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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Trigger Happy

It is common sense that putting more guns in the world makes the world a more dangerous place. It is beyond me that someone could argue that putting more guns in more hands makes this world a safer place. “It is because criminals have to think twice whether or not their intended victim is carrying a firearm or not,” writes Scott Zanelli in last week’s opinion section. So carried to its logical conclusion, if everyone was armed, then everyone would be afraid to get violent, or look at someone the wrong way. So either you have The Lord of the Flies styled system of justice, or you have a population of people too coward to do anything.

When Zanelli argues that “another use for firearms is for self-defense,” he misses the point. Guns don’t solve problems, they make problems. Adding guns to the pressure cooker that is life in the 21st century is like adding vinegar to baking soda. When we have a recurrent problem in this country – such as violent crime – we ought to explore all of our options. We have been a nation of freedom-loving gun-toting Americans since 1776. Now we have a serious problem with violent crime. It is time to make some adjustments. To blindly stay the course, and continue to uphold the Constitutional right to “keep and bear arms,” is to ignore the possibility that perhaps firearms are one of the greatest detractors from peace.

Zanelli makes the pseudo-logical argument that if I want to ban guns then by that logic I ought to want to outlaw cars too. I am not so dull that I can’t see the differences between cars and guns. It is guns that I am after. According to Zanelli’s statistics, motor vehicles kill “about 16 per 100,000 people, not just drivers.” Zanelli compares this to the much less dangerous pursuit of hunting. Again, it is not hunters that I am after, nor fishermen despite the great dangers of fishing in open water. Hunters die in hunting related accidents at a “rate of 4.86 per 100,000 hunters.” He writes, “Does this mean we should ban driving because it has such a high death toll? Should we then ban guns or hunting? The answer is the same for both questions.”

Wrong. Guns are machines designed to kill/maim/threaten etc. I concede that cars are very dangerous machines. I wish every driver understood the fact that cars are multi-ton pieces of metal and gasoline moving at high speeds. My beef is that guns kill/maim/threaten when they’re being used properly. When a car winds up killing someone, that car ends up on the scrap heap. Never mind the fact that in most states cars are more heavily regulated by the government than are guns. The bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms operates more like the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight than a responsible government organization. No wonder it is so easy to buy a gun in Boston. It is the very nature of handguns to be small, and easily concealable. Putting that kind of firepower in every law-abiding citizen’s hands isn’t safety, it is a roulette wheel. Ordinary citizens shouldn’t have to be vigilantes. How’s Grandma going to react when she gets mugged on the way home from Bingo? If she’s packing a pistol? What are the odds that Grandma misses her mark? Grandma’s no criminal, but she shouldn’t have a gun.

A more illustrative statistic might be that “In 2004, there were an estimated 1,367,009 violent crimes nationwide,” according to the FBI. That’s a rate of 465.5 violent crimes per every 100,000 people. Now, some think-tankers might blame Rap music, or cite the “Broken Window Theory,” but let’s get to the root of the problem. Diabetics don’t slip into a coma because of the Ice Cream truck’s jingle. Guns kill people. Let’s try eliminating guns from our diet.

If someone has a gun, he will be more cocksure. Guns are a false safety net. Under the pretense of self-protection, guns allow people to get themselves into even dicier situations. It’s human nature to push the limits. When a person thinks that his gun will protect him he does things that he would ordinarily consider dangerous. A suitable analogy might be that when a spoiled son of a Texas governor knows that daddy and his cronies will bail him out of any business blunders, he doesn’t worry, or learn, or care when he makes bad decisions. When a gun is used as an escape hatch, things get sticky.

In light of the President’s complete disregard for the Constitution, I think it may be outlandish, but not as Zanelli wrote, impossible to rework the 230 year old document. No one is infallible, and – as much as religious fundamentalists may argue against me – no written work is exempt from criticism. A piece of writing that tells the people what we can and can’t do must then be subject to change. That is one of the most essential pieces of the constitution. Heck, the second amendment is an amendment to the original document.

Proponents of constitutional originalism tend to ignore the historical context of the document. Here we are, three centuries later. When the constitution was written, the right for “the people to keep and bear arms” meant a hunting musket, maybe a sword, or even a rifle if the people were well off. Although guns today are far more technologically advanced, the right to own a gun is still protected under the same amendment. It is safe to say that there would be significantly less violent crime if the strongest piece of hardware on the market were guns once used for hunting turkeys in the 18th century. If the mugger doesn’t have a gun, then Grandma doesn’t need a gun.

Massachusetts is one of the most forward thinking states. The Massachusetts Supreme Court made a judicious ruling that overturned archaic laws when it ruled that same sex marriage was legal. In response conservatives across the nation beat their fists and called for a – you guessed it – Constitutional amendment, called the Defense of Marriage Amendment, making gay marriage illegal. It didn’t pass. Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S., but gunrunners flood our streets with illegal weapons from place like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. I think it is time for Massachusetts to set the tone for the rest of the country once again, and say “no more guns.”

Violence doesn’t solve anything. If someone feels vulnerable walking the streets at night, then maybe that person should surround himself with a group of friends and stay in well-lit areas. Either that, or order-in for pizza. Don’t take for granted the wisdom that “War is hell.” Guns do not protect, they shoot and they kill. Who is safer: The person who steps up to fight, knowing he has protection; or the person who gets scared and walks away. If you need protection, get a shield.