It’s a statement so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to live in America and have never heard it. Whenever firearm aficionados finds themselves in a debate on gun control, it’s a go-to phrase they fire off — no pun intended — as soon as it’s convenient. And it’s such a persistent phrase that it has seeped its way into pop culture to a point where we use it jokingly when we aren’t even talking about guns at all. What phrase am I talking about?
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
There’s just one problem with that sentiment… guns absolutely do kill people. In fact, they kill lots of people. It’s the only thing guns were designed for, and it’s the only thing guns do. They serve literally no other purpose beyond distributing death at the speed of sound.
Guns vs. Spoons
At face value, the phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is meant to say that we shouldn’t blame guns for violence, because it’s the people using them who are violent. Some will take the statement a few steps further and sarcastically ask “should we outlaw spoons because they make people fat?” Seems to make sense, doesn’t it? Well… it doesn’t.
It isn’t the spoon that makes you fat, it’s what’s on the other end of that spoon. Billions of people have used spoons throughout history without obesity being a result, and billions of people have also eaten food without over-gaining weight, too. You can’t really say the same about guns not killing people.
In a way, you might say guns don’t kill people, either. The bullet, though? that’s a whole other story. And when we go a step further and compare them in greater depth, we see just how asinine the phrase really is. Food is necessary for survival by every human on Earth. Bullets? Not so much. In fact, bullets serve literally no other purpose. On second though, neither do guns.
Guns! Good God, Y’all! What Are They Good For?
“So what, guns are made for killing,” some of you are thinking (or maybe saying out-loud to yourself, in which case I really hope you don’t own any guns), “you can kill a person with a car, too! Should we outlaw those as well?”
You’re right. You absolutely can murder someone with a car. It’s considerably harder to do, of course — you need to build up enough speed to do it, and wait for them to be outside, and make sure you don’t hurt yourself in the process — but a car could certainly be used as a weapon, if someone wanted to. But comparing cars and guns makes about as much sense as comparing guns and spoons. And by that, I mean it makes no sense at all.
Cars aren’t designed to kill people, any more than spoons are designed to make a person fat (or, by extension, kill people). They’re designed for travel, for leisure, for transporting cargo, or, in most cases, all three. Car designers intend a great many things for the vehicles they create… killing people isn’t one of them. If it were, cars would have hefty battering rams as bumpers and huge spikes sticking out of the wheels, and would probably belch flames through the barbed wire on the hood when you honked the horn, like some nightmarish Mad Max murder-mobile. Not exactly what most of us imagine when we hear the phrase “Kia Sorrento.”
So where are we? Guns = 2, spoons = 0, cars = 0. This isn’t going so well for the guns. That’s because guns are made to do one thing, and one thing only: kill other people or creatures. They literally serve no other purpose whatsoever. Well, okay, they can also be used to signify the start of a race or shoot a flare into the sky, but those aren’t guns intended to kill, the same way a baseball bat isn’t really intended to be used as a weapon until someone drives rusty nails into it. Sorry… I play a lot of video games.
But I Need My Guns To Defend My Home!
Another popular misconception? People need guns for self-defense, or to defend their own homes. Well, I hate to break this to anyone, but that’s not true, either.
Our pop culture has conditioned us to believe that everyone is trying to kill us every second of the day; that right now, while you’re reading this, someone is trying to figure out how to pick your lock and enter your home illegally. Go ahead and check the front door… sorry for making you worry.
Okay, back now? Good to see you again. And look, nothing was there! Let’s continue.
Now here’s the reality of crime: most intruders are interested in stealing things, and have no interest whatsoever in doing you any kind of physical harm. They’d rather you not see them or hear them at all, actually. They’re definitely assholes, for sure, but murderers? Not at all.
According to the Department of Justice, Around 3.7 million burglaries occurred, on average, between 2003 and 2007. Of those, only 28% involved violence of any kind, and in 65.1% of those violent confrontations, the intruder was known to the home owner and wasn’t a stranger. Also, 61% of those intruders were unarmed. Most of those confrontations ended with only mild injuries. An intruder doesn’t want you to be home, because they don’t want to be caught. That’s why most home intrusions happen during the day, when people are at work or school.
Okay, well, that’s just burglaries, right? But what about drug dealers and gangsters? The truth is, they almost never attack civilians on the street, apart from purse-snatchers (and do you really think a purse-snatcher deserves to be shot and killed? You don’t need a gun, you need anger management classes!). They’re usually specifically targeting other criminals who wronged them. Innocent civilians are sometimes caught in the crossfire, but you’re not John McClane… having a gun isn’t going to make you any safer during a completely unexpected drive-by shooting, when those criminals are getting the drop on you. Unless the incoming bullet bounces off of your gun, anyway.
The sad truth is, you’re more likely to be shot and killed by the police, a toddler playing with a gun, or even accidentally by yourself, than you are to be killed by a drug dealer, mugger, or other criminal. And the supposed “good guy with a gun” scenario, in which an unwary, armed civilian manages to use their gun to save the day, almost never happens. You have considerably better chances playing the lottery than using your gun to save yourself or someone else.
Fine, Guns Kill People. But Taking Away Our Guns Won’t Help!
Some of you have resigned to say “okay, we get it… guns are dangerous. But if we take guns away from the good people, only criminals will have them!” You’re probably sick of hearing me say this, so I’ll space it out to lessen the blow. That’s… also… not… true…
If we outlawed guns, then yes, criminals would still have guns and murders would still be happening every day. But as we’ve already illustrated, civilians with guns don’t really stop crimes anyway. And here’s where things get even scarier: legally-owned guns have been used in nearly four-fifths of all of America’s mass shootings. It isn’t just the illegal guns that are doing the killing.
So What? You’re Saying We Should Outlaw Guns Completely?
You might be thinking I want the government to round up all of the guns in America and throw them in an active volcano, but I actually don’t. I don’t really care if you own guns, so long as you aren’t pointing them at me or anyone else. The reality is that most gun owners are actually responsible; millions of Americans own guns and never kill anyone else. I don’t think we should punish everyone for the bad seeds.
What I do think, however, is that we need realistic gun control measures in this country. Guns should be a hell of a lot harder to obtain — yes, even by good people — and they need drastically stronger regulations.
You can’t buy a car and drive it around without acquiring a permit, being trained (we have a five-hour safety course here in New York), passing tests, and then registering and insuring your vehicle. Why can’t we do that for guns? You can’t buy pharmaceutical medications without a doctor’s prescription and visiting a pharmacy… why can’t we do that for bullets? A rational, sensible, responsible gun owner wouldn’t mind the wait, and it would wipe out some of the red-tape stuff that simply doesn’t work today, all while making everyone in America safer. That sounds like everyone wins, doesn’t it?
Every gun-related death in history has one thing in common, folks. It’s not a political ideology, or religion, or the voices in someone’s head. It’s not ethnicity, or gender, or sexual orientation. It isn’t the time of day, or Catcher In The Rye, or dietary habits. It’s the guns. They’re the only common denominator.
I’m not saying we need to take everyone’s guns away. I’m just saying we need to have a real dialog about them, and to recognize exactly what they’re meant to do, and come up with some real, lasting solutions that could end the gun violence epidemic in America. We need to have that conversation right now, and we all need to realize that no one will be 100% happy with the result. Because I realize you think owning your guns is your right. Well, I think we all have a right to not be shot and killed, too. And I’m sorry if you disagree, but the latter right is vastly more important than the first. And if you disagree, well, I really hope you don’t own any guns.