Most have probably heard the old adage "give a person enough rope, and they will often hang themselves". The idiom is a reference to the notion that if someone is given enough freedom of action, they may destroy themselves by foolish actions.
With that in mind: considering what happened this weekend at multiple gun shows across the country, perhaps it is time to add a modifier to the saying. Perhaps, something like this - "Give them enough guns, and they'll shoot themselves":
Accidental shootings at gun shows in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio left five people injured Saturday, the same day that thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully at state capitals around the U.S. to rally against stricter firearm limits. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=169807282
For context, Saturday January 19th served as "Gun Appreciation Day". Here's an explanation:
Saturday's incidents occurred on 'Gun Appreciation Day," an event led by a gun rights group that urged Americans to "go to your local gun store, gun range or gun show with your Constitution, American flags and your 'Hands off my Guns' sign to send a loud and clear message." http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/19/us/north-carolina-gun-show-shooting/index.html
Gun Appreciation Day was supposed to be a 'loud and clear' message to America that increased gun control is not wanted, and will not be tolerated. It is difficult to assume that the gun rights groups who organized and coined this day wanted the headlines to be about people being shot at gun shows.
Partisan wantings aside though, what did these gun rights groups realistically expect? Comprehensive research has indicated pretty clearly that the more guns there are in a given area, the more dangerous that area becomes. Thus, it stands to reason that when one encourages thousands of people to gather with their guns in hand, the likelihood that a shooting occurs - intentional and/or accidental - increases substantially.
The inevitable irony of "Gun Apprection Day" aside, there is another piece of "Gun Appreciation Day" that deserves further examination. Specifically, it is this notion:
"go to your local gun store, gun range or gun show with your Constitution, American flags and your 'Hands off my Guns' sign to send a loud and clear message." (bolded emphasis added)
15 or so years ago, the marketing for guns generally revolved around targets, camouflage, and images of wild game (deer, turkey, quale, etc.). In the past 10-15 years though, we've seen the marketing of guns change from a focus on recreation and sport to a focus on American flags, the Constituion, and 'Patriotism and Liberty'. Gun lobbies and the gun industry in general have tried to make guns synonymous with being "American". THIS is the TRUE sensationalization of guns. Contrary to National Rifle Association(NRA) claims, guns aren't being sensationalized in movies, video games, and TV shows any more than they ever have. Rather, they're being sensationalized by those who so rabidly defend them.
It is this kind of sensationalization that is dangerous - the notion that guns are the answer to everyone's problem. Obviously, the cause of America's dangerous gun culture cannot be narrowed down to just one definitive and undeniable cause. But this type of sensationalization no doubt shifts the focus away from reasonable and responsible gun ownership to zealous, vigilante pride and 'patriotism'.
And in lockstep with their corporate sponsors, so-to-speak, politicians and political lobbying groups have followed suit:
A Missouri lawmaker is drawing attention for the unfortunate timing of his gun raffle fundraiser next month.
The Sunlight Foundation has posted an invitation for state Rep. John McCaherty’s Aug. 27 fundraiser, which will feature the raffle of an AR-15 rifle. Unfortunately for the High Ridge Republican, the gun is the same model as one allegedly used in last week's shooting at a Colorado movie theater that left 12 dead and 58 injured.
The Asheville, N.C. chapter of the Tea Party is holding a gun raffle fundraiser. One of the guns featured is an assault weapon similar to the one used in last week's deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Eyebrows shot up all over the country Thursday following news that that the Republican Party in Pima County, AZ — home to Tucson and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) district — is raffling off a Glock similar to the one used to shoot Giffords in the head in January.
These are just some of the examples of how politicians and political action groups have begun more directly tying guns into their campaigns - there are undoubtedly others. It is difficult to find any other industrialized country in the world where politicians for public office give away semi-automatic rifles at campaign events. Again, this is the kind of sensationalization that creates a dangerous gun culture. In the name of profit and power, the focus of safety and responsibility regarding guns has been lifted, and replaced with a nationalistic, paranoia-filled machismo.
In closing: here is what the second amendment says:
The second amendment is one sentence. It speaks to the people's right to a well regulated militia - that's it. Gun enthusiasts routinely extrapolate a long, drawn out interpretation of the second amendment that ends in the ultimate conclusion that ANY regulation of guns is unconstitutional. Perhaps if this absolutist approach was dismissed, rational discussion about gun control and gun safety could ensue. Perhaps reasonable and responsible safety legislation could be passed - legislation that wouldn't in any way inhibit a responsible gun owner's capacity to protect themselves and their families, and to particiapte in shooting for recreation and sport. Perhaps, the entire culture of guns in America - influenced by a combination of pragmatic policy and responsible public rhetoric - would morph into something safe and sustainable. And perhaps, we could hold "Gun Appreciation Day" without people being shot while showing their 'appreciation'.
As it stands right now, this weekend's gun show 'accidental discharge' display will likely go down as nothing more than an inconvenient eye sore for a political movement. But, what if those 'accidental discharges' occurred in three schools versus three gun shows? It is doubtful that the explanation of 'oh well, accidents happen' would suffice in such a setting. Let's hope we never have to find out.