Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gun Blame Game Misses Target

Like a dog with a bone.

Gun control advocates have seized upon the burst of gun violence ricocheting across America, and are bent on stopping it.

With more laws.

Now, I don't own a gun, don't want to own a gun, and am not convinced the Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to bear semiautomatic machine guns.  But neither do I believe gun control is the answer to violence committed with guns.

I mean, talk about closing the barn door after the horse has bolted!  Right now, today, there are over 270 million registered guns in the United States.  Compare that number with the approximately 650 million civilian-owned guns in the entire world.  Every year, Americans purchase more than half of all guns manufactured.  And new laws will curtail this demand for weaponry?  How?

Remember, we can't legislate morality.  Murder by gun is already illegal, but it still happens.  How many would-be murderers suddenly hesitate, worried less about what wanting to kill somebody says about their moral compass, and worried more about not committing a crime?  They're willing to take a life, but not willing to break a law to do so.  As often as that type of scenario doesn't happen, a would-be murderer's legal incentive to put down a gun is just as nil.

Isn't it obvious that sensationalism surrounding massacres like Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado is what's driving anti-gun paranoia?  Meanwhile, more people are killed every day by drunk drivers on America's highways, and our society's not up in arms over that fact.

New Benchmark for Corporate Complicity?

Former Wall Street financier John MacIntosh wrote an op-ed for today's CNN.com calling for a group of wealthy liberals to buy-out gun manufacturing company Freedom Group, makers of the gun used in the Newtown tragedy, and run it "ethically."

As if whomever's running Freedom Group right now intends for its customers to slaughter human beings.  Granted, guns have only one purpose, and that's to kill.  They're not designed to simply wound; being wounded by gunfire usually means the shooter missed.  If guns were supposed to just fire "warning shots," the velocity which which they project bullets would be sufficient to maybe break the skin, and temporarily cripple one's target.  But not ruin bodily organs.

Why do gun manufacturers make guns?  Because there's market demand for them, duh!  Even if it can mostly be summed-up as testosterone-fueled hubris.  After all, how many guns does a person need to hunt?  Or to protect themself when walking the grim streets of East Harlem?  To the extent that guns represent a twisted sense of empowerment, the willingness of Americans to keep buying them probably reflects more poorly on the lack of security people feel in this country, and not a secret desire to blast everybody else off of the planet.  But Freedom Group doesn't delve too deeply into the psychology of its customers, and if it's unethical for them not to, plenty of other manufacturers would be far more unethical.

For example, if we're going to start blaming the manufacturers of products used to kill people for those deaths, then why aren't we going after alcohol distilleries, whose products are used to kill far more people.  While technically, killing with a gun is murder, whereas drunk driving is "only" manslaughter, isn't the end result still the same?  Our courts give leeway when it comes to motive, but in God's eyes, taking a life by either commission or omission isn't as nuanced, particularly since drinking and driving is such an avoidable crime.

The difference between alcohol violence and gun violence?  Not the end result, of course, which is the death of another human being.  The difference is that far more people drink and drive than use a gun to murder someone.  Try blaming a popular beer company for the deaths in which its products are complicit, and see how far you get.

For example, where was the self-righteous Bob Costas with his half-time diatribe against drunken driving after intoxicated Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent wrecked his Mercedes, killing his passenger and fellow teammate, Jerry Brown, early in December?  Remember, after Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs shot his girlfriend to death in November, Costas harangued the nation on gun control from his network sportscaster's desk the next day.

Beer companies rule professional sports.  Costas knows who to pick fights with, and it can't be with his bread and butter.

With gun violence, however, the enemy seems far more vulnerable.  And the enemy of choice isn't as much our society's lust for violence, since it's as popular as alcoholic beverages, but guns.  Unfortunately for America's gun owners, their most powerful political ally is the National Rifle Association, run by a bunch of older white guys who think good PR is staging an embarrassingly calloused press conference a week after Newtown, and calling for big-government programs for cops in schools and a national mental patient database.

Thing is, the NRA knows it's got significant firepower behind itself, so they don't need to project a slick image, or sound any more rational than gun control advocates.  The NRA has the nation's stockpile of civilian-owned weaponry on its side, all 270 million pieces of it.  Roughly nine guns for every ten Americans.  That's where the logic of gun control advocates completely falls apart.

Motive Doesn't Depend on Method

So let's get back to this thing call "motive."  The thing that keeps drunk drivers who kill from being tagged as murderers in our society.  What is the motive of folks who take a gun and kill innocent people?  Ferocious anger?  An inability to cope with stress?  Inexplicable mental confusion?  Sexual perversion?  Greed?  An inferiority complex?  Being teased in school?  A deviant desire for attention?  Religious extremism?

In Nigeria, a group of bloodthirsty killers called Boko Haram is terrorizing cultural Christians, but they're not shooting their victims.  They're slitting their throats, setting fire to them, and bombing them.  We Americans don't hear much about the atrocities taking place in Nigeria because the slaughter of white, wealthy schoolchildren in Currier and Ives country trumps dark-skinned savagery in a part of the world where we think it's customary.

It's unlikely that gun control legislation in Nigeria is forcing Boko Haram to resort to knives and bombs, especially since crisis experts believe they're now being supplied and financed by al Qaeda.  But the killing is still taking place with impunity.  The evil of hatred is both plain and complex, which poses the most significant challenge not just to international aid groups seeking an end to the violence against Nigeria's Christians, but to Americans angry with our gun violence here at home.

One thing's for sure:  advocates for peace in Nigeria aren't crafting any anti-knife laws.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, elitists like John MacIntosh have begun to rhapsodize about taking over gun companies and running them ethically.  MacIntosh claims that executives at Freedom Group perpetuate a "banality of evil" in their corporate groupthink, although away from the office, he says they may be "decent enough" folks.  Leave it to a Wall Street alumnus to think he knows how to save other people from themselves!  Or, for that matter, how to run a business ethically.

The ethics we need to be talking about are not those of the gun manufacturer, but the gun user.

Otherwise, free enterprise as we know it could be held liable for the sins many people don't want to acknowledge.
_____

2 comments:

  1. I agree...BUT.

    As you say, we can't legislate morality, but I think that's often just a cop-out for saying we might as well throw up our hands in surrender to whatever problem we may face because it's just too too big.

    Legislation does not guarantee compliance, but it at least a start. If we had allowed 'we can't legislate morality' rule the day, the violence perpetrated against African Americans in the 1950's (e.g. Selma) would still be with us.

    I do not argue for banning firearms across the board. However, if I were to come to hate you (God forbid) I'd find it a lot easier to kill you with a gun than with a car. Let's keep cars out of the gun debate. If there's an analogy there, it's too weak to be valid.

    I agree that our wider culture has become obsessed with violence, even to the point of infatuation. There's another issue that needs to be addressed. Widely and intensely.

    INI. Dave

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  2. I would say it's not just violence, per say, but America's glorification & celebration of violence that is the key issue. Our violent pop culture is exported around the globe, but no other country with similarly high rates of gun ownership exhibit the same embrace of violence that America has. I've been trying to figure out a way of writing an essay on that without sounding like a traitor.

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