Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Future of Gun Control

I’m tolerant of the freedom and gun control law we have in place, because democracy is the best reflection of the collective will. But can we end the intellectual dishonesty? Guns are less about tyranny, they’re about fantasy. Guns are a lightweight’s way to romanticize power. You get a peashooter and your impotence gets a physical representation. No one ever poses for a cool photo with two cans of mace. Doesn’t matter if it’s a large assault rifle. People stand guard with them in inconsequential villages in the Congo, possibly feeling empowered as they control over natural resources. Meanwhile I’m just a weak, feeble guy living in suburbia with access to WiFi. I know my preference. Weapons are too often a sad externalization of powerlessness, paraded as the very opposite. It’s not about fear of government. It’s not in the name of the Constitution. It’s rarely even in the name of defense.

The most dangerous weapons legally available I can’t imagine having anything on drones, the weapons, information technology, and unprecedented data intelligence of the deep state. Sure guns have a basic amount of utility. For the most part they are a large part of America’s only grasp over their mortality. Guns provide the illusion of control while people with pens decide whether they can cross a street or drink in public. People of that power and political influence, don’t generally conceal carry or open carry. Their bodyguards do, and still they have no fear because they wrote the rules of the game, and even managed to convince people jumping in front of a bullet was in their best interest. That’s power, not a little gunpowder, or the empty shells for the people they represent.

For too much of the American population, the gun is a pacifier for adults. All that residual teenage angst can finally be sedated. “No one fucks with me, man. Well except the taxes I don’t totally agree with, five times the amount we started the Revolutionary War over. And the ticket on my windshield. And the permit I need for a fire or to go fishing. Or if I’m acting disorderly, according to the individual discretion of a police officer. Or if I eat or smoke a plant. Or maybe my landlord, managers, wife, the court system, and the DHS. Aside from them, I do whatever the fuck I want. Oh, and airport security. But God forbid anybody ever fucks with me, man. I’m the wrong motherfucker.”

I’m fine with it. Freedom is too important. I don’t like large crowds, anyhow. I only leave to work or eat. Freedom is not only a virtue. It’s the freedom to fail, it’s the freedom to learn things the hard way. It’s the freedom to determine what price we put on life. For a country constantly extolling “We’re number one!” our price is pretty low. We must have collective low self-esteem, with a superiority complex as cover. People will argue, “If you make certain firearms illegal you’re not getting to the root of the problem!” Violence will probably always be with us. There’s no cure for the common cold either, but there are things you can do to reduce the pain. There’s a reason we can’t just set up our own little missile silo in our backyards or get access to weapons-grade plutonium.

Still, under a democracy we have the freedom to vote and personal choice. Being in control of your own destiny is as beautiful as it is potentially vicious. I don’t feel fully comfortable opining on how others should live, let alone dictating it. The fact is freedoms will be encroached regardless whether further gun control is pursued or not. If it isn’t weapons, it’ll be TSA lines every time you enter a hotel. What good is a semi-automatic weapon when you’re naked and neutered before the state, under constant legal and illegal surveillance, with your social habits volunteered for convenience, and your finances exposed under the IRS? You can stroke your shotgun in a rocking chair and scream, “Get off my lawn!” and yet local municipalities can legislate the types of grass you grow on it.

The response to gun control the majority of the country desires is always shot down by the same bad arguments:

“Knives and cars kill people, why don’t we ban them.”

Because they have utilities other than murder. There is no semi-automatic knife that can stab 30 times in seven seconds.

“People who kill will find ways to kill.”

It’s about making it more difficult to do so.

“It doesn’t address the root of the problem.”

No, it doesn’t. It’s a start. It’s a stopgap measure. The alternative is to do nothing and put your hands in your pockets and wait for the next season of mass murder.

“3D printed guns will eventually exist.”

A hypothetical scenario involving a primitive technology does nothing to address a modern issue.

“More people die in backyard swimming pools.”

You can address more than one issue.

“Drugs are illegal, and look how good we are at stopping them.”

For one, drugs primarily harm the user. They are much easier to conceal. You don’t often hear of the influx of illegal firearms smuggled into prisons.

“Bad guys don't follow laws.”

Manufacturers and distributors do. The idea that consequence of law has never stopped crime is asinine.

“Black markets.”

It will exist, but does already. It’s a matter of ease of access. External pressures won’t make things worse.

“Way more people die as the result of handguns.”

This one actually requires a complex answer and it reveals what I believe to be a central point in acts of terrorism. The majority of gun deaths are suicide, over 60% of 34K per year. We’re left with 11.5K homicides per year in the U.S. Comparatively, mass murders are a drop in the bucket. A major difference is most of these people are shooting at each other. Drug dealers can’t go to the police if they’re robbed. The violence we easily associate with alcohol prohibition we remain blind to with drug prohibition. Economist Milton Friedman suggests drug laws account for an additional 10K deaths a year.

The central point is terrorism is a completely different animal. It’s not turf war or cops and robbers, it’s an assault on innocent civilians that demoralizes societies on whole. There’s no calculable measure I could trust to gauge the psychic effects of violence waged against society at large. Yet they are more devastating. There’s a reason the response is so visceral.

A natural instinct might be to shy away from painful problems and look the other way, out of sight and out of mind. But problem is, the pain’s coming either way. You can stare now or be blind-sided and unprepared later. You might even be able to influence the outcome. The absolute worst that can happen is a slightly better solution is found. The Orwellian nightmare is here. It was not stopped by guns. It was encouraged by the illusion of their security.

To reiterate, guns are not a symbol of power, they’re a symbol of weakness. They were not invented with the highest ideals of man in mind. They were not meant as an impetus for diplomacy, they are a cheap trick to avoid it. Their only decent purpose is defense, and not in the kind of movie-inspired hysteria. Largely, guns are needed to mediate the existence of guns, an element once introduced that can’t be removed. To fight against finely-tuned regulation at this point is to act against your own self-preservation and mental health.

What amount of avoidable tragedy will be enough? Now, I’m going reference the Port Arthur massacre. Not because it lead to bans and restrictions that all but stopped mass killings in Australia. I’m going to reference it because there’s video of the aftermath online. Forget the cute rap phrases or your favorite scene from Goodfellas or level from Grand Theft Auto. Look at the aftermath of an actual mass murder. Force yourself through the revulsion you might feel as you see corpses scattered around tables in a restaurant, and pale, lifeless children left in a field. Their lives are owed that much.

Most sane people don’t want a full ban on guns, because there are equally revolting images and stories from The Holocaust which was eased along by a lack of an armed resistance. If you’re reading this you never paid the price. Pay a relatively small fee and stare at the actual hideousness of this hate and violence. See if maybe it doesn’t sway your perspective a bit. Consider that fighting reform might be a meager hill to die on.

Note: Naturally this is in part inspired by the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I will try to respond to any comments and concede any points more acute than my own.

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