Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why I Don’t Own a Gun

Here’s something I wrote a while ago, but never published:

I’ve never studied gun control, so I can’t comment on whether it works—whether it reduces violent crime or not.* But as a moral issue, Aaron Sorkin’s characters in the West Wing offer taut, cogent appeals that have reinforced my instincts. Here are the two quotes, which refer to the Second Amendment, which come to my mind when someone says “gun control”:

“We can’t all just agree ... that it was written before there were street lamps, much less police forces, and move on? … There’s no need for a citizen militia.”

“It’s not about personal freedom and it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with public safety. It’s just that some people like guns.”

And then there’s this nugget, from an article by Ariel Kaminer in the Times, which nicely captures my admittedly unrefined thinking on the issue:

“Holding a top-of-the-line gun is supposed to make a person feel powerful, confident, in control. Instead, I felt ridiculous. My stance was all wrong, and in any case I would never pull the trigger — not to kill an intruder, not to kill a bird. That moment of truth reaffirmed what was already beyond doubt: I am a pacifist, or a coward, depending on your perspective. But just as important, I am a New Yorker. In a city where we all live right on top of one another, playing with guns feels as out of place as wearing prairie dresses and engaging in plural marriage.”

To be sure, the libertarian in me stops me from countenancing gun control. Instead, my point is personal: Guns play no part in my life, and I want to keep it that way. I feel safe where I live, work, and socialize, and prefer to leave my protection to the cops and courts.

Reasonable people may disagree, but this is why I live in the homogeneous confines of suburbia.

* I’d be interested to hear the counterargument to this observation put forth by Toby in the West Wing: “If you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, you’ll get a population roughly the size of the United States. We had 32,000 gun deaths last year. They had 112. Do you think it’s because Americans are more homicidal by nature? Or do you think it’s because those guys have gun control laws?”