The New Hammer

Seeing all the World as a Target
October 11, 2015

There’s an old truism that “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It refers to a mindset where the search for solutions is limited to means that utilize one’s primary go-to tool, whatever that is. Even if that tool is totally inappropriate. The phrase is meant to point out narrow-minded and ignorant thinking. Yet I’m afraid that a similar kind of ill-informed mindset, one that threatens our public safety this time, is currently sweeping America. The notion that “might makes right”, that deadly retaliatory violence is the answer to our social woes. In which case the truism above might be more correctly rephrased “if all you have is a gun, everything looks like a target.”

Ben Carson, the American Republican presidential candidate who only marginally trails Donald Trump in the leadership polls, is the latest advocate of this warped thinking. He supports wide-spread personal gun ownership and sanctioned use. His logic is highly questionable at best. He claims that had the Jews been armed, the Holocaust would likely never have happened. I guess it hasn’t occurred to him that even had they been armed, those poor people would probably have been gunned down in their homes, businesses, or even in the streets instead of being hauled away and murdered in concentration camps. And his example can’t help but make one wonder just what kind of American “Holocaust” Carson is hoping to prevent in the future.

His outrageous views go further. Despite being a surgeon he has openly, and somewhat smugly, stated that he “never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” To this man – a medical doctor, I might add – a school littered with the bullet-ridden bodies of innocent murdered students is less grim a sight than a gun registry application form. For some warped reason Carson sees all the world as a target. If he truly believes the outrageous bilge that pours from his mouth, I suspect that he must be eager to put a bullet in someone.

People like Carson see the world in simplistic and paranoid terms. To them, everyone is viewed as a potential threat. In his feverished eyes, everyone (but presumably only God-fearing good guys) should be encouraged to carry a gun with them at all times. At the first sign of trouble, they should be prepared to use it to attack, and to attack aggressively. I assume he means shoot first and ask questions later. After all, he has openly stated that he would do just that if he ever found himself in an unsafe situation. This guy has definitely watched too many fictionalized westerns and TV police dramas. Or else he harbours a list of individuals who offended him at one time or another whom he would have gladly gunned down in cold blood had he been allowed to.

We read and hear about it more and more in the news. About the trigger-happy cop who guns down a young boy playing with a toy replica gun before the innocence of the situation can be properly assessed. About the female bystander in Michigan who pulls a gun from her purse and starts shooting at two fleeing shoplifters, as if stealing a few hundred dollars worth of merchandise from a Home Depot store is a crime punishable by death (not to mention the risk to innocent bystanders). About the civilian male who shoots a bank robber fleeing the scene. To my knowledge, bank robbery is not a capital offence. Only on TV is this kind of cowboy vigilante “justice” acceptable. And about the state of Texas, which has recently passed a “campus carry” law which will allow students to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dorms, and other campus buildings. Evidence of the arming of the American public is everywhere.

Where does it end? A gun is a deadly and frightenly-easy weapon to use and, in the US, to obtain. Like a car with a 400 hp engine, or like strong liquor, it emboldens the weak. But using it as either a defensive or aggressive weapon without authorization should be illegal, and definitely not encouraged. If we allow ordinary citizens to act as judge, jury, and executioner to any perceived misdemeanour, where does that power end? Should speeding through a school zone become a crime punishable by death? Or cutting off another motorist in traffic? If your kid gets beat up by the bully at school, should you be able to go to the assailant’s family home, call him to the front door, and gun him down? If the paperboy crosses your freshly-seeded lawn should you be able to shoot him in cold blood? If you feel you’ve been unfairly graded at school can you shoot your inflexible teacher or professor in his or her office? Is the gun to become the preferred tool for resolving any dispute that angers, annoys, or alarms us? Encouraging today’s uninformed and increasingly angry citizens to carry loaded weapons with which to carry out their personal notions of justice is quite simply a prospect too terrifying to contemplate.

Do we not see a problem with this kind of thinking, people? Is this the sort of vengeful mentality the tragic events of the 21st century have brought about? Are we all so suspicious, frightened, and filled with hatred that we feel it necessary to demand the right to kill others in order to enact our own ideas of justice? Do we really want to live in a world where gunfights are used to solve conflicts and disagreements? Is safety really going to be achieved by placing weapons in everyone’s hands?

I think what we need to do is to stop vilifying our neighbours and countrymen. And we must stop letting manipulative right-wing politicians convince us that evil is all around us. And we need to stop seeing ourselves as the next Chuck Norris or John Wayne. If we don’t start seeing this insanity for what it is, the vote-seeking alarmist rhetoric of these opportunistic lunatics is going to turn us into killers, or get us killed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating the elimination of all guns. Licensed hunters, collectors, history enthusiasts, and recreational gun users should continue to have the right to pursue their interests with the legal acquisition and properly trained use of firearms that are safely protected from improper distribution and use. And there are some situations where firearms might prevent wide-spread injury or death when used by highly-trained personnel. But to arm the public at large with handguns “for their own personal protection” is to invite horrific bloody mayhem the likes of which our part of the civilized world has never seen.

Let’s use some common sense people! And please, don’t support Ben Carson!

I’m just sayin’.