My cold dead hands
I’ve been thinking a lot about Americans and our guns lately. I’ve wanted to do a blog post about it but I’ve been reticent because gun rights are only slightly less divisive than abortion rights and – well – the people who disagree with me have guns.
That was a joke.
I’m not against gun rights. I want to put that right up front. I think that there is a pretty major difference between “anyone ought to be able to own any fucking gun they want” and “people should be required to have a permit to carry a weapon, should be held to very strict guidelines as to when it is appropriate to discharge a firearm and there are some weapons that civilians don’t get to own because why the fuck would they need it?”
What interests me most about the gun possession debate is that we are always having it. I can’t help but wonder – would Americans be so obsessed with guns if our constitution hadn’t given us the right to carry them?
What if the second amendment didn’t exist? Would we still have a firearm fixation?
As Americans, we are justifiably proud of our constitution. Even as we argue about what the damn thing means and what the framers meant, we all pretty much agree that the guarantee of free speech, freedom of assembly and so on are pretty good things.
These freedoms – and the desire to be free of British tyranny – are the sorts of lessons we get taught over and over again. It starts in grade school. The framers of our constitution and of our democracy are held up as the greatest of all Americans – even if they did define a slave as less than an entire person. And they decided women shouldn’t have the right to vote.
Anyone who wants to support their political perspective – no matter what that perspective may be – will look to bolster their argument with a phrase by one of the “founding fathers.”
In the Global Climate Change debate, a quote from John Adams carries more weight than one from – you know – an actual scientist.
Because we are taught to hold these people in such high esteem and we are taught that the Constitution is the single most perfect political document in the history of political documents, we take every bit of the bill of rights extremely seriously.
Criminals stay out of jail because of how seriously we take the issue of illegal search and seizure. The Westboro Baptist Church waves around signs saying “God Hates Fags” at military funerals because we take free speech just as seriously. We want to have our guns because the second amendment says we have a right to have our guns.
But what if we didn’t?
Would we want them so damn bad?
It is an unanswerable question.
We can all debate whether or not the proliferation of guns causes more or less gun deaths in our country per year and it won’t really matter because people who believe they have a right to any firearm for any reason honestly don’t care. They want to carry guns. Lots of guns.
They all have their reasons. It makes them feel like they can protect their family. It allows them to hunt deer. It gives them a better chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse.
For me, I wonder what I’d do if someone broke into my house and tried to kill my family. Well, if they had guns, I’d probably die. If they had guns and I had a gun, we’d probably both end up dead. If they didn’t have guns and I didn’t have a gun, I’d probably end up dead. If they didn’t have guns and I did – they would probably end up dead. Maybe.
So the odds are that I’d be dead – with or without a firearm.
The odds that anyone would break into my home and try to kill my family? Pretty tiny.
So would a gun help me protect my family? I don’t see that it would.
Does someone else have a right to possess a gun for that purpose? Absolutely.
But the need to have that gun is what I question. I know that I am at considerably higher risk of getting into a fatal car accident than being killed in a home invasion. That doesn’t stop me from using my car.
If I somehow survive an apocalypse, zombie or otherwise, I’m going to be in trouble because I don’t have a gun and a lot of ammunition. I admit that.
I’m also pretty realistic about the odds that I’ll survive the first wave.
If my government gets out of control (too late), I’m more likely to rise up by bitching about it online (like everyone else). I’m not likely to take up arms against my oppressor because – well – it wouldn’t work.
We all want to believe that the second amendment allows us to fight back against the tyranny of our own government but I’ll bet that if anyone tried to start some sort of armed uprising, they would very rapidly find out that real live has very little in common with movies. An arsenal of semi-automatic weapons would probably take down the first dozen cops in riot gear but eventually the National guard is going to show up.
As I think through all of the reasons to own a gun, the only one that really makes sense to me is hunting. I’m not a hunter so I don’t own a gun.
Aside from hunters, though, people who own guns use justifications that don’t hold up to scrutiny.
Yes, there are definitely people who carry guns for legitimate reasons. If I was responsible for carrying around large amounts of cash, I might carry a gun for protection because an armed guard could easily be seen as a deterrent.
I think most people who own guns in America, though, own them because they can.
I’m not saying anyone should be passing a law to change that. I still question if the main reason so many people want guns is because they feel that the constitution entitles them to one.