Gun. It’s kind of a weird word, isn’t it? Gun. When you say it over and over, it starts to sound funny. It doesn’t seem like a word that would describe an efficient killing machine, it sounds more like the viscous by-product of rendering fat or the froth from using paint stripper or something. We shouldn’t call them “guns,” we should call them “bullet propulsion machines.” Maybe then folks will think they’re too complicated for the average person to comprehend, sort of like how the economy functions. What causes inflation? Fuck if I know. Leave that to the eggheads in Washington, I’ll be polishing my gun.
I don’t actually own a gun, have never thought about owning one. I’ve shot a few guns in controlled environments, it’s reasonably thrilling. I guess the pleasure is in having the power to instantly eradicate something from far away. One thing I’ve frequently done in the past is to defend America’s Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights–the Right to Bear Arms. I’ve done this vehemently, almost instinctively, gotten into protracted arguments on the internet and in person over the issue. I think I see myself as a Northeastern liberal who breaks all the rules by advocating for social services AND the right to own firearms. “I don’t own a gun…[pause for effect]…but I SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS!!!” Dun dun dunn! Overseas peaceniks are mortified into stunned silence, several redneck stereotypes swoon and reconsider their preconceived notions of lily-livered yankees. That’s right, I went there. Didn’t think a guy with glasses could be moderate on the topic of gun control, did you? I upset a status quo that exists solely in my mind and nowhere else.
You really have to think about the Second Amendment and what it implies. We can guess why it was instated: the Americans had just successfully completed a bloody war with the aid of guns and figured they’d do the handy devices a solid. “Thanks, guns, for helping us defeat the British. Tell you what: we’ll mention you favorably in a document. Sound good?” As part of a letter which would be sent to the King of England, the Second Amendment makes sense. It essentially suggests that Americans are strapped, so the British had better think twice before sailing their pasty butts across the Atlantic. Which, incidentally, didn’t work since we fought them again during the War of 1812. But the point is that the Second Amendment was meant to appear menacing, whether or not it was actually effective. One might say that this scrappy, upstart country had an axe to grind.
But what the Second Amendment implies is way scarier than what it attempts. If it is our right to bear arms, that suggests that there’s a reason to bear arms–that the only thing that can really protect us from attack is a bullet. And if you’ve got a gun to protect yourself, I’ve got to get one, or I’m just a target. Let me tell you, that’s a really scary and paranoid way to live. It sort of colors one’s perception of everything, as an “us vs. them” scenario, where you are either a gun-wielding, valorous defender of your family and property, or so much chattel to be forced around by a uniformed gestapo, under the thumb of a stockpiled junta. It sort of brainwashes us, gives us an implicit understanding that it’s all fun and games until the guns pop out, then it’s you or me. This country was founded with guns, won with guns, its very nature and topography formed by guns. All the fancy talking in the world can’t defend itself against a forty-five caliber bullet.
It’s worth mentioning, though, that if the only guns available were .38 Specials and Winchester Rifles, we wouldn’t be having such gun control discussions. The main problem isn’t that some kid found his dad’s Derringer and fired off a few wayward bullets. The issue is that people are picking up military grade automatic weapons and blowing away crowds. Many gun collectors don’t have a bunch of old Colts under a glass case, but racks and racks of automatic and semi-automatic rifles, with night vision sniper scopes and extended magazines so they can pump more hollow-tip bullets into someone’s face. This shit is really scary. If you’re an enthusiast with a handful of shotguns and rifles for hunting and skeet shooting, I suppose that’s one thing. But if you’ve got a collection so large that you need to dedicate a “gun room,” then you don’t live in a house. What you live in is an armory.
It’s amazing how we are affected by our contextual environments. I’ve sort of lived my whole life just accepting the Second Amendment as uniquely good and fair and worth preserving, without even considering that what I was promoting was conversely related to my personality. I am scared shitless of guns, whether I’m sitting near a cop’s holstered Glock 9mm on the subway, or watching some military guy march around Penn Station with his index finger extended along the trigger guard of an automatic rifle–even while holding a twenty-gauge shotgun myself, firing at rolling and launching clays with some good friends, I can’t get the fact that this is a device for instantaneous killing out of my head. If I had time-traveling super powers, I’d make sure that guns never existed. But since guns don’t kill people, people kill people, perhaps I’d have an easier time making sure that homo sapiens never evolved in the first place.