I ended my year with the displeasure of being told that guns are designed only for killing. I disagree. Obviously. There is a tenuous connection between an object’s designed purpose, and the wide variety of things it is used for in reality. Despite cars being designed for transportation, bad people are very effective at using them for perpetrating murder. At an increasing rate too, it seems. It is therefore ridiculous to infer that criminals and terrorists cannot use cars as weapons due to their design. But I am feeling generous at the start of this new year. So, let’s go down the rabbit hole regarding this line of reasoning.
Are guns are designed for killing?
Firearms are very good at accurately projecting lethal force. They are relatively portable, easy to use, and not ridiculously expensive. This is why police officers and security personnel carry them. The anti-gun lunatic fringe focuses solely on the fact that guns can be used to kill, and that a certain number of people are indeed killed by use of them annually. These same people conveniently ignore that more South Africans are stabbed to death than shot. But whatever.
Apparently people getting shot dead is worse than them dying from other types of criminal violence. I suspect people feel this way because they perceive guns to be scarier than knives and hammers. Maybe because every kitchen has scores of knives, and most households possess at least one hammer. And because they claim that knives and hammers are designed for other uses. Guns are only, expressly, and exclusively designed for killing. Remember?
Guns are bad. Society will be better off without them
So, since firearms are only designed for projecting lethal force they must be bad. Criminals use them to rob, rape, and murder innocent people. And children. So, society will be better off if there were no guns at all. We must ignore the existence of all other tools of criminal violence for this argument to hold. We must also ignore the fact that violent crime and murder increased in every country following a gun ban or restriction.
There are two major problems with the assumption that we must remove guns from civilization. Firstly, getting rid of all firearms in society involves relying on the police to find and confiscate them. Every last one. The authorities must then destroy these guns, along with every single firearm owned by the police and military. Considering that the SAPS lose 8 times more guns to criminals than civilians do, must I really elaborate on why this is a terrible idea? Secondly, we must dismiss the fact that civilians legitimately own and use firearms for good reasons.
Those “Good Guys” with guns
Criminals are human. Believing that they are mythological monsters with supernatural powers is foolhardy and naïve. They suffer every possible human weakness you do. Yes, criminals may be hardened by a life of violence, but they bleed just like everybody else. If criminals can use guns to intimidate and murder innocent people, their victims can (and do) use guns to fight back. There is more than enough supporting evidence describing events where ordinary citizens protected themselves (or their loved ones) with a gun.
You see, the perceived purpose of guns cuts both ways. Because criminals use them, you think of firearms as tools of killing and crime. But you cannot ignore that they are equally tools for saving lives in the hands of law-abiding citizens. Doing so is hypocritical and inconsistent. The police officers and armed response personnel you call to rescue you carry guns. They carry those guns to protect themselves and to save innocent life from dangerous criminals. Legally armed citizens carry them for exactly the same reason.
Guns don’t determine their purpose – their users do
Sure, we design guns to project lethal force. But the guns don’t determine at what that lethal force is projected. There must still be a person behind the gun, squeezing the trigger. Whether that person is good or bad is all important. What we can agree on, is that firearms are great equalisers. If criminals find them useful for intimidation and murder, then civilians should find them equally useful for defence and protection. The causal relationship is not a one-way street. The old cliché is that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I have not seen the adage proven wrong once.
Some people want to live in a gun-free utopia where nobody, not even the government, possesses any firearms. To me this ideal is similar to wanting a world in which disease, famine, and poverty does not exist. It is a wonderful concept, but in our current reality it just isn’t possible. The true situation of civilian disarmament (because you don’t like guns) is that only the government and criminals will have firearms. I hope I don’t have to explain why that is not desirable at all. You may not like guns, but they are here to stay. What we are really arguing over, is who you think should be allowed to own them.
Written by Gideon Joubert
Gideon is owner and editor of Paratus