This essay is not intended to address the problem of gun violence. It has to do with one particular strain of thought regarding gun violence.
I’m usually quite tolerant of thinking that differs from my own, of different religious doctrines, political opinions, aesthetic tastes, etc. But there is one conclusion that is just so batshit wrong that it can only be called “stupid.” It’s not a question of ignorance; it’s stupid. If the word “stupid” should apply to any concept, idea, conclusion, assumption or any other thought process in human history it should apply to this. If you would look up “stupid” in my dictionary next to it would be “We would be safer from gun violence if more us carried guns.” That’s stupid.
It’s stupid because it’s an idea that some people have landed upon after doing one, and only one, mental step. And a small step at that. To wit: If the victims of the various mass shootings had been armed with guns themselves, they would have been able to protect themselves.
Now if you are a person of little or no imagination, this makes sense. Because if you are a person of little or no imagination you stop thinking when you reach a conclusion that you like, that makes you feel good. And this conclusion makes gun-lovers feel good.
But to stop thinking after one thought because it makes one feel good is stupid, especially since the very next thought that should arise calls into sharp question the one that precedes it. Now before I tell you the next thought, let me take a calming breath and say a little more about why the conclusion that an armed citizenry is a safer citizenry is stupid. It’s not stupid because it is a thought; it’s stupid because it is a conclusion.
So in the imagined scene in this thinking is that when someone appears with a gun with the intention of harming others, if someone else with a gun is there, that person will be able to shoot the first person. The next thought, the one right next to it in most thinking people’s imagination, the one that renders that conclusion stupid is this: But that assumes that malicious gunmen are not going to change their behavior from that of the past. And that’s the stupid part; that’s the part that leads to it being a conclusion instead of just a passing thought.
Here’s the thought that should follow the conclusion, empties it of its credibility. People, including people intent on violent mayhem, will change their behavior in different circumstances. Is that too difficult to grasp? Let me expand.
A gunman walks into a classroom and calmly and with a deliberate pace shoots a number of persons in the classroom. His actions are partially determined by the assumption that no one in the classroom is armed. That’s a reasonable assumption. If the citizenry is as widely armed as some people think is necessary for safety, his assumptions are going to be different and his behavior will be different. He will not walk slowly and act deliberately. The circumstances are different. He will throw a grenade; he will drive a vehicle into a crowd; he will set off a fire bomb. In other words, the person intent on visiting violence upon others if he knows the others have protected themselves against guns will probably(?) increase his means of violence.
So advocates of arming the rest of the citizenry with the idea that this is going to stop mass killings—giving no consideration to the number of suicides and accidental shootings—You want to give that just a little more thought?