• Nonviolence NY

How Guns Shift Conflict Towards Violence: Part 4

A Gun is a Destructive Tool

I remember the first time I shot a gun. I was raised in Indiana, a traditionally conservative state where gun ownership is by no means a rarity or taboo. My parents had friends who lived on a farm 30 minutes outside of my hometown of Indianapolis, and it is on this farm that I first handled a gun. A couple with no children and over ten acres of property, our friends kept a .22 gauge shotgun safely hidden away for protection of their property, mostly from coyotes looking for an easy snack in their chicken coops. The husband offered to teach myself, roughly 12 years old at the time, and my brother who was 14 how to shoot a rifle and about gun safety one night. After he had gone over the parts and functions of the small rifle, he turned to my brother and I with a piercing, grave seriousness and said to us:

“A gun is a tool, but it is a tool like no other. A gun is a tool built to kill something. Remember that when you are holding a gun, it is a tool designed to destroy another something, whether that is the target ahead of you, a coyote trying to steal a chicken, or another human life.”

Gun ownership is no doubt a deeply ingrained aspect of American society. In much of the country, it is seen as a symbol of personal freedom and resistance to a tyrannical government. Indeed, there are plenty of times in which gun owning citizens were able to use their right to bear arms to ensure their rights weren’t infringed upon, from the original American militia to black citizens asserting their demands for equal treatment under law [7]. It could be argued that even in the horrific examples of gun violence internationally listed above, gun ownership allowed those feeling oppressed to resist their perceived oppressors.

And yet in structuring our societal attitudes towards gun ownership, I maintain the essential consideration of that simple warning my family friend offered to me as a 12 year old. Guns are tools uniquely designed to kill. Offering individuals a right to bear arms, more than offering a symbol of personal freedom, it is granting individuals the power to kill. There is no way around that fact. It is my firm assertion that this must be at the forefront of policymakers’ minds when considering gun regulation.

I believe that this simple fact, combined with attention towards the intensifying violent effects of small arms and light weapons, makes the argument for some regulatory measures a bit clearer. One debate that has followed the Las Vegas shooting has been the legal status of bump stocks; easily purchasable devices (sometimes for as little as $99) that grant a semi-automatic rifle automatic capabilities [8]. 12 of the 23 guns that Stephen Paddock brought into his luxury suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino were outfitted with bump stocks, allowing the rapid fire spray of bullets that can be heard in videos of the incident [8]. Following the event, there has been some bipartisan movement towards making bump-stocks illegal [9]. This seems to me an incredibly logical piece of legislation if we consider whether individuals, regardless of background, should have access to the rapid destruction an automatic weapon can unleash. The necessity of background checks and other measures such as limiting those on the federal no-fly list, with histories of mental distress, or recent criminal histories from purchasing guns follow the same logic; should these potentially dangerous individuals be granted the right to destroy life?

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Tomorrow, we will be adding the final piece of Daniel's work in this series of five posts. Check back then or read the full piece on our Medium page by clicking here.

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Sources

[1] The New York Times, “Las Vegas Shooting: Investigators Grapple With Gunman’s ‘Secret Life’,” The New York Times Online, October 5, 2017 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/us/las-vegas-shooting.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.

[2] Edward Mogire, “The Humanitarian Impact of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the Threat to Security,” 2004, http://www.lincei.it/rapporti/amaldi/papers/XV-Mogire.pdf.

[3] Michael Siegel, Craig S. Ross and Dr. Charles King, III, “The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010,” American Journal of Public Health, 103(11) (Nov. 2013) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828709/.

[4] “International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Arms Availability and the Situation of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” American Red Cross, 8, 2007 https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0734_arms_availability.pdf.

[5] “Human Cost of Illicit Flow of Small Arms, Light Weapons Stressed in Security Council Debate,” Meetings Coverage, United Nations, May 13 2015 https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc11889.doc.htm.

[6] National Shooting Sports Foundation, “Firearms Industry Economic Impact Rises 168% Since 2008,” Gun Laws and Legislation, The Daily Caller, October 4, 2017 http://dailycaller.com/2017/04/10/firearms-industry-economic-impact-rises-168-since-2008/. [7] Adam Winkler, “The Secret History of Guns,” The Atlantic Online, October 2 2017 https://medium.com/s/with-great-power/the-secret-history-of-guns-cf3036ed67c4.

[8] Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Mark Berman, “Police say Las Vegas gunman planned ‘extensively,’ used cameras to monitor officers as they approached,” The Washington Post Online, October 3 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/10/03/as-las-vegas-grieves-investigators-struggle-to-piece-together-the-motives-behind-shooting/?utm_term=.86ea6109951f.

[9] Blair Guild, “GOP Sen. Lankford open to possibility of ‘bump stock’ regulation,” CBS News Online, October 4, 2017

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sen-lankford-open-to-possibility-of-bump-stock-regulation/.

[10] Shekou M. Sesay, Davidson S.H.W. Nicol and Others, “Civil War,” Sierra Leone, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, September 15, 2017 https://www.britannica.com/place/Sierra-Leone/Civil-war.

[11] Michael S. Schmidt, “Background Check Flaw Let Dylann Roof Buy Gun, F.B.I. Says.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 July 2015,

www.nytimes.com/2015/07/11/us/background-check-flaw-let-dylann-roof-buy-gun-fbi-says.html?_r

[12] Griffin, Drew, Jeanne Meserve, Christine Roman, and Michael Sevanof, "Campus killer's purchases apparently within gun laws." CNN. April 19, 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/19/gun.laws/index.html

[13] Pearce, Matt, "Adam Lanza's files show him as another shooter caught up in Columbine," Los Angeles Times. November 27, 2013.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-lanza-columbine-20131127-story.html

[14] "Court Found Cho "Mentally Ill"," The Smoking Gun, July 18, 2010.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/college/court-found-cho-mentally-ill

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