Gun Violence: Method versus Reason

The murders and attempted murders in Arizona yesterday at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ constituent gathering doesn’t need any specific comment from me. Nor am I much interested in the partisan nonsense that predictably followed. My only response was to wield a clumsy, permanent “Unfollow” hammer on Twitter on anyone who blamed someone other than the (alleged) murderer for his crimes. Productive for nothing other than my sanity, but that’s something for me.

I am, however, interested in one inevitable angle of the aftermath that I think is worth discussing. Two comments that crossed my Twitter feed. First:

It is unacceptable to defend the legality of firearms. It is both irresponsible and horrifically misinformed. Guns kill. Fuck guns. End of.


“England, where no one has guns: 14 deaths. United States…23,000 deaths from handguns. But–there’s no connection…” ~Bill Hicks

To be fair to both persons, they are Brits, so an American perspective has a way of slanting away from their understandable sentiments. But, both are still flawed, regardless of the cultural difference.

The obvious reason is the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. As long as that is still valid, guns will be legal in the United States. Simply pretending that it’s not would fight chaos and lawlessness with chaos and lawlessness. Neither of the comments above implies that America should ignore the Second Amendment. We still need to explicitly accept its existence.

Details on why the murderer felt this was justifiable are still unclear. (Mostly, but I’m not going to speculate.) Lost on too many is the idea that guns aren’t the only way to kill people. Sure, it’s a simple process, but plowing a car through a crowd would have similar results. We recognize how stupid it would be to outlaw cars, so it’s reasonable to me to expect that level of thinking applied to guns, as well. Whatever the underlying motivation, the cliche is true: guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

The second Tweet above is slightly off, since the U.S. has approximately five times the population of the U.K. The difference between 14 and 70 is trivial when compared to 23,000, but it raises the question of adequately comparing countries. (I’m ignoring the context of the 23,000 figure and its validity because it’s tangential to my point.) Too many cultural differences exist to compare directly. What are the underlying issues? Why do people shoot/kill other people? And so on.

For example, whatever the percentage, I’m sure much of that number is related to the drug war in the U.S. Other countries are fighting the same war, but the consequences are influenced by culture. The U.S. tried the same war with alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century. We’re now recreating the same results. To mangle another cliche, you can’t legislate for the country you wish you had. You must legislate with the country you have. The human response to prohibition is predictable. But the U.K. and its gun prohibition isn’t the U.S. and its Constitution. What to do isn’t as simple as the seductive “no guns, no murder” mantra.


I have a final point, which I’m separating to hopefully avoid the perception that I’m engaging in a logical fallacy. Understand that this informs nothing other than my personal experience and is not meant to prove me any more an authority or voice in the discussion.

My father died of a gunshot wound when I was three-years-old. He and a friend were playing a game of quick-draw in the front seat of his friend’s car. My father’s friend apparently didn’t realize his gun was loaded. Upon pulling it out, it discharged a fatal blast into my father’s chest.

If guns were illegal, it’s unlikely they would’ve been playing quick-draw knife throw. But there’s also no way to know that they wouldn’t have been playing quick-draw with guns. Life happens. There are legitimate reasons to detest guns and legitimate reasons to value them. There’s a large measure of subjectivity in each of these. It adds nothing to simplify the discussion into a belief that 300,000,000 Americans should fit one mold of thinking, or that an opinion in favor of gun ownership implies a desire, preference or acceptance of gun violence.