On Guns and False Bravado


[I am republishing this essay in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas on 10/1/2017 that has claimed nearly 60 lives, injured over 500 others and will have repercussions far beyond those numbers.]

I am deeply saddened by all the recent loss of life our society has experienced this year and, like so many others, am struggling to find answers to very difficult questions.  I want to share my thoughts on one concept that has me puzzled.

I’m trying to understand how this “everyone should carry a gun so we’ll all be safe from people with guns” thing works or, specifically, might have worked in the horrendously tragic Orlando incident on 6/12/16 (or similar incidents) and it simply doesn’t make sense to me.  Here’s how I think it could have played out had the majority of patrons at the Pulse Nightclub been armed:

Mass murderer walks into a nightclub with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle (apparently it wasn’t an AR-15, as originally reported), hellbent on doing as much lethal damage as possible.

People are dancing, clubbing, whatevering – safe to assume lots of alcohol and other drugs on board, flashing lights, possible smoke in the air and loud music (not an environment conducive to making quick, clear, life-and-death decisions) – but certainly not standing around with guns drawn anticipating the arrival of a mass murderer they’ll have to heroically stop with a perfectly placed kill shot.

Mass murderer starts shooting.  Panic ensues.  Lights and music continue for a time.

Those with guns (at least the ones who aren’t already wounded, in a blind panic, running for their lives or being pushed and trampled by others running for their lives) draw guns and see, guess what, lots of other people with guns frantically looking around, ducking and covering, trying to figure out who’s shooting and who to shoot.

At this point in the scenario, ANYONE with a gun is a potential target for anyone else with a gun, because nothing is clear and obvious (murderers don’t conveniently wear Kiss the Shooter aprons or black hats like bad cowboys used to, and this isn’t the movies where the lights and camera focus on the shooter so we can all identify him or her) and just carrying a gun does not automatically imbue someone with the skill set of James Bond, John McClane or a Navy SEAL.  You’re still you, the person who does office work at a desk 8 hours a day or bags groceries or drives for Uber – like it or not, that’s your primary skill set – only with a lethal weapon on your person.  Those paper targets you shoot at don’t move or shoot back, and you’re probably not sweating and shaking from adrenaline in fear for your life out there on the gun range.  In this scenario, people with guns are gonna shoot other people with guns (right after shitting their pants and pissing down their legs – that’s how false bravado leaves the body, by the way), which is going to start a chain reaction of people shooting at those who are shooting at those who are shooting, not to mention those scurrying in all directions who will be caught in the crossfire…  it’ll quite literally be a shit show, and the murderer will most likely target those with guns first as a means of damage control and self-preservation, because he’s in control of the situation and knows where to look.

I don’t see this scenario ending well or even much better than the actual terrible event.

Now, some who read this may think, “Oh, great… here we go.  Another peace-loving, tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal hippie who’s never even fired a gun in his life.  He just doesn’t know how the world works, and now he wants all our guns taken away!”  Please allow me to offer some perspective:

Since 2004, I have been living vegan and doing the best I can to carry the vegan message of nonviolence and justice, but that wasn’t always the case.  As a child, adolescent and young adult, I was OBSESSED with guns and collected other weapons with which I became proficient due to my perception of the world as a dangerous and hostile place: knives, bows and arrows, nunchakus and various homemade weapons.  But it was always guns that were the most alluring and seemed to have the most power.  I owned countless toy guns of all varieties, then graduated to BB and pellet guns.  I would read gun magazines, collect shell casings, draw pictures of guns, fantasize about guns, warfare, sniping and sleep with actual weapons next to my bed and under my pillow.  At various times, I’ve handled and fired shotguns, rifles and handguns.  I was an excellent marksman back when I was shooting and once, on a dare, took the life of an innocent non-human individual, an action of which I am not proud and one which I am glad I never repeated.  Killing once is horrible enough, and I will always regret that awful choice and live with the sadness it brings.

I’ve also had loaded guns pointed at my face twice in my life, once as a young child and again as an adult, and could easily have died either time had things gone differently – one move from me or the potential shooter and I’m not here.  I have been on both ends of the barrel of a gun, and I am uncomfortable on either end.

The last time I fired a gun (and the last time I will ever willingly handle or fire a gun) was, outwardly, quite a neutral experience.  I was at a shooting range with a gun owner who let me shoot targets with their Taurus 9mm pistol.  I shot well and followed all the necessary safety precautions… but at some point, I realized I felt incredibly uneasy holding that gun in my hand.  I could feel the power it seemed to exude – to me, it was all but glowing – and knew it had the potential to turn life to death in an instant.  To me, it felt like it wanted to do things – dangerous, deadly things – all by itself.  I placed it safely on the stand, walked away and I was done with guns.  To reiterate, I was a gun fanatic, so this revelation or awakening or whatever it was came as a complete surprise to me… but that’s what happened and here I am.

As for the other points in the imaginary argument I’m having with the imaginary gun-loving readers:

Am I peace-loving?  Absolutely.  Am I a tree-hugger?  Nope. I’m a tree-humper, ‘cos trees are SEXY!  Am I liberal?  I guess so, though the more appropriate term is probably progressive.  Am I a hippie?  Technically no, however I’m the child of the most awesome hippie I know (that’s you, Joni Ray!).  If loving peace is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.  Today I exercise the choice to live from love rather than fear.

I may not have an elegant solution to offer (other than to create peace right where each of us stands by choosing to live a non-violent vegan life), but I just don’t believe the answer to gun violence is to arm everyone and just hope society doesn’t devolve into Deadwood or a Tarantino film.

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