What makes a man sleep with a gun under his pillow?
…and what are the odds that a tragedy will happen as a result?
People who live in a high crime area might think about what they would do if an intruder came into the house. Would a gun be a good way to ensure safety? Many people would think yes…
…and many people would be kidding themselves.
The only time having a gun makes you safer is if everyone else around you also has one. Thankfully we don’t yet live in such a world.
The fact is…
…people occasionally get angry enough to lash out at someone.
…people sometimes get scared enough to fear for their lives.
…people sometimes make simple mistakes.
…people sometimes wish they were dead.
Under all of these circumstances, having a gun nearby will make any action lethal. It will turn a temporary state of mind into a permanent tragedy.
The Oscar Pistorius verdict is an interesting one. Many people think he got away with murder but I don’t want to comment on that. I didn’t follow the case closely enough to form a strong opinion. But let’s take Oscar’s version of events at face value. What does that imply? Even if we believe that he was telling an unedited version of the truth, the guy voluntarily took his gun and fired it through a bathroom door at a presumed intruder.
What ingredients go into that type of act? Fear, paranoia, machoism, and the (false) belief that a gun will protect him? When these roads intersect death is not such a surprising result.
We cannot separate events such as this from the culture in which they occur. Research has shown time and time again that good people can be made to do some pretty bad things in the right circumstances. Duch, the notorious executioner of the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge regime, was by all reports a kind and gentle school teacher. Like Nazis or other war criminals, he was just doing a job that was asked of him and doing it well.
We can blame individuals for the consequences of their actions but the truth is that we all contribute to our culture. If we treat people with respect we are more likely to be respected in return. In Prince Edward Island many farmers leave produce on the side of the road. If you want some you can just take it and leave some cash in a pail. It is what is expected of you. In football, after you get hit, you get up and pat your opponent on the backside and say, “Good hit.” It is what is expected of you.
In hockey, on the other hand, when someone body checks you, you rub your hand in his face. When poor sportsmanship is expected of you, that too is what you do.
Fear of others is often justified. But if we treat everyone like adversaries, we will actually create many more of them.
Take the Trayvon Martin. A well-meaning neighbourhood watchman… with a legitimately purchased gun… sees a kid apparently sneaking around and follows him. The kid, thinking he is about to be attacked, defends himself and confronts his follower. It the ensuing struggle the neighbourhood watchman chooses to fire his gun instead of using his fists. Why? Well, because he had one and got scared. Both individuals did what their subculture taught them to do and the result was the death of another innocent victim.
Our culture feeds mistrust as well as a fascination with guns. We have made guns cool. Watch TV for one evening and you will see how this happens. The common message is that there are bad guys with guns out there but, fear not, the good guys will stop them with their good guy guns.
Do what Oscar Pistorius chose to do and keep a gun in your home, or in your car, or on you for personal protection, and you are far more likely to kill a loved one by accident than any burglar. You will also have a lethal means of killing someone if you ever get angry or scared. And of course you will also have an efficient means of suicide should you have a bout with depression….and so will your children.
For more, please see my earlier post: Gun Culture
Posted in Human nature.Posted on 18 Sep 2014