Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tools vs. Scary Death Machines

What is the difference between an axe, a lighter, a gun, a knife, and your bare hands?  On the surface there are a lot of differences, differences of function, of cosmetics, of price it seems that there is only two things that bind all those items together.  The first is that they are all tools, all with different legitimate uses.  The second is that all have been misused, and horrendous things have been done with them. 

Take fire for instance.  There is literally nothing in your life that is not dependent on humanity having mastered fire.  From the food you eat, to the car you drive, without fire we'd still be hairless apes huddled in caves grunting at each other afraid of the dark.  Even our dietary requirements are somewhat dependent on fire.  You literally can not eat raw meat without getting sick.  For all that fire is enormously destructive.  In 1871, 3.3 square miles of Chicago, were destroyed and 125 people killed supposedly because a cow kicked over a lantern in a barn.  Arson claims millions of dollars annually, and hundreds of lives, and yet we all acknowledge that fire is important, we all acknowledge that wile dangerous fire is essential to our way of life.   

It would be such an over statement, to the point of being mildly insulting to list the uses of the hands, and yet human hands have done a lot of terrible things.  The same hands that might raise the most massive of structures or paint an masterpiece that leaves everyone in tears might also be used for almost unimaginable savagery.  So too could axes knives and yes guns.  So why is it that we can accept these tools despite the great harm they might do?  Why do we acknowledge the capacity for good in all these tools except for guns?   

The simplest answer is that guns have a fewer variety of uses.  While one can use a gun as say a hammer, that is neither wise nor really economical.  A gun could be used to light a fire, but only under extremely specific conditions, so specific in fact as to be absurd (although the powder could be sued as an accelerant you'd still have to ignite it).  A gun is, point blank, a tool of power.  From the power of an individual to say defend themselves against the intentions of someone that would wish to do them harm to the power of a government to enforce both legitimate laws, and to coerce obedience.  It is almost impossible to divorce the gun from power.  

This simple explanation is why so many people are uncomfortable with guns.  Power scares people.  Not just the power they might hold but the power that others might hold over them.  The very same tool that liberated Europe also allows the Kim dynasty to hold its iron grip over its starving people.  It is not just the power to free but the power to enslave.  The power to kill, or the power to save.  The same pistol a police officer might use, could also be used by the very criminals he is trying to protect you from.  So what are we to make of this?

Well like all power we need to recognize how to use it.  A gun on its own, much like your hands, a large knife, or any other tool you can think up will do absolutely nothing until it is commanded to do something.  We learn how to properly use fire, and knives because they are an important part of our lives.  We could not cook without either one, and at a very early age we teach our children that they're not to be treated as toys.  Other organizations like the Boy Scouts of America teach children how to properly use these tools.  So why is it we always verge to the knee jerk "scary death machine" reaction when we talk about guns?

We build up an irrational fear surrounding an inanimate object, that is disproportionate to what it can actually do.   This isn't some vial of Ebola virus, or liquid nitro glycerin which is extremely explosive, and unstable.  Most guns won't even go off if you drop them and some are impossible to fire unless a human finger is pulling the trigger.  Because we ascribe so much unreasonable terror to guns we are in a way culpable when they are misused.  The panic spread by mass media in the wake of mass shooting incidents, adds to the hype in the disturbed minds of those that would perpetrate such acts.  whether the dispossessed or the truly insane, our irrational fear, and panicked reactions only throw gasoline on the fire of their rage.

It is suggested that there are 300 million guns in America.  That's almost one for each person.  I wouldn't be surprised if the actual number is much higher.  If there are that many guns in America, if we are quite literally surrounded by guns, why are we so ignorant?  If there are so many guns in America how come most Americans can not tell you the most basic rules for gun safety?  If we all know that you should never cut towards yourself why doesn't everyone know to treat ever gun as loaded until proven otherwise?

The more we continue to treat guns as scary death machines, the more fear we place upon them, the more we pave the way for mass shootings.  We bare responsibility to teach and train our children to treat these tools just as they are, tools.  Taking away guns from the responsible will only leave the guns in the hands of the irresponsible.  Take away the guns, and only the well trained or the most viscous will have power, the weak will be fodder for rampant abuses.  History has made this lesson abundantly clear.  As much as the gun grabbers have noble intentions, should they actually succeed we would all hate the resulting state of affairs.   

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