From Cold, Dead Hands

Some will say that it is cold and cynical to talk about a political topic like gun control in the aftermath of a horrible event as that which transpired in Colorado recently. The raw shock and disgust that any feeling person must feel after hearing that a lone gunman killed 12 and wounded scores of others in a movie theatre is the perfectly human response. To look beyond the surface and try and understand how something like this could happen is perfectly human as well, and I don’t think doing so is any kind of disservice or insult to the memory of those so recently lost their lives to such senselessness .

That said, I didn’t originally have any notion to write about this tragedy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been watching the news and reading the stories as much as anyone, but being the cynical and misanthropic¬† bastard¬† I am, I had a pretty good sense for where this was all going; the perpetrator of the crime would somehow associate himself and his motives with the character and the themes of the movie in question, would turn out to be someone nobody would have ever suspected was capable of such brutality, the public would cry out for reasoned debate about the virtue of allowing average citizens to procure assault weapons, and gun enthusiasts would declare their inalienable right and support to bare those arms. I haven’t been disappointed.

But, once more into the breach, and all that. Not that I expect my opinion to change anything, or expect this tragedy to result in any real and meaningful action in the matter of gun control. See, lots of people have opinions, including those who will disagree with me. An opinion doesn’t change anything in itself. And a tragedy doesn’t change anything either. But, it can motivate dialogue, and dialogue can generate consensus and compromise. So, I guess I can hope for a little of that.

Guns and gun violence are perhaps the two most polarizing topics of debate between us and our neighbours south of the border. A good deal of it is infused with the history of the creation of our countries; the US won their independence through force of arms, whereas Canada became a nation through diplomacy and dialogue. The Americans are proud of their history, and I’m pretty stoked by ours. But, that pivotal difference in our collective identities is exactly why the gun control debate is so contentious. Americans feel they believe in action and sticking up for themselves, and that Canadians are lazy and docile and get stepped on. Canadians feel they believe in talking your way to a solution, and finding a peaceful means of solving conflict while the Americans just blow shit up.

I confess my bias.

Those who oppose gun control insist that guns actually save lives. After all, if you possess a gun, you can defend yourself from those who would aim to use one against you. The world is a dangerous place, and the only way to protect yourself is to gear up the way the baddies do. If the criminals have guns, so should you, if you want to stand a chance of protecting yourself from them. Besides, it’s right there in the Constitution, and unless you plan on wiping your arse with that historic document, you won’t be refusing the common citizenry their right to arm themselves.

It’s interesting to note that, in a country where legal gun owndership is argued to be a way of defending yourself against criminals, not a single person in that theatre had a gun but the killer. I’m sure lots of people have actually pitied that particular observation, thinking that the whole tragedy could have been averted had one responsible citizen thought to bring their handgun. It also raises the question whether there’s any real value to the notion that owning a gun makes you safer. I know that most of the law enforcement and military people I have known in my lifetime, or spoken to, have typically said that you are more likely to have your gun turned against you than you are to use it on an attacker, and I believe it despite the lack of statistics. Let’s face it, the average person is not a ruthless killer. The average attacker is probably closer to that description. The willingness to pull the trigger and end a life is the key differentiator between you/me and the guy breaking into your home to steal your stuff. If you aren’t going to be able to pull the trigger without hesitation, you shouldn’t have the thing in the first place, because it isn’t that hard for someone to take that weapon from you and do what you’re unable to do.

Studies have shown that firearm ownership does not, in fact, make the owner any safer. As a matter of fact, in most cases it makes the person more likely to suffer injury or death. Sure, there are occassions where a gun is used in self defence effectively, but there are far more situations where the wrong person gets shot, or the gun owner fails to protect themselves. And, let’s be reasonable about this, if someone points a gun at you with the intention of intimidating you, then you point a gun at them, that intention to intimidate will suddely be frightened into an intention to kill because they perceive they are being threatened as well. The violence escalates in direct proportion to the number of weapons in the situation.

The arguments against gun control are ridiculous, really. “I have a Constitutional right….” Morons. The Constitution, a document written in 1787, applied to a time when armed militias were an integral part of national security, and weapons were used in defence of your home against animals and natives. Law enforcement was sparse and the only way to defend your property was to do so yourself, in many cases.

What in the flaming Hell does any of that have to do with our modern world?

And, I’m pretty sure the dudes writing the Constitution didn’t have in mind a future time when the “arms” that they were insisting every American had the right to bare would be an assault weapon with a 100 round magazine.

Then there’s the argument that the weapons themselves aren’t actually assault weapons. They were all legally purchased, as well. After all, the AR-15 is classified as a “sporting” rifle. It isn’t an assault rifle because it doesn’t have the ability to multi-select firing options, which essentially means it only fires one round with a pull of the trigger and is not fully automatic or set to burst fire. That kind of semantic garbage is a distraction from the point; the AR-15 serves no practical purpose that a lesser weapon couldn’t fulfill. What does someone really think they would use it for? Duck hunting?

The average person does not need to have access to weapons like an AR-15. There’s no need. There are plenty of people who would responsibly own and operate one, but unfortunately they also work very effectively in the hands of someone who has the wrong intentions. That means there is more risk of harm in those weapons being available than there is a benefit. When the risk outweighs the benefit, you’d think the conclusion would be obvious.

The whole situation is ridiculous. Why should any average person be able to equip and arm themselves the way this twisted idiot did? Body armour, smoke grenades, 100 round magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, handguns… Don’t get me wrong, I’ve once owned a handgun (I am exempt from that “if you wouldn’t pull the trigger” test because, well, I don’t like people, remember?) in the past, but I also had a gun safe that I kept it in, had two magazines for it that both held no more than 8 rounds of ammunition, and I typically had one box of ammunition stored in the gun safe. Unless you plan on getting into a gun battle, why would any normal person need a bullet proof vest or leggings? Why would items like that even be offered to unlicensed consumers?

Yes, criminals will always find weapons. Arguing that not owning one yourself just means that you won’t be able to fight back is retarded. Kids are killed every year, by mistake, by people who shoot them thinking that they saw a weapon in their hands. I would argue that more people are killed by guns out of wrongdoing or by accident than are killed in actual self-defence in the US.

Yes, this post is a little disjointed and rambling. It’s not my best work. And, a lot of that is because I am at a complete loss as to how I can articulate my confusion and disappointment that supposedly intelligent human beings can cling to such outdated and transparently irrational thinking regarding something that clearly poses an imminent threat to our safety and progress as people. Until we stop seeing things in terms of the need to violently defend ourself against a perceived threat, how are we going to move forward? How can we continue to progress as people when we still react to fear the way we did when we were living in caves?

All I know is 12 people died needlesly in a theatre trying to escape the difficulties of the world around them that night because a sick, demented individual decided he wanted to act out and was legally given the means to carry his plan out. Had he not had access to those weapons, he likely never would have been able to carry out his plan. It’s a lot harder to kill a roomful of people with a knife than it is with a gun. Maybe the ignorant fools talking about how we’ll take their guns out of their “Cold, dead hands” should think of how callous that sounds to the families of those victims and the victims who are still recovering from the wounds they received that night. I know I am.

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