A hammer is a tool. An ax is a tool. An electric hand-drill is a tool. A gun is a tool. All of these objects are harmless. They are incapable of causing harm without direct human intervention. Left to their own devices they just sit there, and maybe rust.
A hammer, an ax, or a gun are frightening only in the hands of a criminal bent on mayhem. The electric hand-drill in the hands of a criminal intent on mayhem is fucking terrifying. The common element of all of these things is that they are rendered dangerous by human action. Whether that action is due to malevolence or ignorance is immaterial- it is human action that makes the difference. None of these objects are inherently harmful or dangerous.
‘But guns are designed to kill!” I hear you cry. It’s mostly true, but again irrelevant. Someone who has had their head bashed in with a hammer is not magically ‘less dead’ because of the tool used… and the tool is not responsible for how it’s used.
It’s true that repeating firearms offer a greater potential to produce more casualties more quickly than the other tools mentioned. This is why their ownership is restricted to citizens over a certain age, and without a significant criminal history. It’s why we require a background check for persons to own one, and why certain types of military arms are under tight restrictions or are banned from private ownership. BUT a firearm is just a tool. It is not evil, it is not malevolent. It is frightening only to the ignorant. It creates havoc only by virtue of direct human intervention. Perhaps the practical solution to gun violence is to work on the humans, not the guns.
If you find firearms frightening educate yourself. Take a gun safety class. Understanding relieves fear. Even if you continue to dislike guns you will at least be informed enough to make sensible decisions about them. If you study actual, honest to God crime statistics and are informed about the operation and safe use of firearms you will at least be able look at proposed laws and regulations with an informed eye, so you are better able to judge their potential effectiveness.
Ignorance creates fear. Fear creates bad decisions and bad laws. Break the cycle.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 June 2019
Enjoyed this essay and seeking your thoughts on an idea I have been toying with. I am a proponent of looking at guns as tools also. Clearly, guns like other tools do not have a telos. This is true as far as it goes, but I wonder if it doesn’t go very far. It seems to me that gun proponents underplay the extent to which their objective design makes guns particularly good devices for those who intend interpersonal violence (either criminal or defensive). They do not require the proximity of a knife or fists (why we don’t bring a knife to a gunfight); they are more accurate at distance than an atl atl; they can shoot multiple projectiles more quickly than a bow or slingshot; and they are easier to carry than a rocket propelled grenade. To play on the well-worn NRA phrase, â€œGuns donâ€™t kill people, but they can make it easier.â€ That’s why we privilege carrying guns over axes, hammers, and drills.
Maybe this is not saying anything you have already said, but thought I would submit for your thoughts. Thanks!
Guns may be tools, but when wielded with criminal intent they make the criminal undeniably more lethal, which is why they are regulated. However no amount of regulation has ever been sufficient to prevent criminals from obtaining or using them, even in totalitarian dictatorships let alone the United States. It’s arguable whether they have even made it more difficult; we need to address the problem at the root, the human level if you will. Sure, background checks aren’t generally a big inconvenience, and they may help dissuade casual criminals and minors from obtaining guns. But if we really want to reduce violence we need to examine the root causes of and work to ameliorate those causes.
Well said, Michael. I agree 100%.