Guns vs Gun Control (Why I Hate Guns and Gun Control) Part III: Fear
Articles in This Series
- Guns VS Gun Control Part I: What is a Gun?
- Guns VS Gun Control Part II: Why Do People Like Guns?
- Guns VS Gun Control Part III: Fear
- Guns VS Gun Control Part IV: Law Enforcement
- Guns VS Gun Control Part V: Misinformation and Gun Lies
- Guns VS Gun Control Part VI: Solutions
- This is a related article. Perhaps it should have been Part I: Defining the Second Amendment (For Us Laypersons)
- More to come...
Fear of Firearms
Fear fuels both sides of the gun control debate. One side is afraid gun nuts are going to go on a rampage and start killing. The other side is afraid of losing their rights, property, and life to a tyrannical government. There's enough to say about fear, it warrants a whole article by itself. We'll start with fear of firearms.
Many people are afraid of guns.
"Of course we are!" Negative Nancy chimes in. "Guns are scary. You'd be stupid not to be afraid of something that can kill."
I know, Nancy, but calm down a little so we can talk. It is perfectly sensible to be afraid of something that can zip at you, unseen, and kill you in an instant. Fear is a natural reaction. Without it, humanity would never have survived this long. Should we be afraid of guns? Probably. They have a lot of potential to be dangerous. As we discussed in the last article, firearms are designed for killing. Better firearms do a better job at it. There really is a lot of good reason to be afraid of what can happen when something goes wrong with guns. Or when something goes right, as their purpose is to kill.
Those of us who fear firearms also fear the mentality that goes with owning weapons. In this day and age, who needs a gun? Criminals and killers? Sure guns can be used for target practice, but why bother to practice shooting a target if you're never going to use a gun to kill? It may be fun, but there is no shortage of things to do for fun in our society. If you're not a hunter, police officer, body guard, or a soldier, what use is a gun?
Worse yet are the people hoarding weapons. What kind of crazy, paranoid nut needs to keep a huge cache of weapons? But more than that, what will set off someone who has a firearm? How often do we hear of road rage on the streets? How many times have we heard on the news that some new psycho whipped out a gun and started shooting a bunch of defenseless people? How many people have we come across on a daily basis who just don't seem like they can keep their anger in check? What if that loose cannon owns a gun?
How do we know we can trust the people who have weapons at all?
All of these concerns are legitimate thoughts. We all want to be safe, and it's reasonable to want to be sure gun owners are safe with their guns.
The problem comes when we make decisions based on these fears. Science has shown fear based decisions are typically bad decisions. (Here's an article about just that: New York Times
There are plenty more sources for this information. The point is, this idea is well established in scientific circles.) The real kicker to me is that I know some very intelligent individuals who've brought up fear based decisions to me. Usually these arguments link to religions being based in fear. These same people make decisions about guns based on fear, and don't see the connection. Think about gun owners freaking out about their rights being taken away at the mere mention of gun control. Gun owners see gun control advocates the same way. If we can't be rational, no true discourse can happen. Only a battle.
We'll come back to this idea in a bit, but first I want to cover the fears of gun owners.
Fear of Losing Firearms
The flip side of the gun argument is those of us who own guns.
First off there's the simple fear of no longer being allowed access to some of the tools we enjoy. This of course is just an inconvenience. Not a huge deal, but no one likes to lose access to things they enjoy. Imagine no longer being allowed to have a color TV because someone decided color takes away from the experience or might be dangerous. This is where the "who are you to decide what I can have?" attitude comes from.
Second, gun owners are afraid their firearms will be taken away. In this case it starts slowly with access to guns and accessories becoming limited. The fear being each limit imposed brings us that much closer to having firearms taken away outright. With that move would come other rights lost. If we are unable to defend ourselves against an oppressor, said oppressor is more likely to trample our rights and the things we value. This, of course, is made easier when the people are unable to resist. There are plenty of counter arguments here, but the point is, many gun owners have these fears. Whether or not they are warranted, the fear exists. Deciding the fear is a stupid one doesn't mean it's not there. Just the opposite, not taking the fear seriously helps feed the fear. Brushing it aside actually makes the fear feel even more true.
These are legitimate concerns as well. Even if the push from gun control advocates is not intended to go that far, the fears are understandable. Historically humanity has experienced war for nearly our entire recorded history. There has always been a war somewhere. When our experience of the human condition includes tyrants, criminals, and killers, it's perfectly reasonable to want to defend yourself. Especially when you feel that right is threatened. Seeing people who don't share the same fears or values make decisions that effect you is always frightening.
Once again, the problem comes when we make decisions based on these fears. Pushing against any regulations without ever listening to the other point of view is no way to bridge the gap and leads to more arguments.
So Why Can't We Just Agree on Regulations?
I mentioned some of the fears firearms inspire and some good reasons to limit access to them. These dangers seem plain as day to people who want gun control. It's harder for gun supporters to see these arguments as legitimate. From the point of view of gun owners our experiences show that these ideas are limited in scope and/or ridiculous. Remember, most gun owners grew up around guns. Moreover, most gun owners were taught from an early age to respect guns and to treat them safely. To make the matter worse, gun owners see people who know little about guns acting out of fear and just cannot take that attitude seriously. (Despite a similar response in the other direction from gun owners.)
Gun owners see gun control proponents making decisions out of fear and ignorance. The decisions made by others who don't understand basic information about something we value. Then all of us have to live with the consequences of such decisions.
"But guns kill people!" Nancy says. "You'd be stupid not to be afraid of something that can kill."
"Are ye afraid of yer car?" a gruff looking pirate asks.
"What?" Nancy asks. "My car? What are you stupid, Kwade the Pirate?"
The pirate's one eye narrows and his peg leg thunks loudly as he takes one step toward Nancy. "Perhaps, lass, but tha's no the point. Do ye fear yer car?"
"No. Why?" Nancy asks.
"Car crashes kill people every day. If all it takes is ability to kill ye ought to fear cars. Or are ye stupid?"
Nancy seems dumbfounded. Whether because the pirate has a good point or is talking nonsense is uncertain.
"How about prescription drugs?" Surfer Dude chimes in.
"How about them?" Nancy asks, confused.
"Are you afraid of them?" Surfer Dude clarifies.
"No. I don't take them unless they're prescribed." Nancy says, "They're not designed to kill though. They're safe."
"So, you'd be surprised to learn over a hundred thousand deaths a year are caused by prescription drugs, huh?" Surfer Dude asks. "That's more than triple gun deaths."
Check out this article by Harvard University: "New Prescription Drugs: A Major Health Risk With Few Offsetting Advantages"
A hundred thousand deaths are just from the newly prescribed medication. We're not talking about the drugs already on the market. Add those deaths and the number is up over three hundred thousand per year. Look at the stats for hospitalizations due to adverse reactions to drugs. In that regard, drugs surpass guns by millions of people. We don't often hear about these statistics while talking about gun regulations. The focus is on how deadly guns are. I don't bring this up to make light of gun deaths, just to clarify that guns are not the most deadly topic we deal with in the US. Painting them as the scariest, deadliest problem is fear mongering. We need to take the fear out of the decisions. For that reason, it's important to know gun deaths are not as high as some would like us to believe.
"But guns can kill a bunch of people at a time, drugs don't!" You say?
Drugs don't have to kill multiple people at a time, and still have higher numbers, see above.
Getting Past the Fear
Fear is a powerful motivator, but it's also something that clouds a person's judgement.
One of the great ironies I see in relation to guns and fear is that most people I've heard talk about the merits of gun control also talk about the horrors of religion. One of the biggest reasons religion is a problem for these people is because religion promotes fear based decisions. "Fear God and do what's right." I don't mean to pick on religion right now. I only wish to point out that if fear is a problem when making those decisions, why can't we see it's a problem making these ones?
There are a lot of reasons to be afraid of guns and a lot of ideas to consider. If we're going to create regulations everyone can get behind, we need to get past the fear. One benefit of this is of course being able to get said regulations in place faster. Not getting past the fear, it will take a lot longer to make any headway. In making decisions about gun control, there are a few questions I feel we need to ask:
1. What is our goal when creating laws? (Are we trying to come to a peaceful solution, or are we just trying to get our way? When we care about each other's rights and feelings, we accomplish much more.)
2. Are we making decisions based on fear? (If so, we've already determined that leads to bad decisions. Let's get past the fear and give it more thought.)
3. Do we truly understand what is being regulated? (Using the common buzz words and never learning the truth is the same as letting someone else make your decision for you. Educate yourself on what the buzz words mean if you want to make headway with gun owners. The moment you say "assault weapon" you lose a gun owners trust. When you mention a caliber of bullet, or say "magazine" instead of clip, you start to connect with gun owners. If you don't know what that means, do some research.)
4. Do you understand guns? If you don't understand the subject matter, how can you regulate it with any clarity? Go to a shooting range. Learn what it takes to be safe with a gun. Do some research. Learn what "assault weapon" really means. Learn what the caliber of a bullet means. Learn the difference between "semi-automatic" and "automatic." Learn why someone would want a semi-automatic weapon, beyond the false notion that it must be for criminal reasons.
Until we can stop making decisions based on fear, there will be no acceptable regulations for both sides of the debate. It will take gun control advocates learning more about guns for gun owners to take them seriously. It will also take gun control advocates considering what gun owners want before gun owners trust any regulations. These things will go a long way toward gun owners trusting in any regulations that are considered. Until then, any regulations that get passed will just be a game of who can be in control the longest.
Goodness, this article ended up longer than I intended. Hopefully it helped bring some clarity about fear and it's effect on the debate. I'll see you again in the next part.
Questions & Answers
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