It’s time to restrict access to this particular tool
I’ve been a gun owner for many years. I believe a gun is a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or for ill. But I wonder if the time has come when maybe we should consider restricting access to this particular tool.
First, a bit of background. When I was a kid I had a pellet rifle, a Crosman .22 pump. I used it for target practice and shooting the occasional bird (which, by the way, I now regret). When I was 14 my parents bought me a 20-gauge bolt action shotgun so I could dove hunt with my dad. Later, I graduated to a Remington Model 870 pump action 12-gauge, and finally a beautiful Belgian-made Browning with a ventilated rib. I killed many a duck and dove with that gun.
(By the way. We didn’t hunt for “sport.” We ate everything we shot and didn’t shoot anything we couldn’t eat.)
Dad was a stickler for gun safety, and he would not let me handle a gun until after he had drilled into my head the fundamentals of gun safety: Never keep the gun loaded; always treat a gun as if it were loaded; never point a gun at a person; keep the barrel pointed at the sky; after firing a gun, always make sure the safety is on.
I now own a 9mm semi-auto. I keep it strictly for home defense. Once every couple of years my friend Ray and I go to a gun range and use up our old ammo. He has an arsenal of rifles, shotguns and pistols. My favorite is the SKS, a fine shooting weapon with manageable recoil and an accurate barrel sight. I really do like that gun.
When Dad and I hunted we saw many people handling guns in an unsafe manner – pickup trucks full of beer-swilling teenagers with shotguns laid casually across their laps, pointing at their friends. We stayed as far away from those people as possible. Clearly their irresponsibility represented a hazard to us. We also stayed away from people who let children handle guns. I suppose it was OK in the 1800s, when America was still wild, to let a 12-year-old have a rifle to shoot the main course for dinner. But today? Not only unnecessary but downright dangerous.
My long-winded point is this: Guns are a tool, yes, but a tool of immense power. With that power comes immense responsibility. Drunk teenagers and 12-year-olds notwithstanding, I believe many adults in 21st century America are not capable of dealing with the responsibility such a powerful tool incurs.
Before I continue I hope you’ll forgive me if it seems this conversation is veering into a tangent beyond the pale. I have a theory about our culture, one I’ve been cultivating since 1995, when I was first exposed to the Internet. I’ve touched on it before but I don’t think I’ve ever tried to articulate it as thesis statement, one that my 12th-grade composition teacher, Mrs. Davis, would have granted a passing grade.
When gun advocates and gun control proponents debate the merits of gun ownership restrictions, many different arguments emerge. Invariably these arguments center around the Second Amendment, and conversely, the incidence of gun-related crimes in parts of the world with more restrictive gun-control laws, such as Europe. The Second Amendment does guarantee the right of gun ownership, and that right was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court. Gun-related crimes are lower in Europe, where gun ownership is more tightly controlled than here in the United States. The arguments are circular and nobody ever wins.
What I am about to suggest is that because of a cultural development over the recent past, starting in the mid-1990s, Americans are no longer capable of shouldering the immense responsibilities that gun ownership requires.
Authors such as Nicholas Carr and Neil Postman have chronicled the diminishing attention span, intelligence, and social interactivity of Americans with the advent of digital media – and by media I don’t mean Fox News or MSNBC, but the web, video games and mobile phones. The pervasiveness of these media, and their isolating qualities, mean that people can to a greater extent than ever before live their lives without having to deal with others on a face-to-face, one-on-one basis.
Think about it. You no longer sit down at the dinner table with your family. You stare into a smart phone, or check your social media accounts. You no longer deal with bankers, utilities, or college instructors. You access your accounts via the web. Conflict resolution does not occur with a human face attached to it; rather, it’s an e-mail in your inbox or a snarky comment left online.
Meanwhile, you’re saturated with images and experiences of violence – video games, movies, music, nasty comments fomented by keyboard commandoes.
This isolation allows the weaker among us to objectify our fellow men and women. In simpler terms, people are no longer individuals with hopes, aspirations, and emotions. They become ciphers on a monitor, dealt with and dismissed with the stroke of a key.
Yet reality is much more complex – and difficult. For someone who is attenuated to the ease of interaction by proxy, reality may demand an unreal solution – like picking up a gun and settling the score in a paroxysm of violence, just like the resolutions they experience online.
I fear our digital universe is creating a culture of sociopaths who are not accustomed to dealing with others in the here and now. For those people, violence may be their only alternative. Mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook may become more commonplace, as a nation of people rendered mentally ill by their media act without logic, reason or explanation. Saturated by violence and isolated from human interaction by technology, they act as they’ve been taught.
Which is why restricting their access to powerful tools may be a good idea.
Sorry, Mrs. Davis. I offered no supporting arguments for my thesis. Truth is there are no supporting arguments. It’s just a thesis, derived from my having spun around this globe for 57 years. I hope you’ll forgive me.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .