Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sorry, it is a gun problem: "Cain killed Abel with a rock"

Inevitably, every time there's a(nother) prominent shooting, every time there's another senseless mass slaughter, the anti-gun control crowd predictably contributes to the conversation by screaming about how keeping guns out of the hands of killers isn't a viable solution to stopping killings.

There is one particularly stupid meme I've seen shared, in one form or another, after every mass shooting in the past few years (and, yes, the fact that I even have to write those words, the fact that we've become so acclimated to a world where mass killings are another facet of life -- and that the primary concern of so many is defending unlimited gun ownership rather than, I don't know, people --  makes me sick).

I don't know where this originated, but you can find it in lots of places.

Predictably, after the Charleston shooting, I've seen it showing up in my feed. The image, which reads, "Cain killed Abel with a rock. It's a HEART problem, not a gun problem" references Jeremiah 17:9.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
At which point, you're supposed to, apparently, throw your hands up in defeat. People have been killing each other since the days of myth, my friend; it's all part of God's mysterious plan, so don't be hating on the guns. It's all a byproduct of our fallen natures, so if you want to do something really productive, you won't waste your time preventing would-be killers from acquiring weapons that enable them to commit mass murder; you'll do something really useful, like push religion on people to address that "heart problem." (What religion? Well, damn it, your church's of course! After all, who knows the mind of God better than you and everyone who agrees with you?!)

Earlier, I called this a particularly stupid argument. Aside from the absurdity of trying to divine some sort of solution to a complex contemporary issue from a literary murder that was supposed to happen thousands of years ago, this is just a poor argument.

No one is suggesting that guns are the One Ring, that will corrupt the mind and turn a "Good Guy with a Gun" into a deranged killer. No one is suggesting that guns are the only tool with which someone intent on murder can go about realizing his ambitions. On the contrary, it's not that guns create killers, or that guns are the only tools killers have or could ever use, but that guns enable killers to do significantly more damage than they could do without guns. This isn't a difficult concept, but the image bypasses the actual issue at hand by implying a few strawmen arguments.

Like Don Quixote's windmills, the points this image addresses aren't real arguments. But those who share it seem to be convinced that they are, and that simply noting that people kill with other weapons too is enough to shut down a conversation on gun control.

Sorry, folks, it's not. We all get that some people snap, some people are evil, and some people are going to attempt -- and succeed at -- killing people. We get it. That's the reason we're having this conversation. And we get that guns are not inherently good or evil. They're just objects. We've got the concept.

But those inanimate objects, in the hands of people with "heart problems," are capable of inflicting a hell of a lot more damage than a rock would be. Which is, you know, why we're talking about keeping those tools of killing out of the hands of people who mean to misuse them.

It's really not that difficult of a concept. We recognize that the more damage a weapon is capable of inflicting, the more regulated it should be. No one in their right mind would argue that we should just let countries pursue nuclear programs, because, what the's a heart problem, dude, not a nuke problem! We're not crazy enough to advocate for civilian ownership of military weaponry because, hey, Cain killed Abel with a rock,'s not about Neighbor Bob's tank! We realize that when something empowers people to commit mass murder, it might be in our interests to regulate who has access, or at least keep them out of the hands of violent, crazy people.

Until we get to guns. Then, all of a sudden, our reasoning capabilities seem to go out the window, and we resort to, "But, dude, Cain used a rock!"

Sorry, people, it's a gun problem. It's a gun problem because we're making it incredibly easy for killers, those who suffer from "problems of the heart," to get guns, and those guns enable them to commit mass murder. That's the gun problem.