Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Which I Explain Some Things About Gun Control

In the wake of the Connecticut shootings there has been a lot of fighting about guns and gun rights and gun control, as there always is when there is a shooting. It's sad that tragedies such as this make people get so hateful and angry with one another, when they should be devoting their efforts to helping the families affected and coming up with positive solutions. But human nature being what it is, there will always be people who react in irrational ways to such horrific news. My goal in this post is to help each side understand the other a bit better, because I think I understand both sides of the argument as well as a person can. Please note, I am aware that there are exceptions to the groups of people I'm discussing - I am speaking in generalities. Also, I'm not going to get into my own opinions about guns, which you probably already know anyway. That's not my point here. I just want both sides to understand each other a little bit better.

A typical gun rights advocate is poor and from a rural area. She probably was raised using guns for hunting and learning basic self defense. Everyone she knows has a gun or has at least shot a gun a few times, so to her, guns are no big deal - they're just tools like any other tool. She probably has a lower level of education than would be desired, either because she couldn't afford it, or was simply never made aware of what opportunities existed for her. She has probably suffered a disproportionate amount of shit in her life - it's part of being poor. She probably has relatives in jail or prison. She probably has had to go without food and/or electricity for periods of time. She has probably been the victim of a crime, perhaps a violent crime. She doesn't travel much. She likely comes from a dysfunctional, broken family with members who have drug problems, drinking problems, mental illnesses and violent tendencies. The family members are almost without exception very poor. They are no help to her in a crisis. She has to rely on herself for everything.

A typical gun control advocate is from the suburbs or the city. She probably came from a middle class or upper middle class family. Maybe she has shot a gun, but she certainly doesn't own one, and her parents probably didn't either. She might even be afraid of guns. She may have had some things go wrong in her life - for instance, her parents maybe had a messy divorce, or she had a family member die - but she hasn't experienced the deep, systematic fucking that our gun rights advocate has. She is well educated and probably has at least a BA. She has probably seen some poor people when she did her study abroad in Brazil, but she has never been truly poor herself. When things go wrong in her life, they tend to work out in the end, because she has a network of friends and family members to help her, and she has the financial resources to take care of herself in times of trouble. She has probably not had serious trouble with the law, and she may not even know anyone personally who is imprisoned. If she has been the victim of a crime, it was probably vandalism, or someone breaking into her car and stealing from her. She was able to replace anything that needed replacing.

So, those are our two "types" of people. I know there are exceptions. Hear me out.

So, when a shooting situation happens like the one in Connecticut, the gun rights advocate will immediately go on the defensive, shouting "You can't take away my guns! I have rights! SECOND AMENDMENT MOTHERFUCKERS!" And the gun control advocates will shout "How could you be so insensitive at a time like this? Those guns are what killed all of those babies! If it weren't for those guns you love so much, this would never have happened. DIE REDNECK SCUM!"

But that's because they aren't understanding each other.

Here's what the gun rights advocate really is thinking:
Life is unfair. Life will systematically fuck you. At any time, a violent criminal could sneak into your house, kill your entire family and take away everything you love in life. And you have precious little to begin with. At any time, the government could start rounding us up and putting us in concentration camps. At any time, things can go horribly wrong. Without guns, you have no way to defend yourself agains these kinds of things. You are helpless against the shit that life constantly throws at you.

The motivation for the gun rights advocate isn't simply redneckitude, or the need to feel macho with a big shiny gun. It's fear. And to the gun rights advocate, this is a justified, rational fear. Everything in her experience has taught her that bad things can and do happen, and when they do, everything falls apart. So when you talk about taking away her guns, you aren't just talking about taking away a dangerous toy that she likes to play with. You're talking about taking away her safety, her security, and by extension, everyone and everything she loves.

That is why the gun rights advocates get so crazy and defensive when gun control is discussed.

Now, here is what the gun control advocate is really thinking:
When violence happens, it always seems to be done by guns. Guns are far more deadly than knives or chainsaws or other weapons, and there is no reason for people to have them. Yes, perhaps there are some rednecks in the woods who use them to hunt, and gun control advocates may or may not be ok with that. But they see no reason whatsoever for a person to have non-hunting guns, since those are designed for the sole purpose of killing people. Killing people is a bad thing to do.

To the gun control advocate, the world is a more or less safe place. If there is a problem, the police can be called, and the police will protect you. There is no need to protect yourself in a civilized society; that's why we pay taxes - so others can do it for us. They don't believe that the government will turn against us and round us up and put us in concentration camps - there is no evidence to support that the government is planning any such thing, and their experiences tell them that the government is good and helpful. They probably had good, decent parents as well, so their experiences with authority have been largely positive. They have no reason to believe that life will fuck them - it hasn't fucked them in the past, who why should it in the future? To them, the worries of the gun rights advocate seem silly, irrational and paranoid. In fact, to them, those worries sound fake - like lame excuses that rednecks come up with so that they can keep their big, powerful guns and feel like manly men. They believe that gun control will end - or at least reduce - deadly violence. Why would any rational person be against reducing deadly violence?

And that is why gun control advocates get so angry when gun control laws are not passed.

In sum, a gun rights advocate honestly believes that the world is a dangerous place, and that guns are necessary for self protection. They do not trust the police or other government agencies to help them - those agencies have not helped them in the past, and they have no reason to expect that they will in the future. A gun control advocate honestly believes in the social safety net - consisting of both government agencies and their friends and family members - it has never let them down before, and they have no reason to believe that it will in the future. A gun control advocate sees no reason to have guns - they see them as dangerous tools of destruction. A gun rights advocate sees them as useful tools that they can use to defend and feed their families.

Who is correct? We have all heard the arguments for and against gun control, so I see no reason to rehash them here. It won't do any good anyway. The type of person you are - the way you were raised, and the way you see the world - is what informs your opinions on gun control, and no amount of statistics or rhetoric or shouting will change your mind. You would have to change your entire worldview in order to change your mind on gun control, which is what makes these debates so hard and heated.

So there's my two cents. I hope I have summed up both sides of the argument adequately - if you feel I haven't, I apologize. I tried to keep my own opinions out of it, though I may have failed slightly - again, I apologize if I came across opinionated - my goal was to explain the opposing sides to each other, not to proselytize.

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