Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guns don’t kill people...

I was always fascinated by that saying and how simple it seems. “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In essence, it is compelling because it is true. Guns do not kill people of their own volition, they require a motive force such as a finger pulling the trigger, a hand to aim it and a person to decide what to aim at. But is it oversimplifying things? Do guns in a larger sense actually kill people through actually existing, or am I just talking out my butt?

Recently I had my house broken into, and although nothing much was taken luckily, and no one was home, the sense of some scumbag rifling through my personal effects pissed me off something chronic. I went through the classic stages we experience to cope with things.

“What? Someone broke in? Don’t be ridiculous! They can’t break in when we’ve got things like, doors and windows covering the openings. Well of course they could have just smashed a window, but who in their right mind would do that? That’s crazy talk!”

“Fucking pricks! How dare they break into my house! I’m going to....well...I...I’m going to get pretty upset is what I’m going to do!”

“Please please please please please please let my new xbox still be there”

“This sucks. How can someone do this to me and my family. What sort of nihilistic a-hole would invade my house and rifle through my shit?”

“What? Are you joking? Acceptance? Fuck. That. The next time I see someone snooping round the neighbourhood I’m gonna get the rake outta the shed and beat seven kinds of snot out of them!”

It was the last statement (which I actually did think to myself) that I have come back to ponder in the light of a few recent events in New Zealand. In early June an owner of a liquor outlet Navtej Singh in South Auckland was shot dead, even though he had complied totally with the offenders demands. Since then there have been a spate of shootings and assaults (not entirely related to shop owners) that have been highlighted in the media. A majority of these we all shake our heads, do the old “tut tut” thing and continue on with our lives because we are not shocked by this sort of thing – we have been desensitised to it. It is remote. Its happening to someone else we have nothing to do with, so we feel comfortable dismissing it from the worry centre of our brain and concentrating on more personal matters. Which is all perfectly normal – you can’t expect people to live in total fear because of the worry and stress caused by events which have no immediate impact on their lives. Unless you live in the US of course, and then the Government and media make damn sure you worry about every perceived terrorist threat there could possibly be.

But I digress. On Monday night, two machete wielding offenders charged into a Christchurch dairy and attacked the owner and his wife without provocation. The owner Nike said "Usually in the movies they say 'Give me the money' but they tried to kill us from the very start. It happened really fast. They ran in holding the knife out and started trying to chop me." At this point, Nike whipped out his air pistol that was stashed behind the counter, and shot the knife wielding maniacs, wounding one of them in the face. He saved his life, his wife’s life and didn’t kill anyone in the process. Bravo Nike – well done.

This has raised the obvious question however – should people have the right to arm themselves for protection? I saw on the news tonight, several people calling for the ability of shop owners to defend themselves. What would have happened in any of these situations where a small business owner is confronted by an armed nutter, demanding they “gimme the casshhhhh” is armed with a .357 magnum, or a small .22 pistol? It’s obvious really – the outcome would be much worse. As soon as you arm everyone for “personal protection” you increase the death toll at every robbery. The more guns there are, the more people will get shot and it wont be for reasons of “personal protection” either. You then put a gun in the hands of every husband who has an argument with his wife, of every disgruntled employee who has forgotten the TPS reports, and every bored teenager who feels like taking their frustrations with the world out on someone.

Its relatively hard in New Zealand to get a gun, and although we are seeing an increase of crimes linked with guns, I wouldn’t want to change that. If you see someone with a gun, it stands out – they look out of place and you can identify them as a possible offender because they are armed. If you arm everyone, they blend into the crowd and make them impossible to find. Increasing the number of weapons owned legitimately will make it harder to trace the ones that are not, making it incredibly hard to capture and prosecute successfully people who commit armed offences.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but if you give everyone a gun, more people will be killed” – proliferation of weapons has never helped solve anything. All it does is give people who are pissed off, down on their luck or just bored something to play with.

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