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This post is on guns. Fair warning in case you're sick of the topic.

There's a comparison that's been going around that says that guns are just a tool. As such, I've seem them compared to spoons, cars, garden rakes, table saws, and football helmets. (Yes, all of those, and I'm sure I'm missing some.)

Stephen King has a quote that mocks this comparison, but I think it's a solid point. I also think that the gun advocates putting it forward are generally missing their own point.

First of all, when we happen to be carrying a tool, why are we carrying it? I have a lot of tools in my house. I have a laptop computer; that's a tool. I have a refrigerator, a few screwdrivers, two cars, a few televisions, some umbrellas, ... all tools. We're humans. We like making, owning, and using tools. For a long time, it's even what we thought separated us from other animals (until Jane Goodall ruined our fun).

But we don't carry all of our tools everywhere we go (as much as it may feel like it at times: George Carlin Talks About "Stuff"). We have to pick the tools we think we're most likely to use. If it's likely to rain, we might decide to bring an umbrella, but most umbrellas are awkward enough that we won't carry one unless we're likely to need one. Unless we're John Steed, in which case we carry one because we're AWESOME.

So "it's a tool" works well enough for "that's why I own a gun". I have lots of tools that I haven't used in decades (the declutter coaches would tell me to get rid of them). But it doesn't work so well, or rather it works against purpose, for "that's why I carry a gun". I carry an umbrella because I think it might rain. I wear a football helmet because I think I might be tackled by the Steelers. Why do you carry a gun?

Even if the answer fits the model: "Because I think I might get threatened with violence", how often is that a reasonable fear? How often are you creating an air of violence around you by allowing in that fear, especially when it doesn't belong? As much as the media hypes up the school shootings, they're still a statistical anomaly. Our actual risk of getting caught in a crossfire of a random mass shooting is still statistically negligible, even though it does happen to be higher than in Europe.

This isn't a triviality. If you were to wear a football helmet, I'd be willing to wager real scratch that people are far more likely to hit you on the head just for fun than if you went around without one. Open Carry in particular advertises this; it says, "Come on, have a go, it's a violent world". But even CCW puts people in a mindset.

I was recently told that the "mindset" that CCW puts people in is a state of heightened awareness of danger. As such, it's a good thing. That's a fair point for some people and some situations, but there's also a razor-thin wedge between heightened awareness and paranoia. I've been in some pretty sketchy neighborhoods. I've taught gang members and drug dealers. Doing so effectively involves the right mix of "The hell you say" and a soft touch. I'm not going to claim that having a gun present is never the right route, but I think it's the right route a lot less often than white suburban males with a gun fixation seem to think. (That is an opinion, and I can think of at least one friend who may be reading this and disagreeing. That's fine.)

Secondly, and I think this is the bigger part of the point being missed, is: Guns are tools. What are they designed for?

Here's the other shoe in the "tool" argument. Spoons kill people: Obesity is at epic proportions in this country. Cars kill people: Far more people die in traffic accidents than in all gun-related incidents. Chainsaws kill people, as Tobe Hooper illustrated in his famous documentary. 

But spoons aren't designed to kill. They're designed to move liquidy sorts of things around, particular food to mouth. There are similarly shaped garden tools that move dirt around. There are huge pieces of construction equipment, similarly shaped, that move even more dirt around. It's what spoons do. And yeah, some people happen to use them to move the wrong food, or too much food, in their mouths. And yeah, MacGyver could kill you with a spoon, a box of matches, and a TV remote control. But spoons only kill you when they're being misused, not when they're being used for their intended purpose.

And cars aren't designed to kill. They're designed to move you from place to place. They're complicated tools, and sometimes they break during usage and kill you. Sometimes people are not using them as intended because they're more focused on some other tool (like a cell phone), or because they're not in the appropriate mental state. Rarely, but on occasion, Gozer has encouraged someone to choose the method of destruction for another human, and a car has been that choice.

Chainsaws, knives, football helmets, straws, TVs, sheets of paper, pillows, plastic bags, books... the world is full of tools which can through misuse or cleverness lead to the death of a human being.

But guns were invented for the very specific purpose of killing. If you are using a gun as a tool as it was originally intended to be used, you are killing a living creature.

Guns aren't alone in that club (heh, club... pun unintended, but I'll keep it). Indeed, clubs, maces, spears, arrows, cannons, mines, bombs, nuclear warheads... we humans have been creative about finding ways to kill each other. We seem to spend an awful lot of mental energy on creating tools meant to kill.

I know what the gun advocates reading this are probably saying now, because it's what I've been told repeatedly in the past: "I use my guns for sport"; "I use my guns for self-defense".

If you use your gun for sport, you're only carrying it to and from the gun range or your private cabin in the woods or your girlfriend's uncle's estate in the Hamptons. At any rate, you're not involving me or random people on the street, so why are you being so defensive?

If you use your gun for self-defense, I've already addressed that: You mean to be able to kill someone if the need arises, so you're allowing that the need may arise. Statistically, it won't, but you're increasing those odds by putting yourself in a mindset where it might happen. As the saying goes: To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

So again, if I'm carrying an umbrella, it's because I think it might rain. If I know you're carrying a gun. I think it's safe to generally assume that you think you might have to shoot someone (unless a downpour of skeet is imminent). Unless we're in a context where that's an actual significant statistical threat, which is rare, I'll wonder about the mismatch between my perspective of the world and yours.

(Sidebar: Guns in your vehicle are a separate matter. That's an extension of Carlin's "stuff" commentary; I have plenty of tools in my car that I rarely use.)
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Hands down one of the best remixing & mash-up mixes ever made 100% (For real!!!!)
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Wikipedia helps in a few minutes these day's...But all the man made deities are a bunch of vicious cunts!! 
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In his circles
137 people
Have him in circles
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Max Henning's profile photo
paul sesay's profile photo
Liam Joyce's profile photo
Scott Kemp's profile photo
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