Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Enemy Within: How and Why Guns Do Not Make Us Safe

Various guns crossed out with red color

Generally, the idea that guns make us safe or safer are misnomers to start with. Guns do not offer protection, but rather endanger us, whereas crime and violence will continue to increase as long as guns are easily accessible. The United States should take advantage of this historical moment to pass laws that will limit individual access to dangerous weapons to prevent the evident spike in terrifying, terrible and senseless crimes.

This type of restriction does not affect individual liberty, the same way a lack of access to heroin does not limit one's freedom. Since guns do not add but only subtract from our safety, they should be under strict control to ensure and provide us and our children with a safe environment.

If guns are the solution then a country with lax gun control should have relatively low crime and homicide rates. The idea would be that armed people would be able to protect and fend for themselves. "Shoot before you are shot" would be the philosophy. I don't know, call me paranoid or cowardly, but I still prefer to have only police officers armed instead of a free-for-all gun-toting society. A surplus of weapons do not make us safer.

Along the same vein, can anybody really say that nuclear weapons are making the world safer? As it was the case during the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, the aim was to produce not only the largest amount of nuclear missiles, but the most destructive and devastating ones. This reminds me of the scene of Crocodile Dundee where Paul Hogan mocks his opponent about the size of his knife pulling out a much larger and much more dangerous one. This is not just childish behavior or a cocktail of Freudian complexes; it is downright dangerous.

The same would apply to guns. Having "regular" guns will not be enough for one's safety. One needs assault weapons, bazookas, even bombs to scare off others. The world does not become safer by having more potentially devastating weapons; it becomes more terrifying. Any such weapons in the wrong hands can inflict much more damage than at any other time in history.

So the idea of adding more weapons and armed citizens into the mix to ensure more safety from bad guys is not the solution; in fact, it makes matters worse. As a matter of fact, having guns on and with you (concealed or not) is making your life much less secure.

And I am not referring to bad guys or criminals here. I am simply stating that having guns endangers all our lives. Let us look at three different everyday situations where guns pose an additional threat to us, at work and school, on the road and at home.

Do you really want access to guns at work and school? Imagine the quite common situation of being pissed off at a boss and co-worker. We will usually storm off in anger or, at worst, say spiteful words and get into a fistfight (none of which I recommend if you would like to continue working where you do).

But many a time we actually want to slam the boss's door or punch our co-worker in the face. Once in a while, depending on our own threshold and control (or rather lack thereof), we may actually do so. But having a gun would make matters much worse. We might actually use it in a momentary lapse of reason and regret it for the rest of our lives.

Similarly at school, students may take out their frustration on their teachers. The latter will always be scared of those teenagers who lack control of their actions; it is not their fault really since their developing brains make them more vulnerable for risky behavior. And we sure do not want to feel the brunt of it. (This is a teacher speaking who has seen red faces of anger on students' faces because of a deserved bad grade. A gun in those hands would surely endanger our lives and put our profession at risk.)

Guns are, of course, not only a risk at work, but also on the roads. The phenomenon of road rage affects even the most reasonable types of people. I have seen friends with nice demeanor and perpetual smiles on their faces turn into unrecognizable monsters when somebody cuts them off. I have seen people in suits get out their cars and take it outside in a fist fight. The damage done there is not as irreversible as a shoot-down would be. And again remember most of us are not immune to the symptoms of road rage.

Finally, our home front is not safer either. Guns can become accessible to our loved ones; our children may use them accidentally or on purpose since they can be within reach. It is hard enough to hide Christmas presents from them, so do not think that your kids are not capable of finding them no matter how good you think you have hidden them.

Yet again even we are not perfect. When we get into a dispute with our neighbors over loud music or disrespectful behavior, it is just endangering ourselves to take the next step, namely of threatening the other guy. We like to show our superiority in this conflict situation by waiving a gun.

Sure, we can defend our property from burglars. But here is a scary thought. Since guns are easily accessible we know that they already have one, so we need to stack up. A better world would be one where neither has access to it. In fact, most burglars around the world are most likely not armed. Think of it this way: The burglars need weapons to protect themselves from the owners, and so we end up in a vicious circle.

Furthermore, guns increase suicide rates. The reason for this is that guns are simply much more effective. When people take sleeping pills or cut open their wrists, there is a chance of recovery. It may be a desperate act for attention versus seriously wanting to kill oneself, but no matter: We can save a life by not giving them access to guns.

As we can see, guns do no make us safer, quite to the contrary. The reason is that we cannot trust ourselves. We are human. We make mistakes; we engage in dangerous activities; we act impulsively. By taking weapons out of the equation, we are making not only ourselves safer but are also adding protective layers to the environment around us.

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