We've got a lot of problems in this country, and the biggest liability anyone has in talking about them is that they're all related. The relationship between media and politics is just the tip of it. It's a three-dimensional labyrinth of subjects and topics.
But you have to start somewhere. Personal responsibility or the lack thereof in American society is going to be the death of us all.
Exhibit A: Gun Control.
What is a firearm, ladies and gentlemen? A firearm, or a gun if you will, is a tool. Yes, it’s a tool capable of killing someone. But that’s nothing special. You have the same capacity in a butcher knife and they’re sold at the supermarket. No, a gun is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. And like all tools, a gun is a reflection upon the user. It is a way of viewing the maturity, the competence, and the responsibility of a person.
When you look at a gun, what do you see? Whatever it is, ask yourself these questions first: have you ever fired a gun before? Have you ever seen a person shot? Most of those who’re reading this will answer no to both questions, even though it violates our sensibilities because they KNOW what a gun is. Why do they know it? The answer is as simple as it is frightening, and it points to the tool that’s really abused in our day and age:
Most Americans don’t know a single real thing about a gun from personal experience, even the simple experience of holding one. So what is their perception of a gun based off of? Media, representations in video games, movies and television showing them a fictionalized use of firearms that grossly misrepresents them as a tool of cocky, machismo brutality. Anyone who’s ever fired a handgun knows first-hand that however easy they are to operate, they’re not simple to use effectively. Go to a target range and fire a weapon you’ve never used before, and you’ll see what I mean.
So the question becomes, is television to blame? I'm not going to bother citing and linking all of the news stories about TV and video games being blamed for violent behavior. There are so many that if you can't find one on the internet, then you need a basic primer in using a search engine. Yes, there are really that many. The media isn't to blame though, despite the shit you read about "my son bought this video game and it turned him into a murderer" or "my son bought this album and it made it kill himself". Basic human responsibility, most often in the form of PARENTAL responsibility, is being ignored. To any truly civilized group of people this would be obvious. A mature, mentally-sound adult is responsible for his own actions. Children are an extension of their parents’ views, teachings, or lack thereof. The media here is just a big, slow punching bag for the weak and irresponsible and the grieving.
The second group that sometimes gets blamed for gun-related violence is the gun manufacturers. This makes even less sense than the media-blaming. Is Toyota responsible for a drunk driver killing a person? NO. They made a tool and it was used for illegal activity.
I keep referring to guns as tools or machines and here’s the reason: you get out of a tool what you put into it. They’re an extension of a person’s will, their skill, and their goals. Accidents are of course a possibility, but frankly the incompetent user is still more likely to harm himself than anyone else. This applies to cars and computers as well as handguns. Maybe that's the real reason that so many people get whiny and scared about the idea of guns being legal. Their presence is a constant reminder in these politically-correct times of how vicious and incompetent our species really is. And you don't want to see that because you're lost in this liberal arts fantasy world that tells you that education actually makes people more liberal and understanding.
I submit Ivy Leaguers in the Cabinet as just a few examples to the contrary.
So what’s the REAL problem? There are two distinct problems associated with firearms: the weakness of man and the immaturity of our culture.
A mature culture can distinguish between a tool and a gross hazard. Ours is not a mature culture. We labor under the most basic of superstitions surrounding machinery, regardless of how much we know about them, and form massive undertakings either for or against them often under equally ignorant circumstances. Guns are a very good example of this, unlike cars and computers because as machines they’re rather simple in design. Yes, there are complicated models, but some of the most common and well-known (the infamous “Saturday night special”--a.k.a. the .38 revolver) is one of the simplest collections of moving parts still mass-produced.
The second issue ties into the first and that is the weakness of our culture. We don’t like responsibility in this country. We blame the media, instead of ourselves for letting it fill our minds with illusions we mistake for facts. We blame government, but then demand it take responsibility for our own incompetence. Guns are for dealing with criminals, hunting animals, or collecting for fun. Yes, you can collect guns for fun. Any machine freak who disagrees with me on this is a hypocrite. But we’re so afraid of these things, instead of simply acknowledging the responsibility that goes with these weapons, we blame, we whine, and we take shout for our freedom to be abridged because we can’t handle it. If this isn’t a cultural weakness, I don’t know what is.
The error of gun control is the basic observation covered up by this phobia: criminals don’t obey the law! As fanatically as the NRA repeats the line “when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” it is true. The legal restrictions on firearm ownership haven’t affected the crime in the ghettos of the world any and those gun fairs the Columbine High School kids armed themselves from weren’t legal. Legal gun owners are the minority cases. Remember that, gun control nuts. And before you start ranting and raving about assault weapons, yes, you can collect guns. There’s your reason for ownership of an assault weapon. If you don’t like it, just remember that the legal owners are the guys blowing the shit out of people on the street corner. As well-meaning as that argument is, it’s still a phobia.
Now let’s discuss the NRA’s belief that guns should be taught about in schools. No. It’s not a fanatical idea, nor an insane one. But schools are for academic, liberal arts, and physical education. That’s their purpose. Offering after-school programs in gun safety may be a good idea, but remember what I just said: they’re tools. They’re not that damned important!
I don’t own a gun at this point. They’re expensive and I’m poor. Oddly enough, I hate guns. I hate the idea of firing one at a person even if he’s about to kill me. But I will if I have to. I should mention that I also hate computers and I’m currently typing this column on one. We all have to live with the things available and it comes down to a simple choice: own a gun or not. It’s your choice, your responsibility, and as much as you may not like it, I have the same choice as well.