Saturday, September 8, 2012

Guns, Guts and God

There have been many terrible shooting incidents in just the last few months, let alone the last few years in America. And every time it comes up, there tend to be two polarized sides to the issue of guns and regulation: stricter management of permits and limitations on types of guns you can carry or own and those who advocate more leniency and openness with carry or concealed carry permits. The ideas are both for protection, though one can argue the former side is much more about managing gun sales than permits, since those are difficult enough to get that most people would just try to get guns illegally, which is still able to be done. The latter is about maintaining protection by the citizens and for citizens. Even the mere pulling out of a gun in a situation can diffuse the violence that might result, because we have a very visceral reaction to guns as something dangerous, moreso than blades. The last time I even discussed gun rights in “On Gun Rights and Civil War” I noted that we should be responsible in our use of weapons, which still stands as a point I would make clear with gun enthusiasts. Of course we have a right to protect ourselves, but self defense should not be exaggerated to the level of vigilante justice, as much as I might admire Frank Castle, otherwise called the Punisher in Marvel Comics, in a childish sense as an anti hero. Fundamentally, we ought to recognize the danger of guns, but not to the extent of letting our concern grow into fear and paranoia. A gun is a tool and by itself, apart from modifications and advanced technology, does not fire by itself. It takes an agent behind the tool to utilize it in any way, effective or otherwise. So I’d say we focus not on the tools, but the users.

Gun control does not, in itself, protect people any more than disease control absolutely protects people. The former is more unpredictable than the latter, though, since the legality of guns does not affect criminals, while viruses and bacteria are bound by limitations of biology that enable us to develop immunities over time and understand how they work. We cannot expect people to just obey laws restricting guns when there will always be access to them outside the law. The solution would be not to enforce stricter gun laws, as it would only disarm people that would otherwise use guns in a responsible manner. The mere abuse of guns by criminals does not mean law abiding citizens should be prevented from getting access to them. Gun control should therefore be distinguished from gun regulation, which is simply making sure people understand the dangers of guns and are educated in proper use, as well as limiting access to people who may pose a threat to others in possessing a gun that can be loaded. Gun control may as well be called gun suppression in the case of trying to keep legal gun use as rare as possible for ordinary citizens, maintaining it only with law enforcement and the military. This excessive form is no better than a deficient policy of just letting anyone get access to a gun without any sort of waiting period or other such protocol involved with gun registration, permits and such. A balance, however difficult to precisely pinpoint, is better than letting laws go too far or fall into disuse.

Gun carries in general, do not, by necessity, encourage more violence. If anything, it can be said to have the reverse effect. And proper training will ensure that, not only will people be able to defend themselves without excessive violence, but will not be victims of attackers because they cling to a ridiculous absolute pacifism that suggests they should not even defend themselves with any amount of force, let alone nonlethal violence. A shot to the arm will hurt as much as a shot to the chest and disable the attacker all the same with the incredible pain that results from the impact. Basic training of aiming, gun maintenance and the like will all be a precaution and one may never have to actually use that knowledge in practice, but a preventative measure is not always something actually realized if one is safe in where one travels and goes in groups as much as possible in dangerous areas. Pepper spray is an alternative that can work, especially with women who are commonly frightened of guns, it appears. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t guns that a woman can use without concern of risk to herself. I’m no gun expert, but that’s the beauty of gunsmithing as an art: you can design functional weapons for pretty much anyone with enough time. I was at a gun store a few weeks ago and there were guns small enough to fit in an average man’s hand and some that were practically as long as one’s forearm, and I’m talking handgun, not something much larger in caliber and power. There is a sense of danger that comes with owning one, much more than even an entire collection of live steel blades. Guns kill instantly or maim horribly, swords are archaic and antiquated in use: they only appeal in fantastical stories with anachronistic manifestations; or lightsabers and vibroblades from Star Wars. With that in mind, gun use should and does commonly have safety measures and rules governing their use. 1) Treat every gun as if it were loaded, 2) Do not aim at something unless you intend to shoot it, the list goes on. I don’t consider myself a gun enthusiast, but as Batman demonstrates (I know, using comic book characters as examples undercuts the seriousness of the argument, but permit me my fandom), even if you have had traumatic experiences with guns, you should not let that past experience make you unwilling to see the gun for what it is, become knowledgeable about it and understand it as others use it and why they use it. Experience with guns dictates that you take a position of one who wants to use it, but it also necessitates a sense of self control in taking on such a dangerous weapon.

The right to arms is not something explicitly protected by religion in the slightest. There are arguments in the bible that suggest pacifism, particularly in the Gospels with Jesus. The most obvious that comes to mind is turning the other cheek. And the argument of the right to bear arms being a God given right seems stretched, since the most basic of natural rights given by God tend to be: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The means by which your liberty is secured would not necessarily be arguable towards using weapons if the creator of the universe supposedly gave you those rights. Wouldn’t it also protect them in its own way? Of course, there is a counter claim that this would encourage idleness, so God would grant us permission of self defense. I’m not denying that, but it’s implicit, not explicit, in terms of an argument from theology. Fundamentally, I won’t say that religion prohibits any such ideas of self defense and a right to bear arms, but if you’ve read my blog even a bit, you know I don’t think we should really use religious tradition or faith to justify any position we hold, no matter how logical and correct it may happen to be. Defend gun rights with philosophy and logic, not tradition and convictions about the supernatural.

Guns are altogether a duplicitous weapon, both aiding and harming us depending on the intent behind their use. The fact that they are dangerous because of the unpredictability and otherwise dangerous nature of humanity does not mean they should be destroyed. Disarmament is the path to a utopia where we could be killed by any natural threat, such as beasts, let alone the chance of attack from people who manage to design and construct weapons themselves post pacifism, and extraterrestrials, should they come to our planet and be hostile in nature. Guns should be an option in the same vein as abortion, in the sense that we should familiarize ourselves with them even if we ourselves do not prefer to utilize the process or tool in question. They should be safe: properly maintained and regulated from explicitly dangerous people as best we can, legal: not prohibited merely because they could be dangerous or there is a moral objection to them, and rare: we should be able to resolve problems without guns, but should be able to use a gun if the situation demands it. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.