Just Because I Don’t Think That Guns Make Us Safe Doesn’t Mean I’m Right.

My friend Shannon Watts received an interesting email the other day on her Facebook page, and since she shared it with all of us, I feel comfortable responding to what the writer of that message had to say.  I’ll quote the relevant words: “Until you can guarantee me my safety, and that of my loved one, I will continue to take care of myself and my loved ones, as i have done these many years.”



Shannon Watts

The writer then went on to add the usual semi-literate comments about ‘asshole liberalism,’ and other turns of a phrase. Shannon receives comments like this all the time so what else is new? But I want to look at what Gun-nut Nation means when they talk about ‘guaranteeing’ safety, because I think this notion gets to the heart of what the gun debate is really all about.

Do you notice how #45 (if he’s still #45) never lets an opportunity go by without saying that he wants to make the country ‘safe?’ He’s building a wall to keep us ‘safe.’ He’s restricting immigration to make us ‘safe.’ I’m sure that if the GOP had managed to jettison the ACA that this colossal act of political stupidity would have somehow been seen as making us ‘safe.’

I’m not saying that most or even many gun owners walk around thinking that the only thing they can depend on in this terrible unsafe world is that 20-ounce piece of steel and polymer which has the unfortunate tendency to flop onto the floor when they pull their pants down and squat on the can. Most gun owners are like me (and I own lots, really lots of guns) – the guns have always been around, I like having them around, it’s something fun and that’s the end of that.

But then you get those jerks like the jerk who wrote that dopey Facebook note to Shannon who really believe they need to have a gun because it makes them feel ‘safe.’ And you could tell someone like that again and again that there are countless studies which show that guns won’t make you any safer and what you’ll get is a blink, a nod, and a restatement of the ‘fact’ that he ‘knows’ that his gun will make him ‘safe.’

We’re not talking reality here, folks. We’re talking emotions, pure and simple, and emotions, particularly fearful emotions, always trump facts.  It’s like my friend Al who takes 5 days to drive to back and forth to Florida each Winter because he’s afraid to fly. I can tell him from today to next year that he’s much safer in an airplane than trundling down I-95 and he’s still going to drive.

When you stop and think about it, the decision of the gun industry to market their products by appealing to fear is a brilliant master stroke. Because I can’t think of another consumer product whose basic use has been transformed so radically even though the way the product functions hasn’t changed at all.  Pull the trigger and it goes – bang! That’s the way a gun works and has always worked. But using a gun to bring down Bambi, a high-flyer or clay bird is one thing, using it to ‘guarantee’ your ‘safety’ is something else.

If we’ve learned one thing from the power of advertising media, it’s that people can be made to believe all kinds of things which may bear no relationship to reality at all. But who made me the ultimate authority on what’s believable or what’s true when it comes to guns? The fact that I write about guns and I own lots of guns doesn’t mean that anyone else should necessarily to adopt my point of view.  And if I can’t persuade Al that he’s safer flying to Florida than driving down there in his truck, why should someone who really believes that his gun ‘guarantees’ his safety want to rethink his own point of view?


2 thoughts on “Just Because I Don’t Think That Guns Make Us Safe Doesn’t Mean I’m Right.

  1. I recall the SUV craze when SUVs made you safer. The fact that they could roll over, had lousy brakes, and could not get out of their own way notwithstanding.

    Stories are more powerful that statistics. My brother, a CHL holder in NYS, laughed when I asked him if he “carries”. He said no, suggesting to me that he though the chances of being in the right place at the right time to be A Good Guy With A Gun were about the same as winning the NYS Lottery. But he is exceptional; those Armed Citizen stories in the American Rifleman are real and perpetuate the idea that the only thing between us and Darkness is that Glock or Model 870 (or, I suppose, the Modern Sporting Rifle). That’s something you cannot refute with statistics because statistics are based on events per population (dry stuff except to policy wonks) whereas those Armed Citizen stories are based on incidents. We just had a guy in Albuquerque arrested after committing almost 50 armed robberies in a few months. I suspect a lot of storekeeps were deciding whether to simply give over the cash drawer (in most cases) or a few saying “I’ll be damned if he will rob me” and slipping something behind the counter other than a breakfast burrito. So part of this is philosophical rather than fear, I suspect.

    Bicycling has the “Reverse Armed Citizen” problem. Every time someone is greased in traffic it is on the internet and everyone knows about it. Ghost bikes are put up. Perpetuates the idea that “its too dangerous” out there, regardless of the statistics that show that a bicyclist, per exposure hour, has marginally more risk than a motorist. But people on their bikes feel vulnerable just as some folks feel vulnerable without their Pocket Nine because of The Stories. With more idiots driving their cell phones instead of their cars, even I get the willies. The bike industry, through its house organs, constantly pushes for more separate bike facilities in order to sell more bikes to reticent, potential bicyclists. Its too dangerous to go out without your bike path.


  2. Pingback: Just Because I Don’t Think That Guns Make Us Safe Doesn’t Mean I’m Right. | Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning"

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