Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On gun control: The (psychotic) elephant in the room

I read with interest this discussion of gun control over at Life as a Reader.

I was interested not so much in the arguments made -- they're well-articulated but not particularly new -- but in the assumptions that underlie the arguments. They're the same assumptions that I see in every American discussion of gun control.

In one sense, it's not surprising that these assumptions are made; without them, we couldn't have the kind of discussions we have. On the other hand, it does surprise me that no one seems to notice (or at least mention) something what's being assumed. No one seems to notice that there's an elephant in the room.

The assumptions we make are these: American society is perfectly normal. The level of violence in our society is perfectly normal. A society in which (some) private citizens (arguably) need guns to defend themselves is perfectly normal. Calm, rational, intelligent discussion of private gun ownership is perfectly normal.

But here's the elephant in the room that no one seems to notice: None of those things are normal. They're not normal, they're sick. Crazy sick.

Our calm, rational, intelligent discussions of private gun ownership never question the basic sanity of our society. We simply assume it.

But American society is insane. The level of violence in our society is insane. A society in which private citizens need guns to defend themselves is insane. A society in which intelligent people calmly discuss the need for private gun ownership is insane. Our tolerance of these things is insane. Our inability to see what we're doing is insane.

What we Americans have forgotten -- if we ever knew it -- is that crime and violence and fear are not the natural state of human beings. They're not inevitable. All the wastage of human lives, all the harm to victims and potential victims (and to criminals), do not have to happen. People can live in peace with one another. This is not merely an ideal. It is normal, and any other state of human existence is abnormal.

Violence is not simply a part of normal life. It is evil, ugly, disgusting, horrifying, and frightening. We must see violence for what it really is. We must learn this in order to deal with it. A society that forces individuals to strategize against violence, whether it's through the "insulation" that the rich can buy, the purchase of weapons, moving to safer areas, changing when and where we go and how we get there, or simply cowering in fear in our own homes, is failing at a fundamental level.

By failing to stop violence and by leaving individuals to fend for themselves against it, our society is failing to promote the general welfare; it is failing to secure the blessings of liberty for its members. A society that tolerates this, that treats crime and violence as an undesirable but normal part of life, is terribly sick. And a society that refuses to recognize its own sickness, that won't do everything it takes to stop the violence -- including proactive strategies like properly funding schools as well as reactive strategies like locking people up or executing them -- will never heal its own insanity.

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  1. When Guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

  2. And police. And the military. But that's not the point. I'm not advocating any particular position on gun control. (I don't feel any need for a gun now, but I'd probably buy one if I lived in certain places in this country, or did certain jobs, etc.)

    My point is that this whole conversation is crazy in itself, and no one seems to notice that.

  3. Pretty soon it won't matter what anyone thinks. What will matter is how a man can defend his life, home and family from looters and rioters.

  4. And that's crazy. Whether it's true or not, it's crazy.


What do you think?