Thu 13 Jan 2011
For the past week the American media has been fixated on an act of violence that has left six dead and wounded fourteen, including Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords. Last night President Obama, in a stirring and emotional speech at a memorial service for the victims, urged Americans not to use this tragedy as a staging ground for the usual politics of blame:
But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.
Beneath the brief aura of civility in this tragedy’s aftermath there lingers an ongoing current of uncivil rhetoric, fueled in large part by media pundits eager to gain an audience. The blame has already been assigned over and over again. In this particular case it appears that the killer, Jared Lee Loughner, was an emotionally disturbed individual who acted on his own. Thus, it is no surprise that a Tea Party icon like Kentucky’s newly elected senator Rand Paul would go on Fox News and remind us all: “But the weapons don’t kill people. It’s the individual that killed these people.”
It certainly is true that the Glock 9 mm pistol did not go off on its own, so obviously there is no need to punish the gun involved in this case, nor even the bullets used. The problem is that if we claim that guns don’t kill, we must also admit that guns don’t die either. Guns don’t even commit suicide. Since no guns died in this killing spree, there is no need for a memorial service for them, nor asking for God’s extraordinary mercy on ordinance. In a world where only guns and no people existed, nobody would ever get killed; this is indisputable. Unfortunately, Arizona, like Afghanistan and Iraq, is not a world without people who are capable of being killed.
I fully support the conservative mantra that people kill, whether they are schizophrenic like Dr. Rand suggests is the case for Mr. Loughner, Taliban terrorists or patriotic heroes. Our constitution does not recognize equal rights for guns as such but only the right of citizens to bear arms. The framers drafted this at a time when security could not be provided by the government and many individuals really did have to keep guns handy to defend themselves (or kill off the troublesome Indians in the way of the settler’s progress). We can hardly blame our founding fathers (the mothers being at home sewing flags) for not recognizing that perhaps one day our country would be safe enough so its average citizen would not need to pack a pistol, east or west of the Pecos. It probably did not occur to a patriot like Thomas Jefferson that one day a man could feed his family by buying food in a grocery store rather than hunting, or that a pistol capable of shooting off 30 rounds in seconds has a legitimate purpose outside law enforcement.
But if we admit that only people kill with guns, most animals still respectfully doing in their prey with tooth and claw, then perhaps we should find a way to protect guns from people. If some people are bound to misuse guns, then we may need a new amendment to our constitution safeguarding the right of a gun to exist without being used by a human to kill another human or any kind of life. I suspect that if guns had any brains they would be appalled that they are being used to take the lives of humans, who are after all their creators. What creature would want to kill his creator, especially one that never disobeyed any of the 10 commandments. There is not one gun in all of history that is guilty of violating the 6th commandment given on Mt. Sinai before there were any guns. Thus, I have no problem with a mechanical libertarian law that any registered gun in the United States of America should have a right to buy another gun. A background check would not be necessary because we all know that guns never kill.
So now that we can all agree that people kill, with or without guns, we can finally focus on why people kill. There are all sorts of reasons, some good but most evil as implied in the word “murder.” What Jared Loughner did is evil by any standard, a crazed act with no recognizable justification. Just across the border in Mexico drug lords kill people all the time, but they are not emotionally disturbed; they are protecting their business, illegitimate as it is in our eyes. A Taliban suicide bomber thinks he is doing God’s will, or at least the imam who told him it was God’s will. This may seem crazy to us, but only if you think your God is real and his or hers is not.
Then there is the fear that some deranged dictator in the Middle East will get a hold of weapons of mass destruction. This prompted President Bush to launch a war in Iraq that has cost us over 100 billion dollars and several thousand lives lost of our own military, not counting the thousands of Iraqis who have died after being liberated from a dictator who at least provided security. Yet I have never heard anyone say that weapons of mass destruction do not kill. If it is true that as a firm principle guns do not kill, which justifies our American constitutional right to own them, then why did we topple the government of Saddam Hussein (hardly the only brutal dictator around) and what is the fuss about Iran getting a nuclear weapon? If guns don’t kill, neither do nuclear bombs. But of course, we don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon, like we do, because they might do us harm. So at least in this case we can all agree that it is good to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons because of their potential damage. Some crazy might get a hold of one. Of course we don’t need to worry about that with guns, not in Arizona. Or do we?
One Response to “Guns don’t kill, neither do guns die”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.