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guns & violence

I wanted to write a gun entry but couldn't figure out how to word it until right... about... now.

A facebook friend of mine posted an innocent status about seeing a mixed-race couple go to the movies together and how it was nice that the world doesn't have screwed up race issues preventing that anymore. Awe. The first reply on it was "thank a veteran".

Uh... sort of... I mean sure I thank veterans for all kinds of thing but thanking veterans for racial equality is like thanking the parents of all races of children for making them, or something. Yes, you helped set the stage.

But what REALLY did it was plain old ordinary couples, and some extraordinary ones like the Lovings, who took a stand and refused to hide who they loved, even if it meant that their lives were about to get very, very difficult.

Related... sir_montag wrote this recently:

At the end of the day, everything around us depends on violence, or the ability to be violent. "All power comes from the barrel of a gun" is an allusion to this. Our society would not exist if we were not willing to kill each other to insure that certain aspects of it stay in existence. A military, a police force, a judicial system, a system of taxation, none of these exist because we all politely agree as to which ways of doing things are the best. Nope. We will kill our fellow human beings to preserve these things.


Here's the thing... a lot of things make society great. Neighbors bringing cookies to one another. People who adopt dogs. Whoever invented salad tongs. Do we really want to believe that it all DEPENDS on violence, that deep down inside none of us would do anything if we weren't under thread of being shot? Don't we just do some things sometimes because it makes us feel kinda good? I mean, you could even rob a bank, you're not going to get the death penalty or even corporal punishment... it doesn't take THAT level of control to keep people from robbing the banks.

We watched that NRA press conference after the latest mass shooting and it was like a bad episode of Oprah's favorite things, "you get a gun! and you get a gun!" where they envision a society where we arm child soldiers to the teeth I think. That has been tried before in some war-torn african countries by the way, it never really works out well, just winds up make society really really violent, because people prioritize arming themselves above things like education.

I don't mind guns. Hey, I've been to defcon to learn about hacking computers and picking locks, so I can relate to people whose hobbies wind up being criminalized. Just because it's something that criminals do, doesn't make it wrong for everyone.

But I will confess that I know some gun owners who are kinda... creepy. Have some weird reasons for the stockpiling, like they're sure Obama is coming for their bodily fluids or whatever, or that the only answer to everything is violence, they're paranoid and angry and something about their reasons makes me nervous. And this is people I know PERSONALLY which means in the general population, they're everywhere. I should not be the judge of who should own guns. But I think, to be safe, we should avoid the "everybody must carry all the time" sort of ideas, because it gives people the wrong priorities.

Whenever we can, we should avoid thinking the pessimistic worst things about each other, and avoid thinking that violence is the only thing that can keep us in check. It's not. We just need to calm down.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC)
I don't understand. Why on earth would veterans be responsible for racial equality in this country?
Jan. 10th, 2013 11:17 am (UTC)
I guess the connection is that freedom isn't free, so we owe our entire free country where people can change laws to veterans? but it's a big stretch there. I mean I support the troops but there's a line.
Jan. 10th, 2013 04:28 pm (UTC)
My first thought was "all the Civil War veterans are dead".
Jan. 10th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC)
Appreciate the Dr. Strangelove tie in...LOL
Jan. 10th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)
Sir_Montag got it backwards. Saying that everything around us depends on being violent, because we're ready to back up our words with violence in order to preserve our society? There's no dependence there, it's just that violence is the hack which society has evolved to overcome weaknesses in its members. And a pretty lame hack it is.

The problems we face in our time are, for the first time in history, us. People and the way that people behave, whether in large numbers or small, create each and every single issue. Crime, drugs, gun violence, environmental destruction, racial/ethnic/religious tension. None of those are "natural" problems, they're all problems with our species.

With respect to violence, our civilization came up with the idea that in order to combat violence in the population, we'd set up a system where the government has a monopoly on violence. That way when there's a dispute, individuals don't use violence to solve it but rather we let the government do the dirty work. That's worked out alright, but it's definitely been a mixed bag. It's expensive, and it's ripe for abuse.

But why are we not even considering attacking the root of the problem? Figure out how to fix humans so that they don't willfully use violence to solve their problems and you've relieved a huge chunk of the world GDP to focus on other stuff. Even if it cost trillions upon trillions of dollars the payoff would be nearly immediate.

Then the gun owners who want to defend themselves won't need to carry guns. Then the hobbyists who just like guns can have them and nobody will care. But at the end of the day nothing we do is going to solve the problem of gun violence except fixing our own wetware so that people don't believe that using a gun to get your way is a good idea.

[For the record, while I occasionally hunt (with limited success), I don't own a handgun or any firearm beyond a bolt-action rifle nor do I wish to do so.]
Jan. 10th, 2013 09:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Backwards
Interesting... but you do realize when you say "fix humans" that most of us will think of the movie Serenity where they tried to make the planet Miranda nice and peaceful with some drugged air but everyone either lost their motivation to live or turned into rage-infected zombies, right?

I don't think our culture is willing to mess much with God's creation in the image of Himself :)

Then again, if you just mean we should focus efforts on education, intervention, telling people from birth that violence is not the answer... that you could get support for.

Edited at 2013-01-10 09:48 pm (UTC)
Jan. 10th, 2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Backwards
Never saw the movie, although it seems our civilization is already spewing forth an ever-increasing number of rage-infected zombies.

As for messing with God's creation, the obesity epidemic skewed us off that some time ago...

And many of us do try to explain the consequences of violence to our children. Jeffrey Dahmer's parents did (ask me how I know that for a fact; we're from the same town). I'm all for improving mental health; in fact that's what I'm advocating.

Until people (not just scientists but the populace) understand how the brain works and violence is just another compulsion, we're going to see more of these kinds of attacks, and they're going to get worse. Technology makes it easier for a defective mind to achieve these kinds of ends.
Jan. 16th, 2013 01:15 pm (UTC)
This is a really interesting argument regarding gun violence; thanks for posting it. I agree that examining what the prevalence of guns says about our values and our priorities is a worthwhile pursuit. I also think it's intriguing to look at what this says about our knowledge: apparently the NRA has been blocking research on gun violence, which makes me really pissed off. How can we make sensible policy decisions if we don't have enough empirical, evidence-based research to back it up? Sigh.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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