With the recent protest occupation (to use a kind term) in Oregon and the announcement by Obama that he will pursue executive actions to strengthen gun control, it is inevitable that the pro-gun, anti-government conspiracy flakes will once again howl at the moon.
There are a lot of pro-gun, anti-regulation of any kind web sites that are desperately trying to bring their argument to a rational level. This makes them feel better and does a lot to convince their own supporters who like to feel rational. The rest of us aren’t fooled.
For example, one statement that I see used frequently is “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” It was used in one web site as the lead off in an article titled “14 things you should understand about guns before writing about them.” For the record, I understand them completely. Understanding doesn’t mean that you agree, although an egocentric mind will often say that if you disagree then obviously you just didn’t understand. I don’t have a problem with responsible gun ownership, but I do have a big problem with crappy logic.
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” There is an element of truth to that. How about, “Hand grenades don’t kill people. People kill people.” Or “Weapons of Mass Destruction don’t kill people. People kill people.” I don’t think it is a false analogy. Guns have a privileged status because they are already entrenched in (American) society. Beyond that, the comparison is totally valid. Both of the latter statements are true. However, we don’t balk at the idea of restricting hand grenades or WOMD in our society (…at least if we are sane). We recognize that making such things accessible to the general public would be a dangerous thing. Why? Because there are crazy people out there who would misuse them. Because of that danger, they are controlled, regulated and restricted.
Guns, one might say, are different from hand grenades or WOMD. Very true. They have potentially legitimate uses such as hunting or sport shooting. As far as self defence goes, one might argue the same for hand grenades, but, OK, let’s allow that one and say that guns are distinct there as well. That’s why guns are permitted under regulated conditions while these other things are not. However that distinction doesn’t mean the all regulation should be abandon. It also does not mean that the item itself, the gun, has no relationship with the outcome, the killing of people. Statistics, whatever strange contortions the pro-gun lobby wants to apply to them, are pretty conclusive in establishing a link between gun availability and gun violence. (Arguing the specifics here is a whole other article.)
In fact, if the relationship between gun availability and gun violence doesn’t exist, then I find myself forced into alternative conclusions that are kind of awkward. Why, then, does the U.S. have such a big problem with gun violence and mass shootings, if not for the availability of guns? The only thing I can come up with is that there is something inherently wrong with Americans, whether it be a pathological gun culture, a lack of intelligence or a predisposition to mental illness. You can’t have it both ways. If you want to argue that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” then there’s got to be something wrong with the people. Lots of them. More than in other countries.
That fact is possibly borne out by the argument that you get when you really push a pro-gun supporter, diffuse much of what they pretend to be rational thought and back them into a corner. The argument then becomes, in most cases, that the government wants to come and take away their guns so that they can tell them what to do. They see a government conspiracy. It was evident in the recent Jade Helm comedy. It’s evident in YouTube videos coming out supporting the Oregon protestors (and even in the name they’ve chosen for themselves). I’m sorry, but to believe in a government conspiracy to the extent that normal military exercises in your own country are seen as an invasion has to qualify as a degree of paranoia, and is at least a personality disorder. So perhaps there is something to people vs. guns argument. Furthermore, it is interesting that these people so afraid of a government conspiracy to tell them how to live their lives are the exact people who are most in judgement of others, and believe that it is OK to tell others how to live their lives because the Bible tells them so. The very thing they are afraid of is the thing that they do themselves to others.
However, I digress. The idea that “Guns don’t kill people…” is the Intelligent Design of the gun debate. It is a false statement dressed up to look respectable. Perhaps a more reasonable statement would be, “Guns don’t kill people. People and guns kill people.” I could live with that from a logical perspective.
Again to digress from the original topic, it is a shame, because I believe that the ranchers involved in this whole affair may well have some legitimate grievances worth protesting. The BLM in the U.S. has a long tradition of over reacting, and the five year prison terms are generally regarding as being a little excessive. Charging the original two Hammonds with terrorism was perhaps a bit of a reach. There’s probably more justification in charging the current militia occupation with terrorism, at least once they eventually fire a gun.
What I’d like to see happen with the Oregon protestors is for people to just ignore them. What would happen if an army of bird watchers, all armed with cameras and cell phones, were to show up to use the land and enter the occupied building? Would this militia open fire on or otherwise physically prevent such use of the land? It would be infuriating for them. Also, I think that enterprising counter protests would be easy to mount. A formal counter protest of their occupation would be interesting. How could they object to people exercising the exact same right that they themselves are trying to advocate.