So… I’m writing this post mainly in response to a post by my former history professor. This is the night before my dinner with my local 18th century long-rifle re-enactment group, but I’m not sure if I will actually publish this before or after said event. Indeed, this is a departure from my usual material. Not since I first started this blog have I addressed any sort of political or philosophical topic.
Anyway, one of my favourite YouTube channels is the Rageaholic. He’s loud and foul-mouthed, but he’s also articulate, well-educated, and hilarious. It was a strange coincidence that this video, which he made as a guest on Sargon of Akkad’s channel, popped up in my feed immediately after I had already written a comment on the aforementioned post. I’ve already seen the video, so I didn’t bother to watch it again, but I thought it was quite relevent to the topic at hand. Originally, I was simply going to type up my comment and leave it at that, but now…
Although the aforementioned post is in response to a slogan, rather than an incident, I am reminded that EVERY TIME something terrible happens, Americans immediately look for some inanimate object to blame, rather than placing all responsiblity squarely on the cognitively compromised individual who perpetrated the act in the first place. Let me make one thing very clear: having a healthy respect for machinery, guns included, is very important. Industrial environments are filled with machines that are capable of doing for more damage to a human body than any handheld firearm. As a gun owner, long-time shooter, hunter, and machinist with his own machine tools, I am quite well aware of how to properly handle such lethal implements. “But guns are meant to kill people,” I hear you say, “you can’t kill anyone but yourself by misusing a lathe!” Go suck a railroad spike, I’ve heard that argument more times than I can count. People have used cars, knives, hammers, nail-guns, and pieces of pipe to kill each other ever since they discovered such things could be used as weapons. In fact, I’m happy to live in a country where the government does not immediately create new legislation every time someone goes on a killing spree. A number of years ago, a crazed man in the U.K. went on a killing spree with a katana. Katanas are now heavily restricted in the U.K. as a result. Now then, no-one in any country that I know of still carries a sword in public, but as both a sword collector and practitioner of Iaidō, I would be absolutely livid if I had to pass a background check, go through a registration process, or common sense forbid, endure a five-day waiting period every time I wanted to add another blade over three inches in length to my collection. I have several guns to my name, I have never had to wait for any of them (because I don’t own any handguns), and I’ve had to pass a background check only once. Why? Aside from my .45-70, all the guns I own are either antiques or reproductions of such that use black powder. You may not know this, but black powder firearms are completely unregulated in the U.S. I mentioned in my comment that I am a chemist as well (I majored in chemistry before switching to engineering), and I know how to make black powder. I know how to make dynamite as well – from scratch. Does this make me a dangerous person? No. I am not dangerous, save to raccoons, whitetail deer, and any pests stupid enough to break into my house, animal or human.
So, what was the point of all that rambling? Well, note the swift action that Parliament took after the aforementioned ronin-style killing spree. That does not happen in the U.S. whenever some serial killer decides to use an unusual weapon. It is, in fact, parody come to life in the U.K. I say that because Monty Python did a sketch on this matter about defending oneself against fresh fruit. In the sketch, one of the Pythons (I forget which, I think it was Eric Idle) asked about “defending oneself against pointed sticks.” John Cleese’s character fires back with something to the effect of “don’t be ridiculous, why would you have to defend yourself against a pointed stick?” Today, Parliament’s policies have become meme-worthy, with the idea being that any time someone commits murder, the murder weapon is immediately banned, even if it literally is fresh fruit. Certainly, the British have long abandoned the weapon-centric culture of the Middle Ages, a culture which persists in the U.S. to an extent. However, as I go deeper into the proverbial rabbit hole, I have to ask, is it a gun culture that Americans suffer from, or something else?
I mentioned that I know how to make black powder. I can also cast bullets. If modern ammunition were outlawed tomorrow, I would still be able to hunt and defend myself. I’m not the only one, either. There are videos all over YouTube of people making their own functional firearms with far less equipment than I have in my own machine shop. Rural Americans are very self-reliant, and disarming them is next to impossible. Are they violent? I rather doubt it, SO, back to the topic at hand. Assuming, dear reader, that you have read the post I originally cited (including my comment), as well as watched the video, you have two perspectives aside from my own. There is something that I was originally going to add to my comment, but didn’t. Here it is: Americans are rebels. It is part of American culture to abhor the establishment. This is why Donald Trump, of all people, was elected by an overwhelming geographic majority if not a numerical one. He represents the anti-establishment. The NRA, and all of the gun manufacturers in bed with them, relish every new anti-gun measure that legislators propose, because it means that large numbers of Americans will stock up on guns and ammo in preparation for the imaginary shootout they will have with the establishment “come to take our guns.” Keep dreaming, Bubba J, the U.S. government doesn’t even enforce existing gun laws, so you needn’t worry about any new ones. Did I mention that I was trying to get back on topic? I’m getting there. Here’s the thing: there is no single source to blame for violence. Violent people exist, full stop. Restricting their access to weapons will serve merely to engage the more creative side of their blood lust. Those who are creative enough can turn nearly anything into a lethal weapon, after all, humans have been tearing each other to shreds since before we had metal. No, access to weapons does not incite violence, neither does “violent” entertainment. While media certainly affects culture, I would argue that a culture needs to pay close attention to its youth an routinely remind them that “violence is a last resort,” but is anyone dispensing that sort of wisdom these days?
One of the members of the re-enactment group, a gentleman who looks like Father Christmas (and even dresses as him on occasion), once asked me “what do they teach in schools these days?” Given that I was homeschooled, I was spared the experience, but thanks to the internet, I had an answer: “how to not hurt each other’s feelings,” I replied. Taxpayer-subsidised daycare is doing this, and I’m not sure if it’s to blame for the gun culture directly, or if the gun culture is trying to protect itself from my very generation (of which I am deeply ashamed), but it’s not doing anything to teach people how to get along and not kill each other. Oh, and how well that’s worked. Before I go, feast your eyes on this, and then ask yourself, “how bad would this be if every member of such a violent crowd had a gun?”
I largely agree that “gun culture” is a problem, but I really don’t think that it’s a priority. Lump me in with stuck-up trouser stains such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan and French President Emmanuel Macron all you like, but I will say again: violent people exist, and violence is not something that can ever be completely removed from society. We have police for that very reason, but giving them more and more laws to enforce while simultaneously tying their hands and preventing them from doing their jobs leads to, you guessed it, mob rule. When the police finally showed up to stop the protests across the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s election, people cheered them on. What does that tell you? Humans like to live in a society where they feel safe. Americans, however, are under the impression that a government that can keep them safe is too powerful to be trusted. As a result, they hoard weapons with the idea that they must protect themselves from the government. “A patriot is a man who is ready to defend one’s country against one’s government.” I may have messed that quote up a bit, and I don’t even remember who said it, but I think it speaks volumes. Americans love their country, no question, so perhaps they love guns so much because they think they need them.
In all this rambling, I failed to answer the title question, but hopefully, I’ve left you with some food for thought. It might be a bit chewy, but it should be digestible.