I want to shoot a gun. A warm handgun is like sex without commitment. It is heavy in your hand and the power oozes from the metal straight through to your finger-that small digit that wields death with a twitch. I don’t want to kill anyone, who does? I would not want to have to use it, but I would. The firing range is like a real life videogame (because it’s a game and it’s real). There is no doubt that violence sucks and murder is wrong, but it all seems so appealing.
We love the story about the guy who had to kill because it was the right thing to do under the circumstances. We love to fool ourselves. Maybe it is a fundamental need in humans to revitalize our survival instinct by naturally selecting out other organisms (i.e. killing them).
The Jains, a sect of Buddhism, will sweep the road before they walk on it so that they will not inadvertently step on an ant. When I was a kid, I used to take pleasure in seeking out fire ants to step on, marveling at my ability to take the life of something else.
The potential to kill brings a responsibility to respect life. The decision not to kill is always presupposed by the knowledge that we can kill. We always know when we encounter an animal that can overpower us. One of the draws to the circus is the attraction of overpowering a mighty animal like a tiger or elephant, and our ego loves it. Are firearms just an indulgent for the ego or are they a veil to mask our fear of weakness and death?
A recent independent survey found that 60% of people in the military have slept with their firearm at one point. I guess on cold nights the barracks can get lonely. Humans love toys. Like clothes, our tools and gadgets become an extension of our personal self-image. People spend a lot time picking out the gun that is just right for their “needs.” So we cannot deny the security and strength that a gun yields, yet we also like to dream of a society where objects intended for violent purposes are completely shunned.
Are humans ever going to transcend violence? Nope. Violence is how humans have evolved population control. I don’t want a gun, because if I had a gun I would shoot it and love every second. For now, I believe in peace. I walk away from fights and read Gandhi, not Machiavelli. So please, don’t tempt me with secular power because I know that I will use it.
Alex Saleeby can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.