We often say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” to make a point.
Firearms are a tool. They’re incapable of independent action. As a general rule, they only work if someone makes them work, either intentionally or through negligence. They don’t decide to take a human life.
Only another human can do that.
The pithy quote is an effort to try and direct the blame for so-called gun deaths back on the people responsible.
Not everyone gets that point, though.
Can you think of a promotional slogan that exceeds this one in persuasive power, especially for people who are already inclined to accept its implications: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”?
The slogan’s effectiveness resides in its second clause. Of course people kill people. But that obvious fact beguiles us to accept the sketchy logic of the first clause and misleads us in two ways:
First, we discount the killing power of modern weapons, which have a deadly potency that the Founding Fathers could not have imagined when they wrote the Second Amendment.
I’m going to interject here and not that repeating firearms existed at the time, the Founding Fathers were smart and likely could imagine things like semi-automatic guns at some point, and since they also allowed people to own cannons, I’m inclined to think it wouldn’t have freaking mattered to them.
Thus when defenders of unlimited access to firearms say “Guns don’t kill people,” they fold semi-automatic AR-15s in with all the other tools that can be used for murder, such as knives, axes, baseball bats, hammers, crossbows or, as one right-wing commentator put it, even a butter knife.
But let’s face it: If you’re really serious about killing, there’s nothing like a gun.
Second, the slogan invites us to disregard the agency of the gun itself. Sure, people kill people. But often without the gun the killing would never happen.
Yes, because no one ever stabs someone to death or anything.
This second point is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the most idiotic claim.
Oh, to his credit, he provides an example. It’s also a rare, isolated case that happens rarely, not “often” as the writer claims.
But why acknowledge that fact when you’re trying to make a political point? You use a horrible anecdote so people will feel awful for the poor victim–and, in this case, they should–but then decide that the problem was the gun, not the jackwagon who reacted over nothing and took a human life.
Or then he trots out the story of an off-duty cop who shot and killed someone; as if that has any relevance on the average gun owner.
Regardless, what the author ignores is how there are typically around 16,000 or so homicides in the nation each year, yet even the most conservative estimates of defensive gun uses each and every year put it between 108,000 and 216,000 uses.
That alone shatters the idea that guns are uniformly bad or that they somehow automatically lead to misuse. They don’t.
Yes, the author can find anecdotes. I can as well. However, we can find anecdotes of people who are only alive right now because they had a gun in their hands at the moment they needed it. And I just provided one on Monday who would be alive today if she’d have had one.
See, anecdotes are important for anti-Second Amendment types. They need to sway with emotions. They need people to be afraid that something bad could happen to them because people who are afraid are more than willing to give up their rights.
So, he’s trying to scare you into thinking the gun is the problem.
However, guns really don’t kill people, people kill people. In both of his anecdotes, the problem was the person. The sooner people like them get that through their thick skulls, the better.