Guns and their ammunition are purposely designed to kill and that’s something worth thinking about.
The desire to kill precedes the design and use of the tool used to satisfy the desire. I would feel a lot safer if I lived in a world where the debate focussed on the control of the underlying desire to kill rather than the tool used to accomplish the deed.
That however is not the world I live in. I have lived and worked in the Middle East and other war-torn and socially and economically ravaged regions of the world and it is my observation and experience that those societies in which gun ownership is prevalent in the general population are also the most violent. Whether gun ownership is a cause or symptom of the violence is hard to establish but it is certainly true that death by bullet is far more probable in a place where there are flying bullets.
It certainly is possible to kill with a wide variety of the tools made by humanity. Bruce Lee popularised the nuncak which is a deadly martial arts weapon whose original use was as an agricultural flail. The Chinese civilian population were highly adept at turning a wide variety of everyday tools into killing weapons when they felt the need.
The Chinese were prevented from owning and being trained in the use of specifically designed weapons used by the soldiers and law enforcers of their society but that did not stop them from mounting a successful revolution which overthrew a political hierarchy they had become thoroughly dissatisfied with. Many other societies have similar histories.
I therefore reject the premise that a civilian population is more vulnerable to persecution by it’s government if that population is unarmed, or that the removal of an unwanted government is either hastened or slowed in the long run by the ownership of weapons by the civilian population.
History does not support this. What history shows is that we get the government we deserve, it treats us exactly how we should expect it to and we only get rid of it when a large enough majority of us decide it’s time for it to go. Heavily armed despots can massacre thousands, even millions, but like the Khmer Rouge, once popular support is gone a regime can only rule by terror for so long then the terror will consume the regime itself.
If the fundamental ability to sustain a society or change it’s governance is not enhanced by the civilian ownership of guns then what other benefits do accrue from such a widespread possession of firearms? Protection from dangerous wildlife? How many civilians are actually killed by bears, lions, wolves, alligators and other potentially dangerous wildlife? Very, very few. How many could have prevented their deaths if they had owned a gun? Hard to say, but as most of the wildlife dangerous to man possess senses and reflexes far superior to our own and kill by surprise ambush it’s hard to imagine that owning a gun would have been of much use in the majority of fatal encounters.
The biggest natural killer of man are snakes, the majority of the most venomous of whom are under one meter in length and bite you before you notice them. What function does a shotgun serve in such circumstances other than revenge? Do shotguns get used extensively to control and kill snakes? No, most are trapped and then stabbed, clubbed or poisoned to death.
I once asked a Maasia in Africa how he protected himself and his cattle from lions, he told me “by not being where they are” …sound advice! The Maasia do however hate and kill lions with guns and spears using their own safety and the safety of their cattle as justification. How long humanity can encroach on every ecosystem and slaughter every potential threat by bullet, trap and poison before the natural environment which sustains us is utterly destroyed is currently debated. The debate is however when the end will come not if it will come. If we reduced the size of our footprint in the natural world we would less reason to shoot it’s other inhabitants.
If the arguments for widespread civilian gun ownership cannot be supported by claims for the protection of the civilian against his rulers or to protect him against dangerous wildlife then it would seem that we only need guns to protect ourselves against each other. This however is also an illusion.
The population of the USA is now slightly less than that of the EU but both are extremely comparable populations of human beings in terms of size, diversity of cultures and behaviours. I utterly dismiss any ridiculous notion that Americans are any more or less violent in nature than Europeans or any other human beings. There is no such evidence.
It is however true that more Americans are shot dead than are Europeans. Gun crime is significantly higher in the USA than it is in the EU. The prevalence of crime itself however is roughly equally i.e. you are more or less as likely to get burgled, mugged and raped in the USA as you are in the EU. The only major difference being the likelihood of being shot.
The logic which flows inexorably from this is that citizens of the USA do not decrease their chance of being the victim of crime by owning a gun, they simply increase the probability of being shot dead by one. If this is simple math what’s the advantage that could possibly outweigh such an obvious disadvantage? Psychology.
Americans feel safer with a gun than they do without one. The fact that they demonstrably are not safer is irrelevant. The belief is stronger than the facts, just as the fear of crime is greater than the probability of being the victim of crime. If owning guns makes it easier for Americans to get through their daily lives who has the right to take their coping mechanism away from them?
In order for citizens of the USA and other lethal weapon owning societies to break their psychological dependence on the gun they would need to address the fundamental fear that drives them to want to own them in the first place. Americans do not fear guns, they fear the murderous intent of another human being. That is a logical fear.
I started this reply by saying that I wished I lived in a world where we debated how to rid ourselves of our murderous thoughts more than we debated how to rid ourselves of our tools of destruction and if we want a gun-free USA and gun-free planet that debate will have to happen in earnest and show results before any gun legislation could be useful.