The debate over American gun deaths and public shootings is ridiculous. When a shooting takes place, inevitably a fatuous dialogue will start up about how we have to deal with the mentally ill or how a baseball bat or a frying pan can be used as lethal weapon as well. While I’m all for better healthcare for the mentality disadvantaged and not whacking people in the noggin with a frying pan, these are not the core issues that need to be addressed when it comes to gun violence.
Rather than get caught up in the hornet’s nest of misleading discussions surrounding the Second Amendment and the incredibly high rate of gun-related deaths and mass shootings (whether on the rise or not) carried out by our fellow, armed citizens, I’d simply like to match ludicrous argument with ludicrous argument.
Quite a few years ago, a former Vermont state representative proposed a bill that would require “non-gun owners” to register for the right to remain unarmed. Non-gun owners would have had to pay a $500 fee for their non-gun-toting privileges. The logic behind this bill (which has become a kind of urban legend) assumed that armed civilians would be taking part in militia type duty, ensuring public safety. If you’re not armed, you’re just a slacker, unwilling to do your part.
Let’s look at this logic, still in the minds of many, from another perspective, shall we? With the exceptions of men and women who should be carrying a gun (hunters, justice officials, military and security personnel, the police), let’s assume that anyone with a firearm, concealed or not, who takes his or her weapon to a place where a gun isn’t the norm, is a potential mass shooter.
If a man shows up at a children’s playground or the opera with an assault rifle slung around his shoulder or a handgun tucked beneath his coat, at the very least we can assume he’s a dick. In his mind, he might believe he’s taking on the role of “protector,” but I, and the unarmed people around me don’t know him or his intentions. The only thing I do know is that a dick has opted for a lethal advantage over other human beings in a location where lethal force shouldn’t be necessary — and he’s sitting right next to me. If we were in Syria, we might be having a different discussion. But we’re not in Syria.
So what should the rights of non-gun owners be? Sure, they could become gun owners themselves and level the playing field, but that’s a hackneyed, “Old West” escalation type of solution. Taking our argument to a typically absurd level, why not give non-gun owners the legal right to do anything they want to someone brandishing a gun in a public location? To be fair, we should exclude gun shops, gun shows, firing ranges and places where it’s perfectly fine to have a gun, from the list. We’re not barbarians, after all.
The man at the opera (do gun nuts frequent the opera?) starts fidgeting with his gun beneath his jacket. By bringing a pistol to a concert, he’s asserting his ability to make quick, if not a judicious, use of deadly force. You don’t know him. He might be completely whackadoo. Better act quickly before he presses his advantage. You and your buddies pin his arms to his sides and throw him off the balcony. When the police arrive and point out that he broke his spine and both of his legs in the fall, all you have to do is point out the fact that he brought a concealed weapon to the opera. The police acknowledge your rights as non-gun owners, and let you go.
A man with an AR-15 is walking toward a bunch of kids at a bus stop. You suddenly push him in front of a passing bus. While the man might have seen himself as a protector of kids, all you saw was a dick with a gun. You’re not a mind reader. Since you choose to live in a civil (well, kind of) society and are brave enough not to carry a gun with you every time you leave the house, you decided to neutralize a potential threat. Again, the rights of the non-gun owner win out. The police buy you a cup of coffee, and then send you on your way.
Just to be clear, this is a mental exercise in ridiculous extremes. In other words, don’t try these tactics out for yourself. What should be clear from this tangled mess, though, is that non-gun owners ought to be pressing for their rights (not to get shot by dicks, for example) as passionately as the pro-gun lobby pushes for the right to arm absolutely everyone. If a little bit of common sense doesn’t make it into the American gun debate soon, then civil discord and preventable shootings will continue unabated for years to come.
Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.