The Spectre of the Gun
March 1, 2010 in pew pew pew
A gun. A hammer strikes a cap, which ignites gunpowder, sending a tiny semi-paraboloid chunk of metal hurtling through the air at supersonic speed. The projectile, imparted with tremendous kinetic energy, rips through the air until it spends its energy on an object intercepting its path. Kinetic energy is imparted to the object, along with heat, and an expanding shock wave, whose rate of expansion is dictated by the medium impacted.
A stiffer, hardened medium can absorb the frightening collision, and save for minor surface deformation, repel the projectile; a soft, pliable material shudders and heaves under the absorption of the projectile, as it seeks to bore a hole straight through it. The whole incident, depending on the distance between gun and target, may take less than a second.
A weapon. In the hands of a skilled marksman, deadly at hundreds of yards; for the unskilled, deadly at close range. The hunter can stalk his prey in such a way that it has no chance to understand the danger to it, until the report and then the nearly simultaneous impact. An elk, a caribou, a wolf, a white-tailed deer… none can stand before the power of the gun. The killer can brandish it, and see the fear, before eviscerating his intended target.
An instrument of destruction. Steel forged and bored, shaped and tempered. Gunpowder created, then consumed. The gun consumes energy, turns an explosion into heat and momentum, and a bullet takes an object and wrecks it. Wood. Plastic. Glass. Flesh. Bone.
Guns are a fact of life. The genie cannot be placed back in the bottle. They walk around this world, in the hands of police officers and criminals, soldiers and despots, ordinary citizens and madmen. They serve as offense and defense, deterrent, enforcement, and instrument of power. They enforce the law, and they kill the innocent.
The gun, of itself, is not evil — the intent of the handler is. Put in the capable hand, it is a weapon of sport, of law, of national defense. Put in a monster’s hand, it is a weapon of deceit, destruction, usurpation, and annihilation.
If only it were not so.
The gun has an inherent flaw — it is dependent on the user for purpose. Like any tool, it only does what the operator intends. Yet even so, the gun has but one purpose: destruction. It does not sow seeds. It does not build homes. It does not comfort us in our lonely hours. It does not bring loved ones back from the dead.
The gun has an inherent effect on humans — a false sense of power. The power comes, not from the gun, but from the holder. To hold one in your hand, is to believe that you can do anything, that others can and must do as you wish. It imbues the weak with a sense of strength, that allows them to settle their grievances. It gives the strong a sense of invincibility, that permits them to impose their will upon others. It gives the ordinary person the idea that somehow it will protect them from the bogeymen of the world. All these feelings, however, are false, for the gun does nothing of itself — it only does what it is told.
Pride in the power of a gun is hubris expressed in death. The gun kills or destroys — it can do no less. It has the one purpose, and the purpose is not additive to humanity. It has been put to positive use at times, in promoting freedom, or eradicating oppression, but inevitably, its dark potential pushes someone to an action that costs another person (or group of people) their life. For the measure of freedom and peace it provides, is tempered by the blood it spills and the life it obliterates. The gun can never truly protect, never truly bring peace, as long as it is subject to the dark demons that lurk with all humanity.
While we have the right to own guns, it is perhaps a better measure of our humanity to refuse to use them. It may also be a measure of hubris to believe that one does not need to own a gun to be safe, but isn’t that the point? Do we not, at some point, owe it to ourselves to put the guns down? Are we so naive to believe that humanity will know peace, as long as the dormant but accessible power of the gun lies, like the snake in the Garden of Eden? For any peace is fleeting, where a person picks up a gun and decides that their point of view is more important, because they hold the power of life and death. Even the best of people can be corrupted, for harnessing power requires self-control, and where such control is lacking, the power overwhelms and enthralls, to the point of destruction. Our maturation as a species cannot continue, until we recognize that what we have wrought upon this world, we have wrought upon ourselves. We have created the traps that spring upon us — only we can disarm them.