Can We Talk About ‘Guns Don’t Kill People’?

Guns don't kill people? Nice deep thought, but can we talk about it more?

Can we talk about the “Guns don’t kill people; people do” anti-gun control mantra? It’s well, a little silly and when people use it, they look silly in turn because at the end of it all, I can’t find one person who argues that guns kill people without any human interaction. So it’s a big, giant logical fallacy from the start, and it’s a sloppy attempt at controlling the debate.

Think about it for a moment. When you hear someone use a variation of the old trope, do you get the same mental image I do?

A gun paces nervously in a dark room, peaking outside the drawn curtains every few minutes, scanning for The Fuzz. Then, all of a sudden the gun hears sirens up the street, and before he knows it, twenty cop cars are outside his apartment building, and officers are streaming into the building. BAM! BAM! BAM! They’re at the door now! Before he can react, the gun’s door is kicked in by a burly officer and he’s wrestled to the ground, cuffed, and arrested for murdering someone all by himself, the bastard gun.

That’s the mental image I get anyway, that gun nuts truly believe that people like me, whose most harsh anti-gun rhetoric is that they aren’t candy, can kill people intentionally and accidentally, and should therefore be treated with a little more care than a bag of peanut M&M’s, believe that we write gun laws to punish guns themselves. As if we think that arresting all the guns and putting them behind bars will stop violent crime. Of course, they’re simple-minded enough to think that we believe we can stop all gun crime in the first place, because why would we ever pass laws that don’t stop crimes completely — you know, like all those rape and murder laws that are on the books even though people are still raping and murdering each other, right?

Of course, avoiding reality and modernity is a hallmark of the gun nut.

The entire argument over “gun control” really comes down to a group of people adamantly opposing the 21st century. The reality that brought about the Second Amendment — a right to keep and bear arms as a way of mitigating a need for a large standing army — just isn’t the reality we live in. Does this mean those of us who favor background checks and magazine capacity limitations want someone’s right to defend themselves taken away? Of course it doesn’t. Just because we don’t need to have a citizen’s militia anymore doesn’t mean we can’t also acknowledge that people want and need a means to defend themselves in areas of high crime or where they are far removed from the nearest law enforcement agency.

At the end of it all, what the overwhelming majority of people who want some gun measures put in place are gunning for — pun completely intended — is to try and assess as best we can whether the person who is obtaining a deadly weapon is an honorable person. To some, the very notion of society judging someone who wants a weapon is anti-liberty. And you know what? Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’m a comedian, not a fucking philosopher. But what I do know is that liberty, much like anything in life, is a two-way street, and your freedom and liberty to own a gun will always intersect with everyone else’s freedom and liberty to live a gun-free existence. Of course guns already exist, bad guys have them, and so good guys do too. We just want to try and make sure we’re selling guns to good guys, not bad guys.




Maybe that sounds naive and myopic to you — that we can try and screen people who get guns. I understand. People also thought it was naive and myopic to think we could some day wipe out AIDS, and the thing is while we don’t have a cure for it yet, the simple fact that we didn’t give up has meant that getting diagnosed with HIV is no longer a short death sentence. If we can tackle HIV/AIDS, why can’t we tackle a weapon whose basic concept has been around for millennia? I’ll tell you why — gun profits.

I know, here’s the part where the whacky liberal leftist tells you it’s the NRA’s fault that Little Susie got killed by her dad’s 9mm when she found it in his room, right? Except that’s not what I’m saying when I say that that gun profits keep us from enacting gun laws. I’m pointing to the obvious and unavoidable truth that the gun lobby — which includes the NRA — is absolutely protecting its clients’ profit margins by keeping people full of the kind of rhetoric that says we have to stay beholden to 240 year old language written by people who were so morally upstanding that they either owned slaves or kicked the slavery can down the road in the interest of getting out from underneath taxes levied on them, even when we’re seeing children under the age of ten die from gunshot wounds every single day. 

You can’t deny that, and no amount of “guns don’t kill people” will change that fact.

Beyond all that, here’s a reality that this argument ignores completely — gun laws don’t punish guns. They punish unlawful gun owners. Whether that’s selling or giving your gun to someone without a background check, or knowing they’ll use it to commit a crime, or yes, actually using to kill someone in an unjustified way. So ultimately “Guns don’t kill people” is just an elaborate straw man, because no one is arguing now, nor have they have they ever, that guns act all by themselves when they are the centerpiece of a tragedy. If we all can admit that guns don’t act all by themselves, then maybe we can see how a tweak to a law, or (gasp!) a new law that punishes or discourages human behavior and not gun behavior is a good thing.

But why use common sense when you have a man of straw to construct, I guess.

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