Monday, January 28, 2013

Guns and Gun Ownership

I´d like to make a comment or two about the aftermath of the school shooting last month. I don´t think that guns or mental illness or video games are to blame. If I were to pin point something as a cause for these incidents, I would go with social fragmentation, alienation, dispossession and powerlessness. Maybe some time in the future I will elaborate on these causes, but for the moment, I´d like to explore the possibility of gun control.

Specifically, I´d like to counter those who claim that in the United States, with millions of gun owners determined to keep their guns no matter what, strict gun control is an impossibility. I don´t think it´s a likelihood, but if the government really wanted to institute a ban on guns, they could do so. It´s a hypothetical I´m dealing with here, but please indulge me. My argument hinges on a tasty paradox.

First off, there are no shortage of people in society who are willing to obey someone wearing a uniform. If guns are to be eliminated, they will be salami sliced away through legislation, bit by bit. Americans have shown time and time that they are willing to trade freedom for some illusory security.

What about these millions who swear that the only way they´ll be disarmed is when their rifle is pried out of their cold, dead hands? I imagine the number of people who´d rather die than surrender their weapons to be vanishingly small, internet bluster notwithstanding. Still it´s conceivable that these gun owners could club together, form a militia, and mount an effective resistance to any government programme to eliminate guns. But here is where my paradox makes its entry. Clubbing together and surrendering autonomy to a collective is simply not part of the gun owner´s ¨cultural DNA.¨ The gun owner buys guns out of feelings of anxiety, suspicion and distrust, especially of their neighbours. It's a catch 22. The forces that motivate people to seek the protection afforded by gun ownership - social fragmentation, feelings of insecurity and distrust of neighbours - are going to militate against them uniting and forming an effective force to resist gun confiscation.

This brings us full circle. The powerlessness of the gun owner is caused by the same malaise that causes the shooting incidents: it is this lack of cohesion and solidarity that I referred to in the first paragraph. If anything, gun owners, despite the illusory security that their weapons give them, are just as much the victims of this social affliction as the rest of us. Well, at least those of us who manage to avoid getting themselves victimized in these shooting sprees.

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