With the killing of Trayvon Martin, the gun-carrying debate was reignited – but not as much as I would have liked. This blog post explains why.
I have a very interesting mixed opinion about guns. To best demonstrate this, here are a series of fairly chronological facts about my history with guns.
Before I go any further, lets examine the very weird juxtaposition of facts that I’ve presented: I think guns are fun, yet acknowledge they are killing machines.
How can this be? How can someone claim to be logical and find enjoyment in something invented to bring harm?
Well, different sides of the gun debate will often give different reasons for why people find enjoyment in guns.
Pro-gun advocates say that it is about the sport. Shooting ranges are all about accuracy and patience, and shooting a gun give the user the same enjoyment that one gets when they get a bull’s-eye in darts or archery. In a sense it is about competition. This is why violent videogames are also enjoyable. The player of the videogame does not play a shooting game simply to watch an animation of someone getting shot; they do so for the competition. The excitement comes in the fact that you just went toe to toe with another player and your superior accuracy and reflexes left you the victor. If the enjoyment from shooting games came just from the violence, the best selling game would be one in which hundreds of people stand motionless in front of you to be shot.
But there must be something more. You can’t say that these games would be the same if the violent imagery were taken out. And if shooting guns were just about accuracy and sport, no one would need anything more than an air rifle to have a good time at the range.
This is why many anti-gun activists say that another important source of enjoyment inherent in gun use is power. In my opinion, this is undeniable. When you shoot a gun at a target, you feel the force ripple through your body and see the destruction down range. Destruction is something that is naturally attractive to people.
Who doesn’t love a good building demolition? Did someone say fire? Where?!?
And its not just the physical destruction in front of us that makes us feel powerful. It’s the potential.
Ever since the invention of organized warfare, humans have been in a weapons race with one another. This is because in times of disagreement, whoever holds the biggest weapon holds the power. Don’t agree?
Why do you listen to the police?
Why do you never hear of governments staging coups against militaries?
Who calls the military shots on the international stage? (I’ll answer that for you – It’s the UN Security Council, made up of the US, UK, France, China, and Russia).
And on February 26th 2012, George Zimmerman had the power.
When the story of Trayvon Martin’s killing first broke, many (including myself) didn’t know what to make of it. Then, and still now, the evidence is hazy, but the story many crafted in their heads was clear.
It was racial profiling that killed him.
While that may or may not be true, I have a problem with this as the main dialogue revolving around the story. It implies that if Trayvon was White, Asian, or Latino (like Zimmerman) this couldn’t have happened. I don’t agree.
Disclaimer: At this point some of what I am going to say is speculative based on existing evidence, but it is what I believe happened.
Here are the facts:
Zimmerman called the police about Trayvon entering the neighborhood before confronting him. He then confronted him. Due to pictures taken at the scene the show bleeding on the back of Zimmerman’s head and his nose, they got into a fight. Zimmerman shot Martin.
I personally believe that this could have happened between two people of any race. It doesn’t make it any less tragic or significant, but I think we are too quick to jump to his skin color. George Zimmerman had a gun, and because of this he had the power in the situation. He claims that the killing was entirely in self-defense, and the prosecution says it was malicious. I really see it as somewhere in between.
When people are given power to influence the outcome of a situation in their favor, they will typically use it. And in this case the gun Zimmerman was carrying gave him that power.
I could be wrong. Maybe it was a race thing.
But I think it was about power, and how people feel when they have a gun in their hands. At that point in time, no one can mess with them. No one can make them do something they don’t want to do.
I’m not saying that guns should be banned by any means. Guns in the hands of criminals will sadly never go away. I agree with the basic concept of the Second Amendment and I think that people should have the right to defend their selves or property.
But laws that enable regular citizens to carry guns wherever they like fundamentally changes the power dynamic of everyday situations, even in non-violent situations (I would probably treat a stranger differently if I noticed them carrying something that could kill me in a second, wouldn’t you?). I have never known anyone who has been shot, nor have I lived in an area in which I feel like that is a possibility. I’m sure that is not the case for some. But for a large proportion of people who chose to carry a weapon in everyday situations, I don’t think it is about protection. I don’t think that they would stop carrying their weapon even if they suddenly moved to the safest town in America.
I think for many, having a handgun in their back pocket is about power. I don’t think that anyone ever thinks of/hopes to use their gun against a human, but I also think that excessive fascination with the weapon makes it ever more likely.