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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Gun in Every Christmas Stocking

I should really commission my friend Jeff to paint a Christmas stocking with the butt of a pistol emerging from the hem, if only to illustrate the absurd depths to which the American gun lobby has fallen.

After a week of silence following the massacre of teachers and children in Connecticut, the National Rifle Association has finally proposed their solution to spree killing: post armed guards in every school in the USA. I guess irony really is dead, because this reads more like something from The Onion than a serious proposal.

From the point of view of the NRA, though, I can see how this must seem logical. Post armed guards at schools and there's a chance said guards might gun down a madman before he can shoot children. I suppose this is at least theoretically possible. Never mind that public schools in the United States don't even have enough funding for textbooks, let alone security guards...let's assume that somehow funds for such a project are made available. Doesn't that just mean that madmen will find softer targets?

"I need to kill a bunch of people! Can't go to the school, too many guards. I know! I'll shoot up a nursery/old folks home/Little League game."

So the massacres simply migrate, and in response to each tragedy the NRA response would surely be "We need armed guards here too." And then the spree killers move on to the next unguarded target, and the next, until suddenly every major public and private institution is crawling with armed guards, at heaven knows what cost to the economy and the national psyche. But even then, people can still be victimized on the street, out in the open, and suddenly armed guards aren't enough because the NRA has sold the idea that the proper authorities can't protect you, that the only real defense is owning your own gun - or ideally, your own collection of guns.

Over time, everyone in the USA is packing heat, as if the Wild West were transformed from mythology to reality. Children get guns for Christmas to fend off bullies. (Heaven knows what the gun-toting bullies will do.) Once everyone is armed...utopia?

I know I'm taking the NRA argument to its most ridiculous conclusion, but it does seem as though they really would prefer a fully-armed society, with a gun on every hip. The NRA and many others blame movies and video games for perpetuating a culture of violence, but from my perspective the inherent threat of even a single real-life gun looms much larger than a thousand Schwarzenegger movies. I can easily imagine living in a world where everyone around me carries a gun, but it's not the kind of society I'd enjoy, a culture drowning in fear and paranoia.

I suppose I have to admit that a fully armed society might curb violent crime. I have to; we haven't tried the experiment yet, so we can't say it wouldn't work. But I'd much rather see if we can lower violent crime by reducing income inequality, treating mental illness, improving public services, fighting intolerance and raising quality of life. But then I've always been a "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" kind of guy. 

TL, DR: Let's try other solutions to violent crime before adding more guns to the fire.

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