Sunday, April 21, 2013

Guns.




The subject of guns is sensitive. Extremely sensitive. Whoever presented the maxim, "religion and politics should not be a topic of conversation at work", forgot to add guns in there. Saying anything negative or positive about guns in any public place is almost hazardous. Rednecks from lands undefined will magically show up with every intent to "beat sense into you" at the mere utterance of distaste toward guns. While in contrast, those in opposition are likely to skip to commencing fisty cuffs for anything in favor. So despite the maxims exclusion, it seems people are better off removing the topic from "the list of things that are safe to talk about".


According to the Gallup Polls, America is quite nearly split in half in regards to gun laws. Those opposing stricter gun laws and those in favor. It is easy to want to jump to the stereotypical conclusion that Republicans are against the stricter laws and Democrats are in favor. This may actually be a true assumption. However, what is not true, is stating that all Liberals are in favor of stricter laws, and all Conservatives are not. This is an unfair assumption, especially to those affiliating with a party due to other policies that some individuals find more pressing.

What's worse about people who express this "jumping the gun" behavior, is that many do not understand or care to understand why they oppose or agree. They have jumped on some culturally indoctrined bandwagon which demands that a good Conservative must love guns and a good Liberal must not. The heads of these political parties have caught on and now resorted to treating their favoring masses as fanatics, and the masses respond by being fanatics! They swoon, and scream, and express their devotion without any care for policy. They become so integrated into their party that they no longer care what it actually means to be a part of the party. They become bias to the point of harmful negligence and overlook every contradiction on their side, while devotedly pointing out the mistakes on the other. I call this harmful, because people of this capacity would favor nearly any action from their prefered party, without consideration for the consequences, beneficial or not. They are pre-devoted to anything their prefered party presents. They are likewise to be pre-conflicting to the opposing parties policies.  They don't care why someone is apart of the other party, just that they are, and they believe that those in the other party must love and support all the things they hate about the other party (which is everything, despite the fact that they haven't a clue what the opposing party's policies are).

This perception is outrageously unfair, potentially harmful, and at the least untrue. It is with a childish fervor that these masses of fanatics depart from their senses to make way for a game of "all or nothing" in which you cannot propose to like some policies from one party and some policies from another. The very grounds on which I claim preservation of human dignity, that not just some, but most humans are of a capacity to take care of themselves, start to crumble under such bigotry. Fortunately, not everyone is such a fanatic, and more people are taking a stance in the political middle ground. There seems to be a growing number of people who practice thinking for themselves, but as those many ad hominem gun related memes you've seen on facebook suggest, there are still many who do not.

So, what about guns? What is my assessment? Well first, I certainly think they should be legal, much like I think drugs should be legal. I think that making it illegal to use them is an insult to human judgement. Inadvertently stating that people on a whole are incapable making thought-out decisions on their own or lack the capacity to restrain themselves from causing harm, both of which are utter nonsense. Lets use drugs as an example since I brought it up. Say, cocaine was legal, would someone that could be considered a good parent tell their children that it's alright to snort a line. Even if we had an age requirement, would they say it's okay as long as you're 21. Definitely not. Lets move it up a notch. There is mountain of household cleaners in nearly every house, all of which are extremely dangerous and poisonous, however, they are perfectly legal to purchase. Considering this, is it okay for someone to tell their kids, or anyone else for that matter, that its okay to drink bleach? Of course not. Would good parents tell their children that it's okay to use bleach to poison someone else? Again, of course not. Now, lets replace the bleach with a gun. Even if it was sold at the gas station, most people have enough moral awareness to know that killing someone is bad. This does not exclude the possibility of someone who doesn't know, but this is not the norm.

People who can relate or empathize to victims of horrendous crimes demand something to be done about gun violence. It may be a prudent thing to do, but people responding to tragedy do not have the capacity for objectivity. This means they would push for any change without concern of the overall consequence. In this way, many victims and empathetics are very much like political zealots. That is not to say that their behavior is, in any way, impractical. People respond to extreme acts by being extreme themselves. It's a perfectly normal response. This, however, does not remove the tag of being unreasonable, which is also a normal response.

That said, unlike household cleaners and drugs, guns were made with the exclusive intent of killing. Whether for food or war, this is their function. The adaptation of the sport of marksmen has giving guns a somewhat benign existence. Likewise, the appreciation for fine engineering and mechanical physics, which I have in great abundance, has added positive reflection on guns. But guns should have some regulation.

Although I disagree with him on many issues, I cannot help but think of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes when on the subject of gun regulations. Hobbes proposes a theory, called the social contract theory, that all people are at war against all others. Kind of a worldwide last man standing. He states that to maintain some level of peace, we have all agreed to an implied contract to restrain ourselves from inflicting the harm, that we surely wish to inflict, on others. This is full of holes that I will cover in a later post, but I wanted to bring it up because of an example he uses in his book "Leviathan". When trying to make his point that we all feel everyone has the drive harm everyone else, he uses the fact that most people lock their doors. If people did not believe people wanted to take advantage, then why lock doors? He takes it a step further by referencing that people often lock away their valuables from those they presumably trust. And now you get the basic idea.

I certainly do not believe that everyone is scheming and waiting for the opportunity to harm me. These are the ramblings of a paranoid schizophrenic. However, there is a sliver of truth in it. We can reasonably say that sometimes there is someone who comes along hoping to inflict some sort of harm, whether it be assault or burglary. And even with the extremely low chance that this harmful infliction could happen, it is widely viewed and recorded that preventative measures, such as locking the doors, are prudent. Now if we try applying this to guns, we can easily rule out that everyone with a gun is scheming to shoot everyone else. We can almost as easily determine that nearly everyone who has a gun does not wish to have to shoot anyone. That being said, it does not mean that there is no one who wishes to shoot someone with a gun. Again, the chances of this is extremely low, but, just like locking the doors, there should be some preventative measures.

I definitely think that some levels of screening are appropriate, and that only those who are in fear of failing such screenings will truly propose opposition to this. Just as society demands that an individual who wishes to drive a car must pass a particular competency related test to determine whether or not he/she is responsible enough to be allow  to legally operate such a potential life threatening hazard, we should also demand they do so to be permitted to use a gun.

Here I would like to make it clear that I am not fond of traditional thinking. Just because some old dead guys made rules, does not mean that the rules are morally correct. I have never understood the social claim that our ancestors were infallible simply because they are our ancestors. This is how dogmatic thinking is born. This is what allows people to stop thinking for themselves, a behavior which is supported with thoughts like "some people smarter than I am, have already figured this out". Truth is on many levels our children are of an intellect greater than theirs, yet many continue to praise them as some perfect source of knowledge. Not that I don't think our forefathers brilliant, because they rightfully were, just that we should not blindly take everything they have said as gospel. What we should do, and I think our forefathers actions suggest they agree, is to critically examine what they have taught, and make the necessary changes, dismissals, or advancements to their rules and teachings.  Basically, we should recognize and account for their good intentions, but that does not mean we should become apathetic when trying to determine whether or not their teachings were, in fact, good. Now that I have expressed on some level my distaste for the usage of statements like "our forefathers said....", and "if it was good enough for our forefathers...", I would like to bring up the second amendment.

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Under a critical eye it is a very morally sound right, but even if it was not, it is still substantial as a law. A good example of when morality and law is in conflict, would be drug use. Federally it's illegal to smoke marijuana, but there is nothing immoral about doing so. This does not mean that the law doesn't carry the weight, because it certainly does, and many people try to use the second amendment as supporting argument. Much of the time, however, they tend to only pay particular interest to parts of the amendment, which is "the right to bear arms". Most of which believe they should be able to bear arms without regulation  Unfortunately for these people, that is not what the amendment says. The right is not unlimited, and has always required regulation. In regards to the regulations, the greater the risk, just as with vehicles, there most certainly should be stricter regulations. 

My hope is to provoke a reasonable response. If you feel like you fit into any of these groups of extremist I have talked about, know that this is not an attack. The hope is for clarity, not condemnation. This is an attempt to allow people on both sides of the gun conflict to gaze upon a harmonic solution. An attempt to allow both sides to come to the conclusion, that despite some things, neither side is wholly right, but what is truly right, lies somewhere in between.

This is a massive topic, and there is likely something I have left out, but I am going to stop here.

I hope it was enjoyable and educational.

Until next time

-Josh

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