Guns and Tongues
They both trigger violence
Handguns, rifles and other projectile-firing weapons account for too many violent deaths. There’s no question about it, though one might impolitely ask, “How many is too many?”
It depends. One innocent life—a bystander, a child—taken from us by a stray or directed bullet is one too many. On the other hand, one lone shooter gunned down by a policeman or private citizen usually is deemed the right number.
A better question might be, “How much incitement to violence is too much?” This is the other part of the problem and the entranceway to a constitutional thicket. Only rational minds can navigate it and rationality does not seem to be a 21st-century marker.
Writers like to think we’re thinkers. Parsing words and ideas. We’re such a cerebral bunch. Yet all of our combined brainpower might not match that of a prescient George Washington. In his initial address to Congress, the nation’s first president argued that the new nation’s residents should be prepared to defend themselves against their enemies. His counsel to the country seems applicable to individuals, then and now: “A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined.”
In 2023, we as a people might have too much firepower, but we exhibit too little discipline. If regulating gun ownership is a good thing, a greater thing is practicing self-control. Self-regulated people do not feloniously shoot—nor provocatively rant.
Here’s a suggestion: Before you wag your tongue at someone legally carrying a holstered gun on his or her hip, consider the fact that you are part of the problem. Gun-protesters and gun-owners spur one another. The more protests, the more guns. The more guns, the more protests.
The argument isn’t between right and wrong. It isn’t a simplistic question of sane and insane choices. The conflict is between the constitutional right to bear arms and the constitutional right to speak our minds. They both are in the Constitution because each is a protection against rogue government.
In, say, the last decade, which has spawned more public violence—portable firearms or incendiary remarks? Which has shown itself to be more dangerous to society—gun-wielding gangs or slogan-spewing mobs? A deranged person shooting up classroom or church is pure horror. A crowd indulging in a demagogic protest is purely insidious. The shooting and the shouting are not unrelated.
Guns are efficient, as weapons go, but words can silence people pretty well, too. Writers have an armory of words to wield. We should deploy them strategically and wisely. Instead of crusading for one cause or another, how about voicing the human need to be secure and to speak one’s mind? How about fostering understanding instead of proposing untenable solutions?
A reader of my recent post, Corruption Alert, offered this comment: “When you can suggest how to protest without getting shot, let me know.” I would add…or how to hunt quail without being demonized. Or how to have a respectful conversation on a polarizing topic. We need to holster our mouths.