America’s Firearm Obsession

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The hits just keep coming. First the press deliberately focus on two lines from a much larger article about sexual violence Bernie Sanders wrote to encourage people to take his words in the exact opposite context he meant them. Now making the rounds is a month old hit piece from Slate trying to paint the Senator as a gun nut. Somehow I doubt a man who earned a D-minus form the NRA is a gun nut, but whatever.

The article does bring up one good issue, the Senator’s voting down the Brady Bill, but as always I am willing to be open to any legislator’s voting down of any bill because you do not necessarily know the specifics. I would also like to know more about allowing firearms on checked baggage on Amtrak trains. If it is baggage they are carrying with them on the train, then yes, I might have a problem, but if it is only baggage that is going to be held in the baggage car, then I see no problem with that.

The big problem I have with the article, though, stems not simply from its attack on the Senator, but its saving the bulk of its outrage for his supporting a bill that would make it harder for survivors of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers. You know what? That is a good thing. People should not be able to sue manufacturers for how someone uses their product. It is, of course, disingenuous to make the argument that you could kill someone with a hammer so why not outlaw hammers. The analogy is terrible. It is, however, perfectly analogous to compare suing a gun manufacturer over a shooting to suing GM over your being hit by a car. It is a lame attempt to get outlawing firearms through the backdoor. It is saying firearms themselves are inherently evil and the manufacturers need to be held accountable for that.

I have written, and will continue to write, about the unhealthy relationship gun rights advocates seem to have with their firearms. The same is true, however, with far too many of those who want better gun control (notice I said “better,” even as a second amendment advocate, I want sensible gun laws.) Both sides hold firearms as some sort of mythic device. To the GRAs guns are a holy talisman holding at bay the evil government (yeah, I can write page upon page about that,) and bad people who want to hurt them. To apparently too many gun control advocates, like Mark Joseph Stern, they are a demonic fetish that takes control of anyone holding them, turning them into monsters who mow down schools.

All of this, I think, is a sad attempt by both sides to avoid the exact same thing, a look inward about our culture that makes us prone to gun violence. Canada has roughly the same gun ownership we have, yet far lower rates of gun violence. The UK does make getting a gun harder, but not impossible. People still own firearms in the UK, and yet gun violence is practically nil,and maybe that is in part due to regulation, but I doubt it is only due to that. What is it about us that makes us so much more likely to end a fellow traveler’s life with a gun?

Yes it is easier to kill people with a gun than with a knife, and that is why the latter should be regulated. The gun itself, however is not the cause of the violence, and we need to be honest with ourselves about that. Creating a panic because  you are afraid of guns, or of losing them, clouds larger issues within our society and allows politicians and pundits of all types to manipulate whichever side they are trying to win votes from. Bernie Sander’s views on guns come from a place of reason, both when he votes for regulation (again, Slate, D-minus from the NRA, so take your hit piece and cram it) and when he votes against it. I may or may not always agree with him on the what of his decision, but I find myself respecting the why and more importantly the how.

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