Friday, May 11, 2012

What if guns were cars?

WARNING: This blog-post discusses...politics. A more divisive topic I cannot fathom (save religion). And so, I feel compelled to put a caveat before all this, something I think everyone who ever discussed politics should: I can be wrong.

It's pretty simple. I'm not omniscient. Hell, I'm not even 30! These are just my opinions and if you disagree with them, I'm not only fine with it, I'm overjoyed. New ideas and new opinions have to be tested in the crucible of public opinion, tempered with facts, and sharpened by constant thinking. The instant a political thinker becomes threatened by dissent is the instant they've started the slide from freedom to despotism.

And now, without further quibbling, let us get to a very important political topic: GUNS!

As an semi-anarchist, guns are a really divisive topic for me. On the one hand, the old idea goes thus: Only a well armed public can defend themselves from the predations of the minority and other governments. With a well armed public, you don't need things like cops and armies. But, of course, the counterargument to that are plentiful and well reasoned.

1) People don't want to act as their own defenders all the time
2) Guns are inherently dangerous and risky, especially when children are involved
3) Trained professionals are required for certain specialist activities, and policing is one of those activities

And so on.

This is why I'm a "semi-anarchist". I believe there is a place for the government, and the trouble is deciding what that place is. There are some things I'm fairly sure on (the government definitely shouldn't tell me what to drink, eat, smoke, have sex with or marry) and things I'm less sure on (the government might have a reason to help with welfare or medical care, it might be that a centralized power structure is better for providing those needs and less rapacious than private interests like pharmaceutical companies).

But that doesn't mean I don't think that the civilian population can and should get into. If we could localize some things, it'd make things easier for everyone as local solutions to local problems can be tailored and fit to the area.

How does this relate to guns?

Well, imagine - if you will - a world where everyone in the USA is armed. Gay people, straight people, white people, black people, women, everyone. Would rape be as horrifyingly common? Would crime? Would political and social attacks on women and minorities be as accepted if they all had guns?

That's a complex question, but I think it would do SOMETHING to help. It wouldn't be a - for lack of better term - "silver bullet", because I'm not stupid enough to say, "If all women had guns, rapes wouldn't happen", but I am willing to imagine that if we had a culture that understood and accepted that pretty much every woman wasn't just carrying a piece but knew how to use it, then maybe there'd be less idiots who think that women are their property to do whatever they want to and maybe less little boys would grow up to be racists.

But even if that's true, I can hear you say, how do we deal with the number one problem with guns: They are INHERENTLY DANGEROUS. All it takes is one kid to play with Daddy or Mommy's gun and things go wrong in a depressingly permanent way.

Well, I was thinking about that and this led me to this blog post: What if guns were cars?

Imagine an alternate world, a world where in the 1900s, a manufacturer of personal sidearms (lets call him Dord) begins producing a cheap, uniform pistol called the Model-P. It becomes popular, especially considered the violent crime rates at the time. Soon, everyone has a Model-P and over the next hundred years, guns become as common as cars. Kids grow up wanting them, parents have at least one or two, and a culture and set of rules have grown up around them.

In this alternate world, Dord spawned copycats and competitors, all trying to catch your eye with new guns that are smaller, or bigger, or longer ranged, or more accurate. But then comes the 1960s, and people have begun to realize that a lot of folks are getting killed needlessly because guns are just not that safe. So, over the next fifty two years, there are unprecedented improvements in gun safety. Guns become not just bigger or harder hitting: They become smarter and more intelligent.

So, the gun of this alternate 2012 is a computerized gun. It doesn't fire unless it's under a very specific circumstance, it's munitions self destruct harmlessly when they go off target, it's linked to the internet so that the owner can track it, shut it down, or control it. It might even connect to the local police so that (when drawn) it signals a cop car that an altercation is going down unless a "all clear" signal is sent.

And moreover, people have become used to the fact that everyone carries. It's a non-issue, in the same way that we in the real world don't think about the fact that every day, millions of people drive two ton machines down roads at sixty miles an hour, all so close to one another that you could reach from one and touch another, and yet only a vanishingly small percentage of those machines actually collide and only a even smaller percentage of those collisions end with fatalities.

Would this world be better or worse?

I don't know...but I like to think it might just be a touch more independent and free. Because I honestly think that any culture with that many guns would need to...really come to terms with the idea that everyone around them is willing - at any second - to put their lives on the line to defend their fellow human being. The alternative way of thinking (that, at any second, everyone might kill everyone else) is too unbearable to survive and strikes me as an unlikely evolution for the culture.

I don't think guns are a panacea. But I do think that the ability to defend yourself from aggressive parties - even symbolically - is worth something.


  1. I agree with most of your thoughts and find your alternative scenario quite intriguing.

    The only thing I disagree with is that guns are inherently dangerous. IMO, they aren't. They are a tool. It's the uneducated, un-gun-safe people using them that make them dangerous. My parents have tons of guns; growing up we learned to shoot around four years old. My dad's a firearm safety instructor, and therefore we learned safety from a freaking young age. Don't touch it, don't play with it, don't point it at anything you don't want to shoot, etc. So while I agree with pretty much everything you said, I shall politely disagree with inherent danger.

    It's people who make things dangerous. Handled by someone who knows what they're doing, an AK47 is less dangerous than wearing a pair of stilettos in a crowd of people.

    But if guns were like cars, I think we'd be much better off. Education is key.

    1. Well, remember, I mean inherently dangerous in the same way a car is inherently dangerous or a knife is inherently dangerous. It can be used to cause bodily harm to someone else.

      I've been in two car accidents and have a very acute sense of just how horrifyingly dangerous cars are.

      Which also gives me a healthy realization of just how astounding it is that we have so FEW car crashes. :)