Guns. They’re what sets the US apart from most of the civilized world. Well, aside from universal healthcare, a dedication to education, and a lack of a standing military capable of taking down most small countries.
But it’s mostly guns.
Recently a young German exchange student was gunned down by a homeowner who lay in wait to kill one or more of the kids he believed were “breaking into” his garage. (He left the garage door open most of the time because he used his garage as a smoking area). Apparently he’d had several things go missing from the teens doing this. So what did he do? He didn’t make a habit of closing his garage door. He didn’t call the cops. No, he set a trap and waited with his firearm to commit murder.
“It’s not murder,” some might say. “He was just defending his property.”
RIght, because he couldn’t have simply flipped on the light, shown the kids the gun, and told them that they lucked out because he’s not a murderous fuck. Well, no, he couldn’t, I suppose. Because he was a murderous fuck. Me and my friends didn’t do this sort of thing. At least not after I stopped following other people around and gained my own group of outsiders. We didn’t steal. We slunk around and played ninja in the dark, following people (not women, because that would have been creepy) unseen and unnoticed. Climbing things and otherwise ending up in places were probably shouldn’t have been.
Someone could have shot us. No one did.
About this time where I lived there was a rash of burglaries (actually part of a trade happening between a local and a bunch of the kids. They’d steal shit for him and he’d give them cocaine. Sad thing is that at least one of these kids was a competitive level motocross rider.
I knew a lot of thieves growing up. I had friends who were thieves, though I did my damndest to discourage such activities. I still remember when one of my oldest friends admitted to stealing shit from lockers at high school, specifically mentioning stealing 200 bucks from one. My first thought was to think about how I’d feel if someone stole 200 bucks from my locker. (It wouldn’t have BEEN in my locker, to be honest, but I was motivated to learn street smarts rather early on). Money is much safer ON your person.
But one thing I know? Not one of these people deserved DEATH.
I accidentally happened to be present when a couple people set out to mug a guy. No lie. I thought they were just fucking around and I made it clear what I thought of the idea. The dumbasses did it anyway. I was busy, hanging out with a female friend who’d accompanied us on this walk. Suddenly they go sprinting by me, yelling “Run!” Instinct took over and we started to run. About half a block later I stopped, thinking, what the fuck am I running for? So I started yelling at them for being dumbasses. In the middle of a residential street after dark. I asked him if he accomplished what he set out to accomplish (the guy didn’t have what they thought he had, so they were disappointed to begin with).
Mostly I blame alcohol. They were a lot drunker than I was. I had other things in mind. My female friend, to be precise.
They tried to calm me down. One of them in particular tried to talk me down, to get me to start running again. When he stepped within range I kicked him. It’s probably best to stay out of striking range when I’m that worked up. I was pissed. They’d hurt someone for NOTHING.
Finally they ended up taking off. I looked at my lady friend, who was strongly considering following them, and told her “No. If you want to get through this, follow me, not them.”
We became a couple taking a walk, passing within about fifty feet of the cops while they were interviewing the victim. We just changed the direction from which we approached and walked right on by. No one even noticed us.
I called the cops the next day. Offered to testify if they needed it. As it turned out, they’d caught the others within a couple of blocks. My testimony wasn’t needed.
A couple of months later one of them came walking up my front steps. I was a bit freaked, because I *had* pretty much dropped a dime on him. He knocked on the door, I opened up, and the first thing he did was apologized for putting me in that situation, and said he’d have done the same thing.
His problem was alcohol. It made him do stupid things.
None of us carried guns. It was a few years later when some of these guys did start hanging out with someone who went armed all the time. That didn’t really end well for anyone. Me? I moved out of town. Quite deliberately. Because I knew that it was only a matter of time before something really bad happened. And lo and behold, some months later I was visiting a friend and he threw me the local paper. At the bottom of the front page was the police composite sketches of four people I’d known for years. One of them my friend since junior high.
I was FURIOUS.
Not that it mattered. Impotent fury is impotent.
And that brings us back around to guns. I think what we’re seeing all too often is people who use a gun to make their impotent fury seem more meaningful. An angry citizen who feels robbed, taken for granted, or exploited might feel utterly powerless. Can’t fight city hall. Can’t fight the employer who downsized you. But with a gun all of that anger can be channeled. People will take you seriously if you have a gun. Guns are serious things.
And they’re easier to abuse than just about anything else in our society. A person can go from a “responsible gun owner” to a “crazy asshole with a gun” in no time flat. And then what?
It seems to me that the people who most want to own guns, who like to pet them and squeeze them and call them “George,” (or anything else) are the ones who shouldn’t have them. It’s like power. Power attracts the corruptible. Guns attract people likely to use them, whether they need to or not.