Guns are violent. Guns are inanimate and often silent, but in their function they are violent. They are like the forces of nature in that way, and reflect the natures of human beings who created tools that are useful and violent to help them persevere against a capricious and often violent world. Many things are strong, deadly and operate with a violent effect, but guns were created specifically with one need in mind--a way to concentrate power into a wieldable form, a power that is beyond what the physical bodies of humans can achieve without a tool. All weapons, all tools are a way that we use our intellect to extend our physical abilities to gain an advantage, and a firearm is a tool in that sense. But to see a gun, to see a photo of a firearm has a specific effect on us, produces a specific reaction. We know the significance of them; we know they are created to kill. Even if we never fire a gun except at a target, and see guns only as a type of sport, we know the original purpose of target practice. This is true of weapons.
Yet we are able to distance ourselves from the violence of guns, knowing we have them for a purpose we hope never to encounter. We can view them in a historical context that is colored by the very bloody, deadly conflict between humans so that guns are just part of this noise, a somewhat interesting and admired part of it. We can evaluate the tactics of war like a game and reenact these wars in recreation as an enjoyable pastime. We will adhere to a religious belief in which the instrument of torture and death of our Savior becomes the symbol of the Savior's sacrifice. Eons pass, and we distill very real things into symbolic ones, and then change the meanings. Humans do this all the time. It's one of the things, I believe, that is uniquely human. It takes a certain amount of intelligence to be calculatedly violent. Yet we maintain that ability to gloss over the significance of things so that as biological organisms, we can continue to thrive and reproduce. Many many things suffer at our hands, and we laugh at their suffering, deeming it part of nature.
Part II, written after December 15th
People love guns, people hate guns, people imagine a world with no guns; they should imagine a world without violence, for a world just as motivated by greed and self preservation in the gathering of resources but one without technology is a part of history. The truth is not necessarily revealed by facts. It may be ludicrous to talk about guns as being protection for women when more women and children die today because of firearms. But we are talking at cross purposes, comparing the statistical with the ideological. Do you believe, at your core, that you have the right to take up a weapon and defend yourself and your loved ones? Are you a pacifist. If you are not, what are the limits of the weapon you should be able to choose? Does the Second Amendment even address this? It seems very vague and insufficient for our purposes today.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed could be interpreted as there shall be no governmental regulation of any kinds of weaponry. But there is, of course. We regulate and control when and where firearms can be used, who can own them and who cannot, and what kind they can own.
A Constitution that cannot change or be interpreted in such a way to reflect the needs of the people in the society it is used to govern is useless. Philosophical beliefs can transcend time and space, the good ones always will. But we can't take 200 years of technology and ignore it. We are dealing with an issue of rights in a world where what was once not even something someone could imagine is now beyond possible. We can argue that the technology we have is too dangerous and we need to find ways to reign it in because our culture and society are such that we demand this as a people who elect leaders to govern us. We can interpret the Constitution literally, and therefore say we believe that we are limited to the firearms technology available at the time. We can't, however, say that there are only two options: no firearms, or unlimited weaponry. We aren't allowed to own nuclear suitcase bombs. We are allowed to interpret and write laws that we feel will serve us best as a technology.
Ultimately I do believe that people have the right to arm and defend themselves. I do believe people have the right to work together to interpret and change the laws in a way that is beneficial to society as a whole, in a way that is Constitutionally sound. I feel that, like the abortion issue, we are comparing apples to oranges. When you look at the issue of individual owning and using firearms, and when you look at the issue of people having abortions, the thought at first might be that these things are terrible and basically exist to end the life of living things. Just like most women who choose to have an abortion aren't saying, "yay, I get to kill a fetus", most people who use weapons aren't saying, "I'm going to go kill some children." People are making decisions about what is best for themselves and their family, even if it comes at a price that seems too high to others. I'm always amazed, I must say, when people who want to reserve the right to kill another human or group of humans to preserve their property as well as their safety, don't believe that a woman should have the right to end the pregnancy in her own body before the baby could ever exist outside of it. If there is a repercussion from the Universe and the State in making this decision, then each person has the right to make that decision for him or herself and deal with both the legal and spiritual fallout.
With the culture, the history, the ideology around the myriad of dangerous technology, whether weapon or not, we will never be able to keep people from dying violently, before their times. I'm willing to be proved wrong, I'm willing to try, but part of me believes that there are worse things than dying by a firearm. When I think of that woman in India, pulled gang raped to death, and thrown off the bus, I think it would have been better for her to have been shot.
I started writing this on December 15th, but I kept it as a draft for a long time