in the Bible was all about "turn the other cheek" and "go the extra mile" and "resist not evil".  He didn't take up arms against the Romans who crucified him.  He didn't want the latest and greatest weaponry at arm's reach at all points in time to protect him from those who sought to harm him.  In all things, he sought only to reason with others, to show compassion, and to forgive, as he forgave even the soldiers who put him on the cross.  And yet, even though this is the very person that Christians worship, idolize, and wear bracelets saying that they want to be like him, they do not exhibit any of these traits.  They do the exact opposite.  They do not lay down their lives like Jesus did.  They seek avidly to support their own lives with violence, which is precisely the thing that Jesus was protesting.  He decried the teaching of "an eye for an eye".  And yet that is precisely the teaching that modern conservative Christians proclaim the loudest.  Al Qaeda bombed our towers, so we need to destroy every man, woman, and child in the Middle East.  I find it extremely ironic.