By Matthew Williams, Chief Editor
Banning semi-automatic firearms, or firearms in general for that matter, is not the answer to preventing tragedies like what occurred last week at Stoneman Douglas High School. It is a knee-jerk, emotional reaction by people who increasingly see firearms themselves as the problem when it comes to mass murder incidents. Yet firearms are not the problem – they are simply a tool used by people who are intent on committing such heinous atrocities.
Do we ban tools when they are used in violent circumstances? We don’t. Tools have the potential to be deadly, yet they are not inherently deadly on their own. Natural phenomena aside, it usually takes one living thing to act a certain way towards another living thing for violence to occur. Humans have used all sorts of tools throughout our species’ history to exact violence upon one another: fists, rocks, spears, knives, explosives, airplanes, vehicles, deadly chemicals, and of course firearms. That list could go on, but the point is that those things mentioned, including firearms, are not deadly by themselves. They require an actor, someone to put into motion the use of a tool in a specific way to cause violence. A loaded gun is no more deadly left alone than a rock sitting alongside a riverbank. Those two things – a loaded gun and a rock – require someone to set into motion a chain of events which may then cause them to injure or kill. Someone has to pull the trigger, someone has to throw the rock, in order for them to cause violence.
It appears that we as Americans also have a problem with blame. We tend to lay blame for violence in some circumstances with the actor, and in others with the tool. According to the CDC, in 2015, 10,265 people died in the United States due to drunk driving. In that same year, according to the FBI, 9,616 people were murdered with firearms. Those numbers are so close they can almost be considered equal. But do we blame those 10,000 plus deaths on the vehicle (a tool)? We don’t. We blame the person who decided to get behind the wheel drunk, as we rightly should. Not once do we question whether or not we should begin banning alcohol or the use of vehicles. Not once do we lay blame on the bartender, the establishment dispensing alcohol, the alcohol manufacturer, the car manufacturer, or the car itself. Yet for some quirky reason when it comes to guns, we blame both the actor and the tool. Sometimes, our collective outrage with the gun lasts longer than it does with the actor.
The point is that guns are not by themselves violent. They are inanimate objects until someone decides to do something with them, just like a car is harmless until someone decides to get behind the wheel, impaired or not. And we as a society ought to lay blame squarely with the actor(s) involved in an event, not with the tools with which they decide to use.
Does America have a problem with gun violence? It would appear so. Do we need to have a conversation about it? I believe we do. But before we have such a conversation, I think we all need to recognize that if we are inconsistent with our arguments, with our logic, then we aren’t really going to solve anything. If we believe that the answer to gun violence is banning guns, then we must accept that the answer to our current (and ongoing) opioid crisis is banning drugs. Oh, wait…