People Don’t Want Guns

People don’t want a gun. They want the comfort and safety a gun provides.

I get a lot of mixed responses when I talk about this idea, but at the heart of this gun debate I feel this is a big missing element. People want a weapon. Only somebody who is a sociopath or a soldier fighting in a war actually uses a gun for the purpose of killing another human being.

This seems like a very controversial idea, but it actually maps quite easily onto the world that we see. An individual who kills huge crowds of people is likely a sociopath, or has some similar form of behavioral or mental disorder. Other big causes of gun violence are gangs, which from my perspective these gang members behave much like soldiers fighting in a war of territory and resources, so this doesn’t fit with the sociopath crowd. The same could be said for armed guards and militias.

There is one other big source of gun violence, which is mentioned a lot, but I think in a completely misunderstood context. Either in moments of rage, or real moments of insecurity, guns are used very frequently in a domestic context. Many people who are the perpetrators of these acts do tend to feel empathy for what they did, but simply acted with instinct rather than with rationality. People in this context aren’t setting out to kill somebody, they often simply want to incapacitate, or deal with the “victim” in a more controlled manner. This is true in cases of domestic violence,  security situations such as breaking-and-entering, law enforcement when somebody is behaving belligerently, or when you need to disperse a violent crowd. All of these are practical applications for a weapon, but not for a gun. The real goal of using a gun in these situations isn’t for the purposes of killing.

How Else Can We Accomplish This

The goal is to incapacitate, or to disperse; to stop your target in its tracks. We can do this with non-lethal means. If somebody is breaking into my house and my only weapon is a gun, then that invader is likely going to die. If somebody is breaking into my house and my choices are a revolver or a highly accurate tranquilizer, I’m going with the second choice. Especially if the “tranquilizer” doesn’t have to be in a locked box. This sort of technology is possible, and is already being pursued for military applications.

I am arguing that the best solution to domestic uses of guns, which in vast majority of cases are the purpose of handguns, is to put more energy behind better non-lethal technologies.

Some argue this is a fantasy. That a gun can never be fully replaced. In many forms of the argument, I agree. Hunting is a useful skill to master, for example. Personally I love shooting guns;  I’ve been to a gun range more than once, and I’ve also tried my hand at archery. These are fun hobbies, and I think people should be free to do this if they want. But in a domestic situation, I’m not going to use my bow & arrow if I am given the choice between a bow and a gun. I’ll always choose the gun. Unless I have a better choice. So let’s give people a better choice.

Let’s talk hypothetical. If we had the perfect non-lethal weapon, that could easily knock somebody out quickly and from a distance, and with a greater accuracy than a handgun, would people still buy handguns as frequently? Should be obvious what the answer is. Especially if the non-lethal option is also cheaper and easier to purchase than the handgun option. The solution to the problem of handguns isn’t to make them illegal, it’s to make them unnecessary.

The problem here is this technology doesn’t quite exist yet. Tasers are useful, but still somewhat dangerous, inaccurate, and clumsy. There needs to be a push in this culture to make a better alternative. A simple targeted government grant can set a whole team of physicists, engineers, and biologists on this task, and it’s entirely likely they could devise a useful non-lethal weapon. This should be the only debate; why not fund such a project?

The Rewards

The advantages of this approach are numerous. If you can end gun violence in domestic situations, then all your left with are sociopaths and militias. These can be dealt with in traditional means; background checks before purchasing firearms, a focus on mental health, and limits on military style weapons.

The problem of handguns can be solved quickly by making a non-lethal alternative, and making it cheaper and easier to acquire. Nobody would want to go through the process of getting a handgun, unless they were using it for recreational purposes. If the non-lethal version is technically too expensive for this to be practical, than make it subsidized and use the money from some sort of firearm “sin tax” (as we do, much like tobacco and alcohol).

This Is Obvious

I’m always scratching my head during this gun debate. I don’t understand why this doesn’t seem obvious to everyone. We could go this route, get the NRA on board, and fund an exhaustive scientific study on non-lethal weapons. This problem could potentially be solved, at least in its current form, in a matter of generations.

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