Insert introduction here. Bah, well I was reading a story on Slashdot yesterday which was about gun rights. I read some of the comments so it is not a huge surprise I end up here writing an introduction to a blog which is far too long. Here is the one specific comment which I shall focus on. I’m going to be hideously xenophobic from here on, I hope it is obvious through context that when I say “American” I am probably not referring to everyone, just a certain vocal mindset.
Guns don’t kill people… (Score:5, Insightful)
by sv_libertarian (1317837) writes: on Friday June 18, @02:08PM (#32615976)
Insane cab drivers kill people. He just chose to use guns. As witnessed by recent mass killings in China, he could have easily used a knife. Sadly people in England are (A) disarmed and (B) pacified to the point where they expect the government to save them, so even a knife wielding crazy would have racked up a body count. Anti gun groups beat the same drum over and over and over and over again. No logic, just fear, fear, and more fear.
Yes, as opposed to the person arguing that I need a gun to protect myself, which doesn’t rely on fear, fear, fear at all … if I’m not scared then it’s not at all convincing!
Many (pro gun) Americans will happily comment on gun politics in other countries because they think they have a well educated opinion on the subject, while being apparently oblivious to the fact the rest of the world regards their gun situation as a total failure. We can easily sweep aside a lot of arguments like “a gun is a ‘tool'” and “guns don’t kill people” because they’re self evidently nonsense unless you stretch some definitions so far that you are rather missing the point. An American will typically look at the problem as “England = America – guns” and then wonder what would happen in America if guns were outlawed. Well, there’d be chaos obviously, because your criminals are armed to the teeth and removing guns from law abiding citizens would give the criminals a free run. But fortunately, England does not equal America minus guns, and the argument doesn’t apply.
In reality allowing British citizens to be armed would result in escalation of criminals’ arms. It would also cause our police to need to be armed, and they have repeatedly said they don’t want to be1, and this would inherently change their relationship with the public for worse. The point is that most British people DO NOT want guns because they would bring about far more problems than they would solve, but most Americans commenting on these matters operate under the premise that either we’re itching to be armed to the teeth and our government is oppressing our rights, or that we are allowing hundreds of thousands of criminals to run around with heavy arms and we’re pathetic and helpless against them. Neither of these situations is true, and both are extremely condescending from a country which popped into existence 250 years ago, decided it knew everything there was to know about being a country, and has refused to learn from its own mistakes and therefore hasn’t changed a lot since. Gun crime is fairly rare in Britain and British people just don’t generally have the same immature gun fascination that American males do; probably because we don’t idolise or romanticise them and we grow up knowing full well what they’re for, without silly pretences about them being ‘just tools’ or no more dangerous than any every-day item.
Now it’s pretty common for Americans to believe the rest of the world (Europe at least) is just like America (but a bit less good) so this is forgivable, but look at the moderation: “+5 insightful”. What? According to the people who read his opinion, he’s a sensible person adopting a sensible position. Google his username and you find his flickr feed, on which he has 150 photos of things related to his firearms: numerous exciting photos of guns (really), his ‘hunting’1 pictures, and a few gun-related photoshops. Seriously. The only other hits apart from Slashdot and flickr are several pages’ worth(!) of gun forums. This is just the stuff that comes up after a 20 second google investigation. Listening to this person for advice on gun politics is a bit like inviting Osama Bin Laden to a discussion on multicultural tolerance: Osama probably thinks he’s a knowledgable authority but everyone in a neutral position thinks he’s a fanatic with a personal agenda to push. And yet the average slashdotter thinks this opinion is ‘insightful’. This is because the average slashdotter is an intellectually dishonest cretin who will support any argument no matter how stupid as long as it arrives at the same conclusion as they do. You will also notice this on the Linux vs Windows stories… now I like Linux and dislike Windows as much as the next person but a large part (most?) of what is said there in support of Linux or in attack of Windows is absolute rubbish and it’s oft repeated and modded up.
As far as I can tell, there are two things that provoke irrational reactions to guns from Americans:
1) Guns give a sense of power and grandeur and are a way to make a frustrated insignificant person feel good about themselves. Somehow shooting, or even better, ‘hunting’2 is a way to assert your masculinity. If you take the gun away, you’re left with an insecure man trying to hide behind a gay moustache (which he thinks makes him look masculine).
2) They’re enshrined into the constitution, which in a country where irrational patriotism is instilled into its population so heavily3, is basically an infallible holy document. It doesn’t matter it was written at a time when ‘arms’ referred to muskets which if you were lucky shot twice per minute at anywhere within a 90 degree angle from where the barrel was pointed when you were aiming, and which had an effective range of 20-30 feet; anything farther was out of range and anything closer was still likely to continue running for long enough to stab you even if you did manage to hit them. It also doesn’t matter that it explicitly specifies it’s for a ‘well regulated militia’ to be able to fight back vs the state, which was a reasonable possibility several hundred years before the state built tanks and aircraft carriers and ballistic missiles. Reality and reason don’t enter into it: it’s in the constitution, that’s all that matters.
I honestly believe that America itself will become a recognisable religion by about the year 2150. It will probably be a dialect of Christianity (Christianity is more deeply rooted there now than ever before), but it’ll be distinct and the constitution will officially be recognised as a holy text. There’s a certain irony in that being on Slashdot this man is almost certainly an atheist, but I think that restricting the subject of religion to matters of theology shows ignorance of how those matters of theology gained traction in the first place. A good number of American atheists and theists alike treat America in the same way as they would a religion; their deity has merely lost its human outline and become more implied than stated.
1. There’s a subtle difference betwen police in the UK and police in much of the rest of the world in that UK police are specifically intended *not* to be a militaristic force. They were founded on this principle, although this is not as true as it used to be, thanks Jacqui Smith.
2. I’m not sure it’s really ‘hunting’ when it’s in a controlled situation where you have a gun and your prey is about 1/20th of your size. When you can kill an elephant with a pointy stick, that’s masculine. Gun vs rabbit just makes you a little girl hiding behind the cumulative effects of several layers of massive natural and artificial advantages.
3. See the part of the election campaign when it was rumoured that Oabma didn’t hold his hand over his heart during the pledge of alligience. Many Americans were outraged, everyone else vomited at the idea of a ‘pledge of alligience’, an obligation to take it, an obligation to hold your hand over your heart while doing it, and the fact that it’s so important you can make a decent rumour from claiming someone didn’t do it. And let’s also consider that the boy scouts of America give their flag a proper funeral ceremony if it becomes defaced. How they keep a straight face god only knows.