08 April 2009

duck and cover

was what we all learned to do as kids in school, as part of our drill against nuclear attack. at the risk of being too vulgar for a clergyman in public, when we turned teenagers we defined it as bending over and kissing our ass goodbye because that was how effective we all esteemed the practice to be.

a colleague has a blog in which there has been a conversation about guns, and whether in the light of several killing sprees they ought better to be managed. i am noting this because this issue never fails to arouse intense feelings. having once lived in the rootin' tootin' republic o' Texas i well remember the zeal folks can have about this.

but it became infinitely tragic this past week when a fellow in Pittsburgh, convinced by an assortment of Internet rumors that the new administration was secretly planning to confiscate private fire arms or something close to that, decided to take his own life and that of several police officers in response.

now, i admit and affirm that trying to control violence by banning guns is as useless as 'duck and cover.' but that does not mean nothing can be done at all. if air raid drills cannot save us, treaties and other things have nuclear war far less likely.

like the struggle over abortion, we risk falling into a black/white, yes,/no, right/wrong mind set about guns. nothing in human nature can be reduced to this simplistic level of choice. and that's exactly the problem. there are no easy, simple answers to issues like abortion, gun control, obscenity, and more. but passionate feelings drive people to extreme positions they then must defend, creating these perversely stark options, neither of which are workable.

i have no answers here, but i do have questions. one would be asking how firearms can best serve as a good form of defense against violence? sporting use of guns i do not question, and no one of intelligence would either. all the worry attaches to the idea that a firearm can protect us when someone is a danger to us.

but we need to ask what it would take for ordinary people, you and me, to do that. merely owning a gun does not protect us. to assume we all know how to use a gun well, facing danger we did not see coming, and use it effectively, may be more wishful thinking than good judgment.

let's have some thoughtful conversations about the 'civic' role of firearms as a tool for citizens to defend themselves. let's ask what purpose they serve and then how best to preserve that role and how best to prevent misuse. let's have that conversation for a change.

a guy can dream, can't he?


Revwilly said...

Here is what is interesting to me: the number of death from alcohol impaired driving in the years 05 and 06 was nearly 26,000. I know that the number of deaths by firearms was as high if not higher, however, suicides by firearms are included in those numbers probably making things pretty even. Why is there not at least an equal outcry about drunk driving. Why is there no one calling for the abolition of alcohol? I know it was tried once and would not work if tried again. Nor would the abolition of firearms work. And if you add the deaths from alcoholism into the equation I'm sure the number of deaths related to alcohol far exceeds death by firearms in any given year and likely many firearms death involved alcohol. So which is the greater evil?

WFW said...

two assumptions you seem to be making, and correct me if I am wrong.

1. That I am promoting some sort of gun abolition thing. I am not. I am asking that we talk about what firearms mean to us, really talk about it. Maybe if we got past the defensiveness and suspicion we would find some new insights.

2. That there is inconsistency about our treatment of two dangers - guns and alcohol. I am making no such claim, but would observe that we regulate who can use alcohol and who can sell it and how it can be dispensed far more than we regulate guns. And mostly we think that's a good idea.

Revwilly said...

Fred, I should have been more clear. My argument is not with you. Your argument is very reasonable. My problem is that death by guns gets so much attention and deaths related to the consumption of alcohol gets practically none and the argument can be made that deaths to alcohol consumption causes as many, if not more, deaths than guns. You and I are more apt to be killed by a drunk driver than by someone with a gun.