The Consequences of Guns

by Phil Anderson

Do you want to live in a society where everyone is packing heat?  Do the gun nuts really understand what they’ve create? One wonders if they have really thought through the consequences of their gun toting fantasies and the impact on a civil society. 
Paranoid fear of the government is not a good basis for “domestic tranquility” or a functioning, democratic society. Recent articles and letters in The Reader shared some of this paranoia. One writer said private gun ownership is essential to protect us from dictatorship. Another claims an “armed people” are the real source of political power. This sounds like vigilante rule. The fantasy that guns are necessary to defend our “freedom” from government overreach is dangerous as well as absurd. 

Government does ultimately rest on the consent of the governed. But this is achieved through citizen participation in the democratic process. It is achieved by the rule of law and not the threat of armed violence. Citizens must play a role in overseeing and controlling our governments. We do have a role in insuring our civil liberties are protected. The role requires being informed on issues, monitoring elected representatives, holding those officials accountable, and by voting. This is a peaceful duty that does not involve being armed and ready for insurrection.  

The citizen militia of colonial times did not exist to protect people from government. They were an attempt to protect local communities because of a lack of effective government. They were the white men of the community organizing to suppress slave uprisings and fight Indians. Over time local militias became more “well regulated.” Today militia means the state controlled National Guard. It is NOT the self-appointed armed gangs of the gun nuts and hate groups. 

The local town militia were the first responders in the Revolutionary War but they did not defeat the British army. It is a myth that the “Minuteman” patriots grabbed their hunting rifles and defeated English “tyranny.” The Revolutionary War required an organized army with military equipment and training. General Washington needed soldiers he could rely on not  undisciplined, unreliable militia. He needed rifles, cannon, powder, uniforms, and food for the army. Without French military and logistical help we would have lost the war. Civilian gun ownership was not the reason we gained our independence.  

Real freedom is not needing to carry a gun. Real freedom is going to school, church, work, or out in public without fear of being shot. Real freedom would be living in a tolerant, peaceful, just society where violence is not tolerated or glorified. But instead we have a culture that honors and promotes violence. We have a weapons industry that profits from the fear. 

Guns, especially assault rifles, are marketed and sold on fear. The terrorists, immigrants, communists, or liberals are coming. Big government is going to take your gun. Fear that Obama would pass tougher gun laws resulted in a spike in gun sales. Fear after mass shootings increases gun sales. Fear is why 50% of guns are sold to 3% of the population.  Assault rifles sell because THEY LOOK LIKE MILITARY WEAPONS. It makes the Rambo wannabes feel more manly. No civilian needs an assault rifle. They are for military use. They are for killing people. They should be outlawed. 

Gun ownership is not about protecting home and family. Crime rates are down across the country. The actual threat of being a victim of a crime is low. We live in mostly safe communities. It is a myth that guns are needed to keep us safe. 
Gun deaths are not the “price of freedom.” They are the price of stupid people swallowing the propaganda of the gun industry. They are the price of spineless politicians valuing campaign contributions over rational policy. They are the price of greed. They are the price of our violence soaked society. They are the price of having over 300 million guns widely available to anyone. They are the price of allowing military style, high capacity weapons in civilian hands. 

As I write this article a mass killing of M slims in New Zealand is breaking in the news. Another hate filled white supremacist killed 50 people at two mosques. But unlike in our country the response of New Zealand’s leadership was clear, forceful, and directed at preventing future tragedies. Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern condemned the slaughter as a “terrorist attack.” Speaking about the victims she said,

“Many of the victims were immigrants and refugees. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetrated this violence against us in not.” (emphasis added)

She didn’t mince words about the attackers. Her government’s response is,  

“the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this. You may have chosen us [for the attack], but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

“These are people I would describe as having extremest views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand or in fact have no place in the world.” 

Finally someone is calling white supremacy what it is. Terrorism. The KKK is a terrorist group. The self-appointed militias across our country are terrorist cells. The National Rifle Association defends terrorism and provides “material support“ to acts of terrorism. These people have extremist views that have no place in America or any civilized society. 

The DAY after the attack, Prime Minister Ardern announced the gun laws in New Zealand would be strengthened. This is the principled, sensible, strong leadership we should expect form our elected representatives. 
Do the advocates for an “armed people” understand the consequences of their beliefs? What would happen if liberal, Black, Muslim, Hispanic, or Asian communities all bought assault rifles and formed militias? The consequences of us vs them are hate, division, and civil war. The results of “they are us” are compassion, inclusion, and safe communities for everyone.