Friday, June 06, 2014

Bang! POw@#! Guns

I have not followed the nuts-and-bolts gun politics in the US well enough to know what real changes have taken place in the recent decades, but it looks to me as if guns have more and more rights in some states, even while they enable more efficient mass killings, more gun accidents at home (many involving children), more instant-rage-turned-to-life-long-grief-and-regret, more successful suicides.

While skimming some recent gun news I saw a comment which argued that cars kill more people than guns and should be banned first.  The comment was intended to show how inane anti-gun people are, I guess.  But thinking about cars and guns can be useful in this context.

For example, we accept the idea that cars can be dangerous, that one needs to pass a driving test before being allowed to drive one, that one needs insurance for the car, that the license to drive can be taken away, that one shouldn't text-and-drive, that one shouldn't drive drunk or on drugs and so on.  As far as I can tell, getting a permit for a gun doesn't require a shooting test or a written test about the rules which apply to gun use. 

Then there's the fact that the initial argument doesn't standardize for the number of cars vs. guns or the total amount of their use and doesn't even ask the basic question about the utility of cars vs. guns for most people or note that killing something very efficiently isn't the main idea behind cars but pretty much is the main idea behind guns.

I was also struck (pun not intended) by this Twitter picture which has to do with the lack of cultural rules about how to carry a gun if one wishes to do it openly, about how to predict who it is who might be planning a killing spree and who just wants to come across as an asshat in public.

The man on the left is Justin Bourque who allegedly killed three police officers in Canada and was apprehended yesterday.  I have no idea who the man on the right might be, but most people would react to the two in identical manner.  That's because seeing someone with a gun leads one to expect that it will be shortly used. Well, a "one" who has not grown up in a gun culture, that "one" would not wish to share the street or the store with people carrying rifles like that, and the reason is that anyone doing it looks like Justin Bourque.

The whole field is screaming, begging and pleading for a lot of difficult-but-crucial studies:  What happens to gun deaths in a state when the regulations are eased/tightened and when guns are more/less easily available?  What is the number of deaths avoided by someone using a gun defensively?  What is the number of deaths caused by someone using a gun defensively in error?  How many accidents resulting in deaths can be blamed on guns?

But we also need a conversation about the rights of others, those who are now expected to share the world with someone armed-to-the-teeth-just-in-case.  There are real psychological costs from having to shop next to someone carrying a gun (where are the exist if something happens, what could I crouch behind, how is this person feeling about others right now?) 

I'm not terribly optimistic about that conversation taking place in the US, because of the misuse of the second amendment:

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.
That "well regulated Militia" fell down the memory hole, never to reappear.  I wonder what the "Founding Fathers" would say about the current interpretation of that right...