Sunday, October 16, 2011

Arms and the Men

I've never had any desire to own or otherwise possess a gun.  I'm not sure why that's the case.  I've fired away at assorted inanimate targets using a handgun or a rifle on occasions in the past.  I was unimpressed by the experience, but perhaps would have liked it had I been better at the doubtless worthy goal of putting holes in cans and bottles.  I've never hunted, as I don't feel any desire to kill animals, especially while in the company of the drunk or hungover who are carrying firearms while wandering about the woods or sitting in a stand waiting for something to move.

Perhaps this is an attitude which separates me from or biases me against those of my countrymen who trumpet the virtues of firearms, or at least their possession, and who consider it a right if not a need to have at least one near at all times.  But the most recent killings by gun-wielding and rather pathetic, hateful examples of the human race make me wonder about the wisdom of expounding this right or indulging this need.

I suppose it is arguable that had someone been present in the salon which was recently made a shooting gallery, a glock concealed on his person, he could have leaped up and done away with the shooter.  I suppose it is possible that had such a person been openly brandishing a weapon it may have deterred the shooter.  But I doubt it, because it appears the killer didn't care much about anything but killing at the time.  My guess, which is admittedly only a guess as I've happily never been involved in a firefight, is that if a number of people have guns and begin firing them while in the same place, the likelihood is that more people will be shot or killed than would be the case if there was only one shooter.

I've never been convinced by the argument that the right to bear arms would somehow preclude the government from prohibiting me from exercising my rights.  I tend to think the government can dispose of me whenever it is so inclined and could do so even if I was armed to the teeth.  It will always be better armed than I can be, and could if it thought it necessary dispatch me with a drone, I suppose, at any moment.

My concern is that those who proclaim the existence of a right to bear arms, regardless of the consequences of having them rather freely available, are among those who would tend to minimize the responsibility which should accompany the exercise of any right.  In other words, they would have the characteristics which I think are common among those who believe in absolutes and who, worse yet, believe themselves qualified to discern and impose absolutes.  I think one of those characteristics is to defer and discourage thought when it comes to the absolute in question.

In a state of this Glorious Republic which recently adopted a law allowing its citizens and others to carry concealed weapons (a law adopted now by all states but one), there has been an outcry by the oddly named National Rifle Association (I've always thought of an association of rifles when I hear that name) and others over the fact that the attorney general of that state has issued rules requiring that those exercising this happy privilege (sorry, "right") must first have undergone four hours of training in the use of the weapon they may carry concealed on their persons.  The basis of the complaint seems to be that by issuing these rules, the attorney general has exceeded his authority.  The attorney general is in other words imposing restrictions on the right, which should be unfettered.

I would think the more reasonable course would be to consider whether such a requirement makes sense.  Should someone carrying a weapon know how to use it?  If not, why not?  If so, how do we determine whether that is the case?  Just what kind of training is needed for such a purpose?  How do we assure the training is given and received?

In determining whether it makes sense, and in determining how any limitation of a right would be reasonable, it is necessary to think and consider the consequences of actions taken.   Those who tend to cherish absolutes, though, are not inclined to consider or impose limitations or contemplate consequences; these are irrelevant if not wrongful in the case of an absolute.

Regrettably, those who cherish absolutes of one kind or another tend to think absolutely, as well.  If they believe they have an absolute right to bear arms, they probably believe they have other absolute rights.  And they probably believe that other people wrong them when they place limits on those absolute rights or appear to do so, and that they have the right to protect those absolute rights by punishing the wrongdoer or preventing him from restricting their absolute right, by any means necessary.

This is not a rant against anyone possessing weapons.  I personally would prefer swords, if we must be allowed to carry weapons of any kind.  They are much more personal, and their use requires real skill and courage.  Fewer people would likely be harmed or killed should anyone find themselves having a need to harm or kill other people; something which seems to happen with some frequency.  It is a criticism, however, of the tendency to eschew the intelligent consideration of consequences and assessment of responsibilities when claimed rights are at issue.

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