Loaded arguments

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Monday, May 7
We've heard some nonsensical argument lately concerning gun control, almost exclusively from people who feel we shouldn't have it. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, we've been inundated, both in Bennington and throughout the nation, with the notion that guns are a sacred right and, even more absurdly, that if the Virginia Tech students had been armed, perhaps none of this would have happened.

The timing of this argument is tacky as well as illogical. In the aftermath of what has been one of the most horrific gun-related crimes ever, the immediate response of was, "Yeah, that was awful ... but don't dare take our guns!"

One of the main arguments being offered by the "guns for (nearly) everyone" camp is that of self-defense — if everyone is armed, those members of the community prone to start shooting up the neighborhood might think twice. Or, barring that, they might get plugged by an enterprising college student with a concealed weapon before they can make much progress. In other words, the argument implies, if we all must live in a Wild West state of fear anyway, we might as well back it up with plenty of firepower. Society would function like a meeting of belligerent tectonic plates, under constant pressure, with disaster hovering inevitably in the wings.

Leaving aside that this system would have us play a game of "hot potato" with statistics, it also assumes that the bulk of our citizens are balanced and above temptation. That is absurd reasoning. We cannot, as such, build windows into people's souls, and we can never know who — in the grip of duress, anger or insanity — is going to misuse dangerous firearms. We do know that having the only solution be, "Shoot them when they wig out," seems counterproductive. Not to mention callous.

Obviously, the more guns you have in an area, the easier it is to lay hands on them. We have lots, and correspondingly we have an obscene rate of gun violence. How many massacres must we endure before we recognize that gun ownership isn't a right but a privilege, and Americans have abused it past all recognition? Clinging to the notion that the founders would want us to have unfettered access to the sort of firepower we now have is naive; they came from a different world with different priorities, and substantially less-dangerous weaponry. No one is taking out schools or starting gang wars with their pappy's squirrel gun.

Gun advocates should spare us from the wretched rhetoric that, "When guns are criminal, only criminals will have guns." That assumes that criminals are some other species, sensible rogues just waiting for us to drop our collective guard so they can come at us with their secret hoard of handguns. To restate the obvious: People become criminals. Normal people.

To argue that new restrictions on firearms — at least on the concealable variety — would be less effective than arming everyone is to hover perilously close to the kind of warped thinking that produces gun violence in the first place.

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