hope and fear

Since the Aurora, Colorado tragedy, gun manufacturers and retailers have seen a huge spike in demand for their lethal products. People are reacting out of fear, and for better or worse, gun manufacturers are perpetually poised to capitalize.

America is a ballistic country where fearful people cling to their guns: registered and unregistered, semiautomatic and fully automatic, concealed and unconcealed.   And while law-abiding citizens should continue to have the right to bear arms, the choice to do so is generally irrational and benefits very few outside of Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

The defense potential that a gun can provide does outweigh the associated risks for a few specific groups of people. Those living in high crime areas would be best to relocate, but since that is much easier said than done, a gun might be a necessity. Likewise, those who have managed to make legitimately dangerous enemies should feel warranted in exercising their second amendment rights (I would consider people who go camping or who live in remote areas to fit in with this group since bears qualify as dangerous enemies.). Lastly, current and former police and military members with intensive firearm training are fit to comprise the “well-regulated militia” defined by the Constitution. However, these three groups do not encompass the entirety of the 47% of American households that own guns.

There are also hunters and people who enjoy shooting as a hobby. These folks cannot cite Constitutional protection for their avocations, but they can and do invoke the self-defense assertion. Still, for these enthusiasts, guns are a nonessential accessory. With the modern convenience of grocery stores and the far less dangerous bow and arrow alternative, firearms for hunting are (pardon the pun) overkill. And those who shoot guns for a hobby are akin to the people that keep alligators as pets, disregarding conventional safety in favor of an esoteric indulgence.

What’s left in the demographics of gun owners is a large group of misguided Americans trying to treat their symptoms of fear because they cannot cure the disease of violent crime. But as with most treatments, there are side effects, and for most suburban, middle-class gun owners, the inherent risks do not validate the seldom reaped reward of firearm “protection.” These Americans are wrong in assuming that a gun will solve their fear problem.

Former football coach and commentator John Madden has a well publicized fear of flying. He solves this problem logically: he travels in a luxurious tour bus. This is a rational solution because it successfully eliminates the fear of the claustrophobic conditions that Madden cites as the reason for his aversion to airplanes. Many gun owners claim a firearm is the solution to their fear of victimization, yet their decision to arm themselves does nothing to eliminate the root cause of the fear. The bad guys do not magically disappear, and neither does the gun owners’ own paranoia. In fact, once citizens become gun owners, they often acquire an additional phobia regarding the government’s hypothetical intentions on taking their guns away. This is especially bizarre when many of these same people refuse to fully acknowledge a dangerous and ironic reality that makes gun owners and their loved ones far more likely to become the victim of an accidental shooting or suicide.

Ultimately, for millions of Americans guns are nothing more than the coping mechanism of choice for dealing with fear, and it is a shame that people cannot just stop being so afraid. The criminals really aren’t worth the energy.

(Photo Credit: Philippe Toledano)