You wouldn’t cut a cake with a machete: Coming to terms with America’s addiction to guns
By Nick Dilonardo
Gun control and the coverage of the debate surrounding it currently pervade our media. It wasn’t always this way – but after the massacre in Newtown, Conn. things changed. An assault weapons ban entered into play, the conversation shifted, and suddenly the National Rifle Association was forced to make a statement. President Obama’s gambit for gun control presented itself as many on the right had their fears realized. Obama was finally coming after their big guns.
Much of the debate occurred while I myself was out of the country. I left home in the aftermath of Newtown for an intersession in London. I watched both the debate and Obama’s inauguration play out from thousands of miles away.
However, a point was raised while I was abroad in the waning hours of one Sunday, as I had just watched my San Francisco Forty-Niners move past the Atlanta Falcons and into the Super Bowl sometime around midnight. An African-American son of an army officer from Chicago that sat watching the game in our group took exception to the recent debate, as we turned towards conversation during another commercial.
“Chicago had over five hundred homicides last year, most of them involving handguns,” he said. “But it wasn’t until twenty white kids from Connecticut died that all of a sudden guns became a problem in America.”
It was an intense and controversial statement near 1 a.m. to mull over beer and football. Professor Stoll had long since gone back to bed after we celebrated the win. But as the rest of us sat there pondering the words of the only kid of color among us as, we shifted in our seats. We hit upon a common refrain: he might be right.
Soon after, the same kid went off about how 9/11 was an inside-job, and how his dad got a text telling him not to go to the Pentagon that day. Needless to say, more of us began to return our focus to the football. But his words that night and to this day stay with me; especially as we decide what to do about our culture of guns.
As even avid gun nut Hunter S. Thompson himself once wrote in the aftermath of another gun related death, even those of us who love to shoot can come to question the nature of that love in light of the tragic.
“The day after Robert Kennedy died, I received a notice from my local railway express office saying my Walther P-38 automatic pistol had arrived,” Thompson wrote. “We shot it one afternoon, agreeing that it had a very smooth action. And then I sent it back. Returning the P-38 solved nothing. It only postponed the necessity of coming to grips with my gun problem.”
What Newtown and Aurora provided for some of us was the case in point for the ridiculous nature of our nation’s laws concerning guns. For some purpose, weapons like an AR-15 assault rifle are legally purchasable. While some are quick to point out that “AR” doesn’t actually stand for assault rifle, that’s it is an unfair moniker, I beg to question the difference. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we all know what it is. If a rifle shoots multiple rounds semi-automatically and with a caliber of bullet nearly identical to the very same as the M-16 – our country’s basic military assault weapon – then I’ll let you continue to argue semantics. The pressing reality with which we are faced is one in which one side seeks to argue the necessity of absolute access to these weapons, while the other argues for their regulated control.
People love to point out that it is in our vital national security interest for our citizenry to bear arms in the event that our government overextends into tyranny. They argue that the Second Amendment is vital in preventing our government from exerting its tyrannical will upon us. But can any of us really argue the remote possibility of American citizens raising up with fists and rifles against an American government armed with drones, tanks and its own air force? Forgive me for introducing the ridiculous and the hyperbolic, but that’s where this conversation goes. That’s the Jeffersonian argument people from the NRA like to offer. The problem is that the point lacks inherency.
What does that mean? It means this: If I offer to take you to lunch at Chipotle in order to solve your hunger, my plan lacks inherency if you’ve already had lunch at Chipotle and your hunger is not solved (it’s not your fault – they probably skimped on the meat and guacamole). In other words, when people who are against gun control argue that we need guns in order to prevent the government from becoming too powerful to violently and militarily bend us to their will, that point lacks inherency. Our military’s size and budget is greater than all the members of the United Nations’ Security Council combined, and then some. You see, the argument lacks inherency.
Furthermore, current “gun-free” zones and weapons bans already exist. This, the gun rights supporters tell you, is a classic example of why restrictions on guns don’t work. This is their attempt to make a claim for the other side’s lack of inherency. This argument goes like this: because gun laws already exist, yet murders still occur, gun laws are therefore useless. To take it further, because we all know criminals don’t follow the law – as NRA president Wayne LaPierre likes to note – it’s useless to pass laws against them.
This idiotic logic is the very problem of our current political climate. It’s reflective of an absolutist perspective, in which if we can’t achieve everything, we might as well accept nothing. It’s an argument that basically says “because government can’t be perfect, we might as well not try.” It stems from a weak wil. It’s unimaginative. It’s not hopeful.
There is no legitimate reason for guns like the AR-15, like the one used in Aurora and Newtown, to be accessed by the public. The only reason other than the “defend against tyranny” argument is one for hunting, which is ridiculous, or for pleasure, which is intriguing. I cannot lie: I own a gun, and I enjoy shooting them too. There is a pleasure in target shooting. But there is also something to be said for examining the source of that pleasure, as Hunter Thompson himself was forced to do as well. My grandmother always said “everything has a price.” What is the price of this pleasure? How many innocent deaths a year do we have to suffer in order to continue to enjoy playing with our guns?