Saturday, June 28, 2008

“Open Carry”: Guns and a culture of violence

"We challenge the culture of violence when we ourselves act in the certainty that violence is no longer acceptable, that it's tired and outdated no matter how many cling to it in the stubborn belief that it still works and that it's still valid." -- Gerard Vanderhaar

There is a pervasive "Open Carry" movement in the United States. “Open Carry” is a movement that “encourages gun owners to wear their weapons ostentatiously on their belts.” Gone unchecked, “Open Carry” will pervade our lives because Americans will accept its tenets: if the criminal knows a person has a gun they will be less likely to commit a crime in their presence, self defense, and that it is our constitutional right to bear arms. Americans believe that violence works -- that a gun is a necessary tool in the methods and means toolbox to curb crime and violence.

“Open Carry” will become a fashion statement for some, as well

In a June 16, 2008 article by Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, entitled “'Open carry' guns at our children's risk,” he stated: “What is it with Americans and guns? ‘The right to bear arms’ is the constitutional dynamo sparking an electromagnetic pulse through every corner of politics. Meanwhile, in the nation's cities, a slow-motion massacre unfolds, with gunshots mercilessly cutting down a legion of the young. Yet in legislatures, bills designed to reduce gun violence are routinely killed by the all-powerful lobbying of the National Rifle Association. Presidential candidates are universally required to worship at the altar of the Second Amendment.”

As with James Carroll, as a child, I also was obsessed with guns, for all the same reasons cited in his article, and as with he, at that time to middle age, how American that also made me.

I owned my first gun at age 14; it was a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun with a muzzle choke. It was a birthday present from my mom and dad. I was not given any restrictions, caveats, or training. I instinctively knew how to use that shotgun. My training came from my early observation of adults and their guns, playing with toy guns and armament, the movies, and playing war games; my great grandfather had an old double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun that I played with when he was not looking. I was not discouraged to hunt. I killed my first animal at that time. My mother and father, grandmother and great grandfather viewed that as just part of life. I wish they would have had a different view.

The only benefit that experience gave me was better scores on the Army M1 carbine range than perhaps I would have normally achieved.

The fact is that guns do not benefit society. The sole purpose of a gun is to kill: “Guns make it easy for people to kill or injure someone. That's what guns are designed to do. The availability of a gun makes it more likely that impulsive feelings of anger or thoughts of suicide end in either death or serious injury.” Guns make it easier to perpetrate violence, for there is no need to get up close and personal when committing a violent act with a gun, where up close and personal is what is necessary if you were to engage in a hand-to-hand, face-to-face confrontation.

Weapons do not make one safer; they only give one a false sense of security, and “Open Carry” will probably make one a target when he or she would not be otherwise. The psychological need to carrying a gun, to one extent or another, comes into being as a result of fear, from an enculturate and unquenchable obsession with guns and weaponry, machismo, and, at some level, xenophobia: “a xenophobic person is aware of the fear, and therefore has to believe at some level that the target is in fact a foreigner”.

The institution of Capital Punishment does not curb or prevent someone from killing another person; neither will owning a gun, or a law permitting “Open Carry” or “Conceal Carry,” reduce violence.

The United States Supreme Court, declaring that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to bear arms, has disserved America. “This is a decision that will cost innocent lives, cause immeasurable pain and suffering and turn America into a more dangerous country. It will also diminish our standing in the world, sending yet another message that the United States values gun rights over human life.” New York Times Editorial, June 27, 2008

I have evolved into a human being who now views how things today could be so very different if only the parents and grandparents of my youth had the opposing view that guns are nothing but an insidious affliction, a horrific disease, and a ubiquitous menace to society. Sadly, that archaic conception of our forefathers has not changed. America is in love with guns, violence, and war.

“Open Carry” is a metaphor for much of what Americans should not be, as much as it is a metaphor for who we are.

Let’s provide leadership by providing a better example for our children, which will lead us to a better America.