Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guns -- Power in a Powerless World?

The gun is a dumb, powerless instrument. Unlike a golf club or a tennis racket, a gun relies on its user's intent rather than imposing its specific intent, or context on the user. Guns have one specific function, to hurl a projectile at a target. Shoot at people, you have a weapon. Shoot at clay, paper, steel, other inorganic targets, or hunter's game and you have a sporting firearm. This synergy between the target and the gun, in turn, confers power on the shooter.If the target is another human being, the power is life or death. All other targets reinforce the power of  eye, hand. muscle and mental acuity, an athlete's skills.

The history of the gun has caromed back and forth between its imposed function as weapon or sporting firearm, adding in its early decades, "survival tool" until enough domesticated animals could be bred to eliminate hunting as a life-sustaining necessity. Specifically in the United States, as population swelled, the huge variety of social customs and the separation of economic classes caused conflicts that too often escalated into disastrous wars. Just as the space program moved technology forward in great strides, warfare accelerated development of the gun. The expertise in producing weapons for the military trickled down into the civilian market: modular design, carbon fiber components, laser sights, rail mounted accessories and varieties of ammunition designed for maximum impact and minimum collateral damage.

As the gun manufacturers realized greater market share in military-style firearms, their advertising and marketing began conferring the skills and power of the professional soldier in combat upon the civilians who bought watered-down variations of these weapons. The manufacturers, with the help of the NRA, used fear of street crime, radical groups, rape, pillage and rampage to equate civilian life with a combat zone. Leaving home in the morning added a ritual to plucking the car keys off their hook next to the back door; now the citizen also tucked a .45 caliber Glock, Kimber or S&W pistol  into a concealed belt holster.

This testosterone-dipped marketing fantasy reached into entertainment, video games, and many facets of pop culture: fashion, language and sports. We gradually became a more violent society by osmosis.

The most tragic benefactors of this trickle-down violence are the kids trapped in geographic ghettos where every day is a struggle to stay off the bottom rung of the social ladder. In desperation, they buy into the myth that the gun confers power in a powerless world. They are trapped in an abandoned society, cast adrift by social scientists, academics and passion-driven do-gooders who actually believe removing 270,000,000 guns from American hands will solve the problem. These are the same people who gave us Prohibition in the 18th Amendment. On the other side of the coin, the patriotic bullies goading on the manufacturers and raising money for Political Action Committees to terrorize legislators are just as foolish. Their woof and stomp pit bull antics embarrass their membership of sportsmen and women. No one wants to be tossed into the same pit as the militia yahoos, aluminum-foil hat people, or other crazed types wielding the Second Amendment as a club.

Both of the extreme ends of the gun control issue use the same argument forced on the kid who wants a job, an education, a chance at a better life and some self-esteem. Instead, he is fed the lie that the gun confers power in a powerless world.