Recently I started going to a writers group. As any writer groups, people share their writing and ideas at every meeting. Some time in October, a writer brought in a short narrative of a slightly odd idea. In a world like ours, there are velociraptors running everywhere. They randomly attack and kill about 200 people a month, but they are allowed to run free, protected from human intervention because, supposedly, they can secret something that are medically precious, a cancer-curing substance from their glands.
During the discussion, we scratched our heads over the synopsis. Suggestions veered into all directions. Finally, the writer himself explained. The idea behind the vicious velociraptors was handguns. Approximately 200 people are killed accidentally by handguns every month (I have not confirmed the statistics), but Americans are absolutely and completely unwilling to even have a conversation about gun control laws. As a French immigrant he found it utterly bewildering.
We discussed this some more. Someone pointed out that, unlike his setup for the story, handguns don't cure cancer. There is no reliable, verifiable benefit to handgun ownership comparable to curing cancer, which accounts for about one in five or four deaths. So the premise does not quite work.
For a brief moment the room was filled with sighs as the memory of the Aurora cinema massacre hung over us. This being in a Washington suburb, there were immediate comments all around that gun control is political death. Nobody, but nobody in national politics, regardless of party affiliation or ideology, dares to speak up against gun rights, and everyone who is not backed by NRA knew to avoid the subject altogether. And the Supreme Court, led by Dick Cheney's hunting buddy Scalia, have put the final word on this in DC vs Heller.
But the French immigrant shook his head and said he just did not understand. Why can't people even have a conversation about this? A cloud of threat seems to gag everyone with any connection to politics. If one is elected (except in DC or Chicago), one had better keep one's mouth shut about this subject. In this day and age, one can talk about racism, slavery, torture, legalizing addictive substances, but one can't talk about handgun regulation, because representatives have been effectively and quickly thrown out of office by the NRA again and again. The tide of public sentiment rapidly turned from 2-to-1 in favor of gun control in late 1990s to majority favoring no more gun control in late 2000s, despite the increase in gun-related killing sprees. Whoever is running the show, don't they strike fear in your heart if you were an elected official? When someone mentions children accidentally shooting themselves with daddy's gun in the house, immediately dozens of people spring up to argue that swimming pools kill more children than unlocked guns. But swimming pools are fun and useful and bring joy to families. What do guns do?
So I wonder, because I don't understand it either. What is it about guns that make people feel so strong, tough, and safe? What is the emptiness that is filled by the possession of guns? It has to be related, in some way, to the potential power of killing other people, killing them dead, without soiling your own hands. What does that mean? How urgently do we need to possess this power to kill our fellow human beings? And how much are people willing to pay for the sense of contentment and satisfaction knowing that one possesses the power? Obviously, the blood of a few small children is not enough, as Huckabee has convincingly demonstrated. It's just a perfect opportunity to blast liberals for not requiring Christian prayers in public schools.
I'm a woman and cannot kill anyone with my bare hands. If I were to live in a society full of danger and fear, I'd want to possess guns too. I think, if we look at who are the most fervent gun right activists and believers, it becomes clear why they have become louder and more fervent, for they have reason to fear, fear the loss of their power and privilege, because the world in which they ruled over others is slipping away. This is one of the few conversations they still dictate.
But still, although it is true that people kill people every day, part of me do not and cannot understand.
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