A World Without Guns
If this isn’t your first ever visit to a firearms related website, then odds are you have probably heard about the expected legislative onslaught that gun owners face in the near future. Obviously as a guy working for an outfit called “Gun Nuts” I’m a fan of the second amendment for it’s intended purpose…which has precisely beans to do with duck hunting. No, the second amendment exists in recognition of the right of the individual to protect himself/herself against the infringement of their freedom whether that infringement is perpetrated by a third strike felon or a government agent.
…of course, merely by saying “government agent” I’m instantly signing up for being labeled as a fringe whackadoo. People seem to forget just how many were murdered by agents of their own government last century. We like to pretend that what happened to Polish Jews in the middle of last century or to Russian political prisoners shortly thereafter can’t really happen again. Given that as these things were happening, people who knew better or who should have known better defended mass slaughter as “necessary” or dismissed it as “exaggerated”, and that even today there are people who want to argue about all the good Stalin did, I’m having a hard time seeing how we’ve learned our collective lesson.
There are lots of people saying silly things in the aftermath of the repulsive act in Connecticut, but one I keep hearing from people on the street is the notion of there being “a world without guns”.
Given that the firearm has been with humanity in some form or another for over a thousand years and will be with us for at least a thousand more even if it’s supplanted in common use for even more effective tools of violence, the idea of a world without guns is just fantasy. Acknowledging that, let’s leave it aside for a moment and stipulate that tomorrow we could produce a world without guns…what idiot would actually want such a world?
The majority of human history happened without the gun playing any important role, folks. Even a poor student of history could tell you that the world without guns was a positively brutal place full of mass slaughter and crushing oppression.
A world without guns wasn’t a world without violence because people still populated that world. In the world without guns many were ruled usually harshly by few, and almost always at the point of a sword. We romanticize knights and a supposed code of chivalry these days, but in truth there wasn’t much that was civilized about the feudal system. A few people by accident of birth thought they controlled all the land by God’s decree. If you wanted to eat, you had to work their land, pay them for the privilege of doing so, and then fight for them if required. Fail to do so and they’d have dudes in expensive armor with expensive training throw you off the land or run you through with a bloody great hunk of metal. Fight them? Well, it could be done…but your typical peasant wasn’t really capable of taking down a knight. If you want an idea of how well it would work, try to get into a fistfight with an NFL player when he’s suited up for game day.
In the world without guns, might made right. Might was defined by those who had the strength to impale somebody with a pike or crush their skull with an axe. Then came the gun…and suddenly the lowliest peasant in the land could kill the strongest knight in the land from quite a distance away. All that stuff about being granted exclusive claim to power by God Himself looks pretty fishy when Dennis the Peasant can put a lead ball through Sir Axe-a-lot’s noggin from fifty paces out. You’re left with the conclusion that either God’s plan for power was so deeply flawed that it couldn’t handle the gun…which would be strange for a plan come up with by an omniscient being…or that God’s plan had nothing to do with the power structure.
In America a saying developed sometime in the 19th century along the lines of “God made man, but Sam Colt made them equal.” This referred to a simple truth: A weak, old, or sick person could kill the biggest, strongest, best trained dude in the world if equipped with one of Col. Colt’s products. That’s genuine equality. Someone who would have otherwise been at the complete mercy of the strong man now had an effective tool which put the strong man in mortal peril if he attempted to infringe upon the rights of the weak.
In history, the printing press is given lots of credit for moving the center of power away from despots and kings and into the hands of The People…but the printing press didn’t do that alone. The technology that democratized learning was matched by technology which democratized the ability to effectively employ lethal force. When it came time to take action against tyrants, the oppressed raided places where they could secure arms far more frequently than to secure printing presses. The printing press was a magnificent tool for spreading knowledge, but tyrants are rarely shamed into relinquishing power. Rights are claimed and protected at gunpoint because some men will not listen any other way.
Of course, few who talk of the world without guns are actually picturing a return to the way life worked before the gun. More than likely what they’re trying to convey is a world without violence.
…which is an even sillier idea. There was a world without guns, but there’s never been a world without violence. To talk of a world without violence is to talk of a world that doesn’t, hasn’t, and will never exist. You can hold hands and sing all the Kumbaya you want, but fundamental human nature will not change. Human beings today do not have a fundamentally different nature than they did millennia ago. We like to laugh at people from the past who burned witches and bled people with fevers seeming to gloss over the fact that there are people walking around today who murdered Jewish children or who think Jenny McCarthy is an expert on vaccination risks.
Violence will always be with us because it’s woven into the fabric of our DNA. Getting rid of guns won’t fix it. Wishing for a non-violent world won’t fix it. In the whole of human history the only answer we’ve found to be truly effective to the problem of human violence is: More violence. When men use violence for evil, we gather up a group of willing men who are prepared to use violence in protection of the innocent to go sort them out. This is, in fact, the basis of our civilization. We have some rules and if you break them, we’ll send men with guns who will make you stop one way or another. You can respect the rights of others because it’s the right thing to do, or because we’ll lock you up or kill you if you don’t. Your choice.
Lots of people like to mindlessly chant that violence is never the answer, but when the chanters dial 911 they aren’t hoping that a philosopher or ethicist shows up to try and convince the bad man to cease being bad. They want a dude with a gun.
The gun on the hip of a police officer is a tool of personal defense, but it’s also a blatant threat. That officer’s gun is backed up by a lot more officers with a lot more guns. Get to be too big a problem and guys in different uniforms with even bigger guns will come and fix your little red wagon. We understand this. We pay for this. We want this. We want this because even the most weepy-eyed idealist recognizes on a visceral level that there are some people who will never be convinced to clap for Tinkerbelle. They will have to be put down with violence…frequently lethal violence.
It would be nice if our society acted like the group of rational adults it claims to be and would stop talking all this nonsense about a world without guns or violence. The central problem in Connecticut was a malevolent narcissist who wanted to claim fame with an act so heinous that even thinking about it makes one physically ill. The solution to that problem isn’t having our whole society wrap itself into knots trying to figure out why thing (because I refuse to further publicize that bastard’s name) murdered all those precious little children as if somehow we as a society failed thing. No, the solution is to coldly resolve that the next malevolent narcissist will meet violent resistance immediately.
Logically and empirically we know that’s the only effective solution.
Violence and implements of violence will always be with us. There is no solution for that. All we are left with is to rationally employ violence to limit the capacity of our fellow man to perpetrate evil upon the helpless. You can’t accomplish that by making more people helpless.