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Who defines purpose?

February 5, 2019

This is the third installment in my “there are no new pro gun control arguments” series. The first may be found here, and the second may be found here.

At some point during a discussion of guns and gun control with a gun control advocate (GCA), assuming the discussion goes on long enough, it seems I inevitably encounter this argument:

“Guns are made to kill people.”

Sometimes, it takes a slightly different form. That form might be “a gun’s only purpose is to kill.” It might be phrased as “guns are designed to kill.” Sometimes, if dealing with the right sort of GCA, it might be “designed to be what it is – the single most efficient weapon for killing large numbers of people at one time.” All of them, though, are simply variations on the basic theme, that guns are made (or designed) to kill people and that such making or design defines everything anyone needs to know about them.

It’s all a pile of crap.

I have, for instance, seen some guns whose design and purpose was specifically for

  • punching very tight clusters of little round holes in paper at varying distances
  • knocking clay pigeons out of the air
  • shooting steel, clay, wood and paper targets as quickly as possible
  • recreating a rather fictionalized version of the “cowboy days”

I do not know, and cannot know with absolute certainty, the purpose for which the very first firearm was designed and built. Neither does or can anyone else. To suggest that killing is the only purpose for which guns are designed or built, especially with all the information that is available to anyone willing to do even the most cursory of searches, is indicative of either

  • willing ignorance which fears information contrary to what one believes, or
  • a truly astounding degree of dishonesty

Sometimes, you get both from the same person. A two-for-one deal, if you will. So, if you make this argument because you simply don’t know better, feel free to remain ignorant if you wish, but at least be honest enough with yourself to say “I am choosing to remain ignorant because I am afraid I might learn I am wrong.” If you make the argument because you believe it’s a winning argument (it’s not, but whatever) even in the face of information to the contrary, at least have the self-respect to look in the mirror and say “I am a liar, a person who engages in willful, considered deception, because reasons” or something similar.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter why guns are designed or made. Why would I say such a thing? Very simply it comes down to this. Guns, like all inanimate objects, lack will, volition or agency. Hunks of wood, metal and polymer that they are, they have no inherent moral or ethical quality. Assigning them any of those qualities is simply an example of anthropomorphism.

You know what does have those qualities? People. Humans. You. Me. Us. We are the ones who do things that are good or bad. We are the ones who choose to do what is right or what is wrong. Just as we choose what we will do, we also choose the tool(s) with which we will do it. The loner with poor self-esteem who decides to shoot up a school because the world is going to pay for not recognizing his worth and ability has made the decision to do something that is evil and has arguably become evil himself. Most of us recognize that (if you argue that there is no such thing as evil, your problems are far greater than issues like gun control). It would be evil if his choice, instead, was to bomb a Federal Building in Oklahoma, to attack people with an axe or to drive a truck into a crowd.

On the other hand, the mother of three who, while waiting for the police to arrive as her ex is attempting to beat down her door and carry out his threat of killing her and her kids, chooses in that most dire of circumstances to blow his shit away with a 12 gauge shotgun at 10 feet once he gains entrance, has not done anything evil. She has protected herself and her innocent children from evil. Surely, she has done something good (If you argue she was wrong, that she has done something bad and should have tried de-escalation, or that she should have fled her home, you’re an idiot who shouldn’t be allowed to walk around without a keeper).

“Ah,” but you say, “the problem is that their design makes them well-suited to killing or at least to the delivery of deadly force.” Okay. That is not an inherently bad thing.

I am not a violent man. I hope to live out my days without ever again having to “raise a hand in anger.” I would much prefer to spend my time with friends and family, or reading, or in my garden, or trying to write something coherent, than be in any sort of physical altercation. Most other people, whether they own guns or not, are much the same. The problem of course is that there exists a minority who will not cooperate with what the vast majority of us want. You find them from time to time in every demographic group you can name. No group has a monopoly. Sadly, some of those folks understand and respond to only one thing: swift, overwhelming violence (or at least the very real threat of it). For that, there exists only one thing that is the single, most effective physical tool for defense of self and others – the gun. That is the tool with which, when all else has failed, the good of protecting the weak from the strong, the elderly from the young, the infirm from the fit and healthy, and the few from the many can be accomplished.

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  1. Great read… I have always believed guns were designed to protect and defend. But, like any tool, they can be used by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. It is this type of person the media and the GCA focus their attention. They will not debate the mother protecting her children because it goes against their agenda and they cannot abide that.

    • Sadly, I have had people tell me that it would be better for the attacker to succeed than for her to use “weapons of war” to ensure the protection of her and her family. That’s madness.

      • I’ve heard that too. I’ve often wondered what those who make these types of comments would do if it were their children that were in danger. Would they not use any tool available to protect them and, if you would use any tool, would you not want an affective tool that eliminated the threat at a distance rather than rely on a close quarters option?

      • There is a quote attributed to Dr. Mike Adams: “The gun control extremist has at least two things in common with the Islamic extremist. He has a willingness to die for his fundamental beliefs. And he has the sanctimony to demand that others go with him.”
        It’s hard to argue or debate people out of their sanctimony.

  2. OldNFO permalink

    I don’t even bother with these types anymore. I’ve carried legally since 1986, never had to use a gun to defend myself, and I pray to God I never have to. But I WILL defend myself if necessary.

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