Throughout the world, firearm ownership and gun control remains a point of contention among politicians, activists and civilians alike. A manifold complex of various interconnected issues, the debate over the role of guns in society, works to polarize and divide based on fundamental values and belief systems that are, for the most part, carved in stone.
The penultimate need for survival and dominance (through belief systems and social and political structures) has always reigned supreme, shaping the landscapes of social evolution throughout millennia. A manifestation of our most basic thoughts and needs, the history of firearms and the role of guns in modern society therefore reflect the constituents of our nature, (and by default, the less elevated aspects of our cognizance). Inevitably changing the projection of human development, the conception and use of firearms, (beginning in 12th century China and rapidly spreading Westward) witnessed the rise of “gunpowder empires.” These great powers, which saw the vast takeover of large territories and people across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East from the 15th to the 18th centuries, (the most well known and successful being the Turks) created highly developed, centralized governments that could carry out the procurement, maintenance and instruction of firearms. Guns and gunpowder were therefore reserved for the all-mighty and powerful, conceived and used for one purpose and one purpose only: warfare. Although war is an integral part to understanding our historical social consciousness, and continues to be emblematic in the 21rst century, warfare has never been and never will be a desirable proponent of human nature. Our blood lust, stemming from our most basic, animalistic instinct, is the primal need to facilitate control and ensure our own survival at all costs. The methods of human warfare therefore, by way of firearms and firearm technology, cannot be separated from our primal nature. In this respect, all sense of elevated consciousness, empirical thought and humanity disappears with the pull of a trigger. So where does that leave us?
Unfortunately when it comes to the debate over guns in modern day society, the bounty of biased statistical evidence, which labors to support either side of the argument, makes gun ownership and gun control a moot point. Definitively, the real issue is not necessarily gun control but gun ownership. Where there is fire, one is sure to get burned. But eliminating all guns from the world is not a reality. So what do we do? Governments become the negotiating parent. Placing conditions to restrict and control, they do as much or as little as they can to convince them of their own authority. But despite federal action, the arms race, like a tyrannical teenager, persists in its own way, forging sovereignty that is independent of Big Brother. Yes, we are damned if do and damned if we don’t. However, giving up entirely to leave society to its own devices may prove to be just as disastrous.
While media, multinationals, lobbyists and lawmakers alike, have, to a greater degree, collectively enabled a dependent, unthinking society, the individual is no longer independent of popular culture and its welfare state. We must be told what we think, what we do and how we feel. In this sense, most of us are incapable of understanding the boundaries of self-control and self-regulation and without comprehensive thought; our ability to judge people and situations correctly, is next to nil. As a result, we see a rise in worldwide obesity and addictions rates, domestic and street violence, drug trafficking and arms dealing, persistent civil unrest and crime, substance and behavioral abuse, international warfare, and a plethora of psychological and psychiatric illnesses. So how can we realistically embrace a laissez-faire mentality when it comes to firearm ownership, when the culture itself doesn’t even know how to eat and sleep without being prescribed something? (Talk about a loaded gun!)
A large roadblock for pro-gun control groups in America is the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which serves to protect “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Right wing lobbyist groups like, the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America are quick to quote it in defense of their anti-gun control program, which supports the removal of all bans on semiautomatic weapons, armor piercing ammunition and handguns. However the question remains: is there a difference between the right to bear arms and the right to control the conditions of that right? In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting last month, (which saw twenty children and seven adults murdered), the echoes of thirteen other mass shootings of 2012 in the United States alone call for a mass mobilization against the gun lobby. In a statement last Wednesday, President Barack Obama said, “What’s more important, doing whatever it takes to get an A grade from the gun lobby that funds our campaigns or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?” However notable Republicans such as Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, are quick to challenge Obama’s proposals to ban assault weapons and impose a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, while many Democrats concur that gun control programs remain a difficult sell to lawmakers. Yet of all industrialized nations, America continues to be the nation with the weakest gun laws and the highest gun-related deaths, (killing around 10,000 Americans a year), the backwash of which inevitably permeates our northern borders. Canada is therefore not immune to the system, and the system itself is evidently off-kilter. While there is no single solution to the complex issue of gun violence, the notion that governments are not responsible for universal background checks, and should not ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is, without a doubt, deeply counterintuitive and asinine.
Looking to our European counterparts, we see a very different picture. In Britain for instance, handguns and automatic weapons have effectively been banned, and while it is still possible to own shotguns, and rifles, (if you can prove to the police that you have a good reason to own one) the firearms-ownership rules are arduous, involving hours of bureaucracy, in which extensive background checks, interviews and surveys are conducted. According to British police and British parliament, many gang-related shootings in Britain are no longer fatal, due to the simple inaccessibility of ammunition. In this respect, gangs are resorting to making their own bullets, the likes of which are not as effective as the real-deal, and even those hardboiled criminals willing to pay for a handgun are often acquiring only an illegally modified starter’s pistol turned into a single-shot weapon. If statistics are anything to go by, than one might be crude enough to say that fewer guns mean fewer gun-related crimes, (a belief that is greatly supported by both the Handgun Control Inc. and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence groups of America). In 2008-2009, there were 39 fatal injuries from crimes involving firearms in England and Wales, with a population about one sixth the size of America’s, compared to 12,000 gun-related homicides in America during that same year. Based on the models of Japan and Britain, it seems that strict gun laws involve having no guns at all.
Surveys show that twenty-nine per cent of Canadian homes possess an estimated total of nine million firearms. The UN has ranked Canada third in the civilian ownership of firearms among developed western countries, (right behind the United States and Norway). As the arms race goes, once other people have guns, it becomes reasonable for you to want one too and while significant number of guns in circulation seems to make any specific controls on things like automatic weapons or large magazines superfluous, there are therefore, no definitive solutions to the gun debate. The choice lies solely within the people: whether popular culture supports gun mentality or not and whether we, as a society, choose to forge a community based on weapon supremacy or intellectual sovereignty. So, while the power ultimately rests with the individual, society at large can only pray that the individual appeals to rational thought and self-control and not the full metal jacket of 21st century anarchy.
- Elizabeth Cucnik