15 December, 2012

the gun question in america: no easy answers

in a way, the gun lobby in the USA is right: guns do not kill people, people do

a question of semantics
i started this blog post specifically with a declaration i have been arguing against, so as to create debate around it, and not because i agree with the position

personally, i believe that crazy people will do crazy things, but if the tools for magnifying those crazy things are accessible to them, the crazy things they do will affect more people more quickly more deeply. so, though acknowledging that it is people that are the problem, i do think that the easy availability of such tools, equipment or technology aggravates the effect of the warped ideas the same people have, to the detriment of others around them

but back to the debate: is the gun lobby really wrong? will banning or tightly controlling guns decrease or stop mass killings by firearms? and what is the loss the society (and the founding principles of america) will suffer due to the ban? is it a fair trade off?

how far do you want to go?
i read somewhere that going by the same argument, we should ban violent films, explicit songs, video games, even knives, matches, why, even the internet and mobile phones! yes, i agree it is a slippery slope indeed once we start down that path

before we get to the actual pros and cons of banning guns and the effects of the precedence we shall set for other issues, let us examine the practicality of a ban

making a statement or making a stand?
let us assume that the american government bans guns from the coming monday. let us also assume that the government has records of every gun owner and their place of residence at the time of the purchase. even in such a case, unless the owners submit to the ban and voluntarily turn in their guns at the nearest police station, the only alternative would be to set a deadline for total compliance and send written notices to owners, followed by police action for non-compliance by due date

now, knowing the passions this particular issue can ignite in the USA, it would be fair to assume that more than a few gun owners would want to keep their weapons, and would get together to collectively 'make a stand'. it would also be fair to assume that these people will stock up on ammunition and supplies to keep their siege going for longer. it might be fair to assume that several of these would have military or quasi-military training, as well as include those with political and organisational experience

you can see where i am going with this. would we see mini civil wars being fought in the united states on this issue?
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

now, let us turn to what people lose if their right to bear arms is taken away. i believe that the concept of america has some basic fundamental principles on which it stands: liberty, equality and the right to private property. with the right to property comes the right to defend it, as does the same right of defence come into play with the other ideals of liberty and equality. america was formed of the conflict between the civilians and the ruling classes, even though they shared the same race, language and basic beliefs

in fact, it comes quite naturally, due to historical legacy, to an american to distrust the government in terms of his or her own liberty and right to private property. this argument apart, the right to private property is essential for the working of capitalism, the american religion. whether it is right or wrong is not in the scope of this article, but that it exists as a fundamental principle of the idea of america is a fact; and that the right to generate, possess, enjoy and defend private property is its very cornerstone

hutaree militia
so, once again, does the loss of the right to bear arms and defend one's and one's loved ones' lives, liberties and private property outweigh the gain in the possibility of rarer homicide? and to those who argue that i am equating apples with oranges and that the threat to individual or collective loss of liberty in today's democratic america is very low while the dead victims in mass shootings are a real fact, let me assure you that there are more than a significant minority of people in america who think that today's (or any, for that matter) government poses clear and present danger to their liberty and private property and it is their right to bear arms that is their protection against the administration totally losing it

mirror, mirror on the wall
do you see inside at all?
or is there any other way to look at it? for example, can we examine why someone had the need to take a gun and kill people, without the simplistic, "because he was crazy" argument? is there an epidemic of alienation, of loneliness and of the desire to have a purpose to what seems like an empty life, in the current society? well, i am too dumb to answer these questions, but there might be some merit in looking at why people might get to a stage when they want to shoot or bomb or kill or hurt others, especially in a prosperous, democratic, meritocratic, politically stable society like the united states (or norway, for that matter). looking inward is always a good starting point