On The Culture Of Gun Praising: Why Do You Feel The Need To Defend Your Toys In The Aftermath Of Tragedies?

Posted: December 16, 2012 in Culture
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I live in Canada, so maybe I’ve been a bit sheltered on the issue of gun violence. We just don’t have a lot of it here. In 2009, the last year we have conclusive data for, there were 173 gun homicides and four times that number in gun suicides. Canadians just don’t seem to use guns to kill each other.

But, as a father, when something like Newtown happens, I feel it. I feel for the families of the children who died. I feel for the families of the teachers. Most of all I feel for the children who survived and for whom school is no longer a safe haven, who’s siblings won’t be opening up their Christmas presents this year, and who have a long, hard road of mental recovery to slog through before they’re anything resembling okay.

Things like this happen and they affect us all. My immediate reaction to the news, irrational as it might have been, was to call my wife and ask her to give me a headcount of our children. (We have two, it would have taken less than a second) Theatre shootings, school shootings, mall shootings, temple shootings. We see these things now all the time; how could the not affect us?

But the thing that has started to make me really angry is the number of people who immediately post on Twitter or Facebook or Reddit or (God help us) Google+ about how, just because children/moviegoers/shoppers/mistakenly-assumed-to-be-muslims-in-sikh-temples are dying, doesn’t mean that now is the time to have a conversation about gun control.

First, you’re wrong. Anytime someone buys a bunch of guns and ammo and goes and kills a bunch of innocent people is an excellent time to discuss whether or not assholes should have access to deadly weapons.

But second, even if you weren’t wrong, who does that? Who looks upon a tragedy caused by their hobby, feels bad for a couple of minutes and then shrieks, “Oh noes! They’re going to try to take my guns away! I must away to the interwebz to point out to everyone that guns are still awesome and cuddly and never hurt no one, no never!”

But, since you’ve decided to jump into the fray and scream about the awesome necessity of guns and your right to bear and possibly marry them, allow me to retort to the most common arguments I’ve seen posted by insensitive but concerned gun lovers over this weekend.

1) We have rights! – This argument, the notion that rights under the law will always be absolute and untouchable….it’s tricky, but really wrongheaded. Laws change, rights change with them. Usually we gain rights as a society becomes more progressive. The right to be black without getting hung for it, for instance. In this case, don’t look at it as you losing your rights, but rather as all of us gaining one. The right to go shopping without wondering if we should have worn our body armor.

2) When the American/Canadian/British government becomes tyrannical and we have to overthrow them…guns – This one is simpler. Your government has trained soldiers, thick arsenals, drones, nukes and deep pockets. You have an illegally purchased AK-47 and a four hundred mile walk to get to nearest oppressor. You’re not thinking of this in the correct context. Yes America’s military gets routinely spanked in foreign conflicts by inferior forces. But…in the scenario you’re predicting, you’d be fighting the American/Canadian/British military on home soil, where they have a concentration of resources, personnel, and surveillance infrastructure. It wouldn’t go well. For you. In light of that fact, your right to ineffectively defend yourself against a hypothetical and superpowered enemy does not trump my children’s right to go to school and come home breathing.

3) Guns don’t kill people, crazy people kill people – Guns have one intended purpose, to do incredible, physical damage to living things. That’s it. If you use your rifle as a banjo, it’s no longer fulfilling its intended purpose. And, if crazy people had less easy access to guns, they’d kill less people with them. The math isn’t on your side here; countries with stricter gun control laws have far, far fewer incidents of not just gun deaths, but also fatalities from violent crime.

4) Wacko libs are evil for politicizing tragedy- Well…yeah, and no. There are two political reactions that occur each time something like this happens. There’s the can-we-please-finally-do-something-about-this-and-make-assualt-rifles-illegal reaction and then there’s the wacko-libs-blarghhh-don’t-you-dare-try-to-take-away-my-boomstick side. One of those is a human reaction to seeing innocents lose their lives and comes from a desire to stop that from happening again, the other is a terrified howl at the prospect of having one’s toys taken away.

Guess which one I think is more misguided and evil.

Listen, the Internet and, by extension social media, allows everyone to react publicly to everything. I can understand expressions of grief, sympathy, outrage etc. I can understand people trying to make sense of it all, and trying to get into the mind of a person who would be willing to do these terrible things.

What I can’t understand is the urge to publicly make statements in favor of tools that only exist to kill, when they’ve just been used to cause so much pain and death. You may be right; it’s possible that guns are awesome and necessary and bake cookies when you’re out of town. But please, please try and remember that people just lost their loved ones and that your opinion on the value of weapons is, today, offensive and unwanted.

Am I missing something here?

  1. The question I have to ask is this: Why are they so afraid of each other? And why must those of us outside the US be subjected to their fear?

    • Demi says:

      I think it’s partially a cultural thing. As far as societal cohesion goes, the U.S ranks quite low compared to Canada or other developed countries. Historically the U.S has been quite individualistic, and distrust is a norm there – distrust of government, strangers, new paradigms. It’s why we and Europe have universal health care, while the U.S does not for instance.

      It’s easy to fear your neighbor when you’ve never been given reason to trust them. Compare that to a country like Canada, where recently we’ve stressed plurality, multiculturalism and being a ‘community of communities’. It’s not perfect, but we’ve been taught to respect, not fear our neighbors. Fear is hardwired to the American identity I feel, and not just in terms of personal security.

  2. Demi says:

    Totally agree with your views man. I’m glad here in Canada we don’t have to deal with issues as severe as this, or as misguided.

    On a sidenote, I’m glad you’re posting again. I missed reading your analysis and opinions on various things. I can’t wait to see what you write in the future.

    • The Walrus says:

      I understand a certain percentage of it is due to population density: more people in the US means more violent crime incidents but….

      We have a population of 35 million, they have a population of 370 Million: adjusting the numbers for density they should have about 1800 gun deaths a year. They have 15000.

      And it’s good to be back 😀

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