- Posted January 11, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Gun control debate: Background checks
It is software, not hardware
There is a lot of hand wringing going on by the gun enthusiasts among us right now. Those of us who are familiar with firearms simply cannot grasp the rationale driving the discrepancy between prescribed responses to gun violence as opposed to the response to the larger problem (numerically speaking) of other kinds of violence. From a strict logical perspective, it makes no sense to approach gun violence any different than knife violence or baseball bat violence or box cutter violence.
Anyone who works with people can tell you, however, that logic is not something that humans are all that good at maintaining, particularly when emotions start coming in to play. Now before you get all excited, I am not talking about the emotions associated with the grief and loss from losing a loved one. Those are certainly overwhelming but I have found that people tend to do a surprisingly good job of looking past the tears and trying to find real answers. Grief is not what is driving the debate right now though, is it?
Think about it. With very few exceptions, the most vocal weepers with regards to the Sandy Hook shootings were not directly impacted. We all felt the horror and lump in our throat but it was an abstract pain. My daughters came home that night. We can all be empathetic, genuinely so, but the level of pain and grief felt by the most vocal proponents of massive inroads into the rights of law abiding citizens is not the sort that can explain the complete absence of logical progression and blatant over-simplification in the various bans and registrations and such. In order to understand it, we have to look a little deeper into the human psyche.
The response that is driving the panic is all about control. That is what scares us the most. Losing control. Now granted, this seldom plays out in reality, but in the perception of most people assault looks something like this. If someone attacks me with a knife or a bat or a spoon it is an intimate encounter. I can (or I tell myself I can) stand a chance of maintaining control of the situation. Guns change that landscape completely. If someone is shooting at me, it is very possible that they can be well outside the area of physical proximity that will allow me to respond in any way but stopping a bullet with my person. It is a psychological wresting of control from us and we don’t like it.
This is further reinforced by the decreasing number of people who are familiar with guns. Stats are pretty consistently indicating that there are more guns but fewer gun owners. It is the farm effect. Try to find someone that can talk coherently about the issues faced by farmers. It is a lot tougher to find than it was fifty years ago. Farms are bigger but there are fewer people on them. Guns are the same. I cannot tell you how irritating it is to we gun folks to hear “clip” and “magazine” used interchangeably or have to (again) explain to people that fully automatic weapons ARE heavily regulated. Once you start trying to discuss the arbitrary nature of the legal definition of “assault weapon” the conversation is lost. We fear what we don’t understand.
Combine the feeling that gun violence removes our personal control and autonomy (ironic that the solutions are to remove someone else's…) and the natural fear of the unknown and you have the recipe for stupid legislation.
The same thing happened after 9/11 in airports. I have to leave my fingernail clippers at home but I can bring a steel ink pen, something far more effective as a weapon. After 9/11 travel by automobile jumped exponentially. Why? People did not like to even entertain the idea that if someone took over that plane they could do nothing to stop it. …even though it is exponentially more risky to drive than it is to fly.
Now we see the same kinds of responses regarding guns. If you remove the media floodlight and 25 hour news recycle, you are more likely to be killed by tripping and falling than by being shot in the vast majority of locations. I use places because gun violence tends to be highly localized once you remove the statistical outliers like Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook (none of which would have been stopped by any kind of gun ban or control nor were they effected by being in "gun free zones".) Let us be honest and politically incorrect. Race and zip code are a far better indicator of your likelihood of getting shot than the number of firearms in your house or how secure they are. This should tell us something, seeing as how a gun couldn't care less how pigmented your skin is or what language you speak.
If we want to address the problems, and I think we do, there must be a push to get beyond the kneejerk reactions and fruitless legislation we are currently looking at. Bans and gun control and the like will have the same effect they have always had on violence. None. We must look to the nature of the violence and the things that spawn it and, as unpopular as this sentiment may be, accept that there will always be monsters. We will always be trying to stay one step ahead of them but sometimes they will beat us to the punch. Only by looking to the motives and genesis of violence will we make inroads. This is not a hardware problem, it is a software problem.