The Rights of Guns

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

El Paso residents protesting the visit of President Donald Trump after the Walmart mass shooting that left twenty-two people dead, Texas, August 7, 2019

“Gun rights,” as used by devotees of an absolutist Second Amendment, means their right to own guns. But as used in real American life these days (or real American deaths), it means the rights of guns. Guns themselves possess even more rights than persons do.

If a person were found to have shown up regularly in so many places where so many crimes had been committed by so many people, how could that person not be called to account for such suspicious behavior? He would clearly be investigated for being present with such persistence at crime scenes. Did he facilitate them, making them easier by his mere presence? What could induce any innocent person to be so energetically omnipresent at so many varied crime scenes? What excuse could relieve him from the charge of being an accessory? A person with such skill and dogged effort would be considered a national menace, no matter how many excuses he could concoct for such weird conduct.

But guns can do all of those things and profess an entire non-involvement. “Who, me?” says Gun, going on:

I never asked to be part of anyone’s wrongdoing. Why pick on me? You must have a gun-persecution disorder. You accusers are the ones who show up at every crime scene, trying to drag me into actions as if I’m an agent. I am totally passive. I never asked to be bought by a homicidal maniac. Go after the nutty people and leave me alone.

So also argues the attorney for the defense, the NRA.

Guns, by their protected status—especially in the hands of white men—issue an implicit press release inviting all comers to their emporium. It says, in effect:

Are you really angry? Have you been fired from your job? Do you think your wife is unfaithful, or merely uppity? Are you afraid of strangers? Do you think Jews are trying to replace you? Have you seen or heard of migrants raping your women? Do you know that Muslims are a force for evil? Do you wonder why Catholics honor a foreign power’s representatives, Vatican infiltrators wearing Roman collars?

I, the Gun, offer an easily available solution to all your problems. Just buy me anywhere. My lawyers will protect me, and get you off from any charge of committing a hate crime, or acting as a terrorist, or being part of a conspiracy. Just admit you are too nutty to be part of any larger plot, and I will exempt you from enhancement of your crime. My NRA lawyers will not only fend off these as irrelevant augmentation, they will make their congressional lackeys deny funds for any investigation of me and consequences of my many uses. Let them spend the money on other problems, from traffic jams to child abuse. I am ruled off bounds for any such opposition action at all. That would be ‘politicizing,’ and what could be so little political as your humble servant?

What other service provides such all-round easement of your feelings? I am at your disposal, no questions asked. Why point at me? Does a gun know how it is being used?

Obediently yours,

The Everywhere Gun

Again, if a human being issued such an invitation to accompany people on nefarious acts of anyone’s choosing, he would soon be in the pokey or on death row. Try it and see if you can successfully argue:

I may have been the person there when all these crimes were committed, but mere presence is not complicity. I am so passive I do not do anything, however odd it is that I am there whenever mass killings occur. I do not even know what all these others in my company are doing. Accompanying killing is not committing killing. I am just a presence, not a prerequisite for all the mayhem. I do not even know what is going on.

Because a gun may say it does not know how it is being used, it gets away with things no person would. A gun gets away with what other life-threatening things never do. Regulated drugs, tobacco, alcohol, and explosives cannot argue, as guns do: “Alcohol does not cause accidents, drunks do. Tobacco does not cause cancer, smokers do. Opioids do not kill, addicts do.” That kind of argument does not free all other life-threatening things from regulation or suppression. Only guns.

Guns’ exemption from common-sense legislation guarantees them not only rights, but also rites. Guns are sacred objects. They should not even be insulted, which is blasphemy. They are “the American way.” They are more than things, more even than persons. They are an unstoppable force, a god. They are, indeed, Our Moloch.


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