Can we have a rational conversation about guns?By Morf Morford
How many more shootings, local or national, do we need? How many more school shootings do we need before have anything like an adult conversation about these playthings of death that we love so much?
I know the constitutional arguments protecting gun ownership. I grew up in a house with many guns. My father was a hunter, and I went out hunting with him many times. My favorite games as a child had something to do with guns.
I do not fear guns. But I also do not worship them.
Like any real — or potentially — dangerous tool, we should treat guns respectfully, for what they do and for what they promise.
Consider, for example, how we treat the “right” to drive a vehicle. There is no constitutional “right” to drive, but there is a set of criteria and conditions one must meet, precisely because driving is so potentially dangerous.
But driving a vehicle is primarily an act of transportation, and only secondarily a hazard. A legal driver must be of a certain age, pass a test, renew a license, keep the car in certain condition, drive under specific conditions (not impaired for example) and in certain places (paved and public roads mostly), but can still have the license taken away.
We could allow 13-year-olds to drive, because, to paraphrase the familiar saying, “Cars don’t kill people, people kill people.” But we all know better. A parked car is not usually threatening, but a vehicle in the hands of an ill, enraged or incompetent person is a hazard to us all.
It is true enough that almost anything can be a weapon. Human ingenuity, stupidity and desperation all seem to have developed an infinite catalog of weaponry and set of strategies for self-directed extinction. One recent local court case involved a defendant who (repeatedly) used a pencil as a weapon; at least in this case, we should be relieved, a pencil did not kill anyone, (because, as we all know, “pencils don’t kill people…”). I have not been able to confirm the national death rate by pencil, but pencils are certainly less dangerous than lawnmowers, power drills or stairs, which as any reader of Stephen King knows, are certainly out to get us.
But I’m not sure laws regulating human stupidity (or paranoia) or home appliances will do us much good.
If, in fact, it is not guns, but “people who kill people,” should we, as adults and, one would hope, survivors, make killing easier or more difficult? Do we really want to live in a society where implements of death are ever easier to get and more accessible even as they become more lethal?
I recommend the Darwin Awards website for an exhilarating overview of how “inspired” some people can be when it comes to eradicating others or themselves. Adult supervision, though crucial, seems to be optional, as it apparently is now. After all, it is not guns that kill people, it’s backpacks, toasters, subways, lawnmowers, power drills, cheeseburgers and Legos.
Gun sales across the country are booming, but guns are innocent — if not borderline sacred. It says so, right in the Constitution. And no matter what my friends in the NRA say, I don’t feel a bit safer.
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