By Jordan Zakarin
I generally try to stay away from any and all social media-staged arguments, but last week, having spent the entire day trudging through bloody bulletins and heartbreaking details to file six or seven stories about the tragedy in Colorado, I just couldn’t help myself. I had joined in with my fellow liberal, east coast media reporters in a wave of anti-gun tweets (knowing full well they’d disappear down the internet echo chamber), and found myself challenged by a particularly stubborn weapons enthusiast. I knew engaging with him would be of no use — devotees of a warped vision of the second amendment are irrationally stubborn, and he’s no lawmaker, anyway — but his arguments were so preposterous that I felt they had to be refuted, if only for the symbolism.
Rambo, as I shall call him, initially responded to my assertion that the only use of a gun is to shoot people, and should therefore be illegal; after all, why did regular citizens need to shoot people? His response skirted the entire murder question, as he insisted that car accidents kill more people than guns, so why don’t we outlaw cars?
Obviously, this is idiotic, as cars serve many purposes, while, as I stated, guns can only blast holes into and kill things.
Unsurprisingly, he had an even dumber response. Rambo said that his rifle is plenty useful; one time, he used it as a splint for his leg, and another, as a door stop. Ignoring the fact that tying a long weapon to one’s leg is a poor safety idea, especially in the area of genital preservation, I reminded Rambo that one could, if he or she wanted to get wildly creative, use a piece of wood as a splint or a door stop. Undaunted by the ingenuity of my comment, the argument veered toward personal protection, which is where these things always go. My position was simple: if we make guns illegal, it will be harder to get them — James Holmes, the alleged shooter in Aurora, obtained all of his arms legally, and purchased his bullets over the internet– and we will thus have fewer shooting deaths.
Rambo suggested a double dose of commonly held (and idiotic) beliefs: a. people wouldn’t be able to protect themselves if they were attacked; and b., criminals will obtain guns whether they are legal or not, so why hamstring those with good intentions for their killing machines?
First, here he’s operating under the superhero delusion. Through enough action and superhero films, we’ve begun to think of ourselves as capable heroes, the sort of badasses who could easily pull out a tiny glock from our coat pockets and unload on a masked gunman if, say, we were sitting in a movie theater and a guy with a smoke bomb and a semi-automatic started to open fire. This is nonsense.
When I was a kid, I certainly fancied myself a future superhero (Spider-Man, if I had my choice), but by the time I reached high school, I realized that genetics weren’t really on my side. Alas, as both a small and skinny kid, and more generally as a non-mutant and non-military trained human, I probably wouldn’t be agile enough to take down a dude pointing a gun right in my face. I think that is the general rule; for the most part, attacks are met with screaming and crying. Which is okay. That’s human nature. And, it’s why we have superheroes in the first place — to fulfill the fantasy that we have people to protect us when we’re vulnerable and scared and in trouble. If everyone was a super-soldier, Superman and his pals would be pretty useless.
As for the other half of this guy’s argument, what he’s basically saying is, why have laws when people are going to break them? Why ban drinking and driving if people do it every night? Why ban insider trading if we still have corrupt businessmen that enrich themselves illegally? Why ban the sale of crystal meth if people still smoke it? Because we’re not barbarians, and it’s nice to live in a place where there is some assurance that we won’t be crashed into, swindled or kidnapped.
Ultimately, the argument for lax gun laws is the empowerment of the paranoid and power-hungry few at the cost of the rest of the nation. It is the belief that we should all cower while doing things as basic as sitting in a movie theater, so that a few crazy people can compensate for their feelings of inferiority with a fire-breathing killing machine.
There are no stats that back up the claim that guns protect people; in Canada and Europe, gun-related deaths are not even a fraction of what they are here. The promise of America is freedom, but we’ve never been a nation that embraces and distributes that right equally. Some justify that by repeating the myth that a country of self-made men, but we’re also a country that may be destroyed by that lie, too.
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