The Fantasy of Gun Control



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By Rob Morse, March 30th, 2013

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Gun control is a fantasy! It is the fantasy that passing another law will transform human behavior. The attraction to gun control comes from the beauty of this elaborate fantasy. For some people, this paper utopia is an irresistible. The appeal of gun control is based on fantasy rather than the facts of its performance. It is an ugly reality.

The root of the gun control fantasy is not about guns, but about control. The emotional root is simple; we are not in control of our lives. Stated simply, we are vulnerable. Some of us accept our vulnerability and do what we can to build some small measure of security into our lives. Other people hate living in fear and wish they were safe. Sure, they are told to look after their physical security, yet they refuse! The gun-haters refuse to change their behavior though they know there are realistic risks to their safety and realistic responses they can take. They find their insecurity unmanageable and only they finally find a feeling of safety by controlling others. The gun-haters focus on controlling others rather than exercising their limited and imperfect self-control.

We start from a common point of view. Gun control advocates hate people who initiate violence. They transfer that hate onto the physical objects of firearms because they see guns as evil tools of violence. That is only the first step in a long chain of symbolic substitution. Gun control advocates think they would feel secure if there were no guns. They would be safe if there were no guns. We would all be equally powerful and we would all be equal if there were no guns. They see the gun as the symbol of all their vulnerabilities, all their inferiority and all of our inequality. For these gun-haters, the gun becomes the symbol of their earthly limitations. It is more than a mechanical tool. The symbol of the gun is an evil talisman and a potent fetish for the gun-hater. It becomes a powerful image. The symbolic substitution doesn't stop there. Politicians play to the gun hater's fantasy of perfect safety.

The gun hater wishes to control the image and so control their lives. Rather than hate violence, the gun-hater focuses on the gun. The symbol of the gun reminds them of their inferior position with respect to violence and authority. Rather than remind them of liberation, the gun reminds them of their vulnerability. The significant feature of a firearm is not that it is a tool of self-defense but that it is a symbolic substitute for the unfairness of this world. They have transferred their vulnerability into a quest for control over others by controlling a physical object. They cling to gun control like a child clings to a security blanket during a thunderstorm. They cling to gun control for emotional reasons and not for gun control's presumed efficacy to reduce violence. The appeal of gun control is fundamentally about feelings and faith.

Politicians play to the gun hater's fantasy. Gun control becomes a spiritual illness where the gun control advocate demonizes anyone who questions their utopia. Violent cities with strict gun controls are not failures of the idea. On the contrary; they demonstrate that the whole world needs to be under gun control to achieve their vision. The myth of gun control never fails, but simply requires ever wider implementation. As I said, the myth of gun control isn't about facts.

I understand their point of view. The gun-haters think they are fundamentally alone and vulnerable. In that, they are profoundly wrong. We are all inferior. If not now, then we will be vulnerable at some time in our lives. We were young and we will be old. We all start and end our lives in vulnerability and frailty. Even at the peak of our vitality, none of us is as strong as even a few average men. That is why I see the gun as a tool of self-defense and as an instrument of justice.

We create and use tools to extend human capability. Guns are simply mechanical tools that extend our capacity for self-defense. The gun is a tool that allows the poor and powerless to protect themselves as effectively as the rich and powerful. It is a fact that we differ in size, strength and social position. The gun minimizes those differences and offers self-defense for all. In that sense, the gun is a profoundly moral and egalitarian tool. To idealize any mere object, the gun is civilization.

Violence never disappears, but violence can be pushed out of civilization for a time. That protective cocoon of civilization requires that our desire for real fairness and justice be stronger than our desire for a comforting utopian fantasy. Gun control would undermine our actual equality. Gun control would return us to dependency. That is the ugly reality of gun control.

Perfection is only possible in a fantasy world. We are not perfect and the world is imperfect. Bad things will happen to real people even though they have prepared. We need not live in fear despite our imperfection. We must accept and live with uncertainty. I admire my brothers and sisters who have chosen to wear the mantle of responsibility and arm themselves. The world is not perfect, but they make this world a safer and more civilized place to live.

I cling to the reality of liberty and reject the fantasy of control.

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