“I will not carry a gun, Frank. When I got thrown into this war I had a clear understanding with the Pentagon: no guns. I’ll carry your books, I’ll carry a torch, I’ll carry a tune, I’ll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I’ll even ‘hari kari’ if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!”
–Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce of television’s M*A*S*H (quoted here in 2012)
I grew up around guns, and as an adult, I’d prefer guns not be around me.
To me, firearms are roughly akin to cars, sports and Viagra as penile enhancement devices, and I already have a penis, thanks. Pieces of machinery generally are value-neutral, their performance dependent on the guiding mind of humans. Conversely, human minds infected with machismo, conspiracy theories, hatred, kitchen table Formica and just plain variable mental health issues offer as much cause to be frightened as the typical armed robber, who after all, just wants money.
But: I’m no prohibitionist.
My own professional world of alcoholic beverages symbolizes “legal but heavily regulated,” and that strikes me as utterly appropriate. You need a gun to cope, and I need a bottle. More alcoholic beverages to redress alcoholism? I’ll get right on it. Whatever gets you through your life, it’s all right.
Just leave me out of it.
… This dilemma is an iteration of a broader question: whether keeping guns makes people safer. A growing majority of Americans think it does—another mistaken conviction. Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Gun and Policy Research says that, other factors being equal, keeping a gun at home is associated with a double or triple risk of homicide. What holds for homes is also true of states and countries: more guns mean more gun-related murders, tragic accidents and suicides.
Yet, amid the drumbeat of bloody news, well-meaning, fearful individuals take the seemingly rational decision to arm themselves. Almost all plan to be prudent with their guns. That, alas, is what everyone thinks.