Ideas & Short Essays
Comments 6

Guns don’t kill people

I found myself engaged in a good discussion on gun violence, hosted by fellow Alaska blogger Pete, a dude who lives in an off the grid cabin, year-round. It’s interesting to discuss guns with fellow Alaskans. As a non-urban, rural-living person, I’m more than a little sympathetic to the concerns of subsistence hunters. There’s a good discussion that you can check out here: 

One of the talking points that goes around is “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Or as Del put it, in the comment section of the above-linked discussion: Well Jonathon [sic] I get your point but really come on, the gun doesn’t kill its the person pulling the trigger its an object like a vehicle or whatever.

However we may disagree on what to do about gun violence, I confess that I find it difficult to understand how intelligent persons cannot make the connection between guns and gun violence. Simply put, gun violence is not possible without guns. So a discussion about gun violence necessarily involves a discussion not merely about the person pulling the trigger but about the nature of the weapon itself.

Take an example from nukes. I’ve yet to hear anyone apply the same logic (or lack thereof) to nuclear weapons as they do to guns. Imagine if people debated as follows: “Look, nuclear weapons are cool. Everyone should have them, because nukes don’t kill people, people kill people.”


pen and bullets


I’m not meaning to oversimplify a complicated discussion. Not at all. Like many things in our world today, the discussion is highly convoluted. But perhaps a significant point is emerging, by talking about nukes: the more violent and destructive the weaponry, the more important it is to discuss the nature of the weapon. In other words, talking about gun violence means talking about guns, about the nature of the weapon itself.


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Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy; I pass the winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I'm working on a memoir-based nonfiction book on the American Dream. I blog, quite frequently, and I also have a novel in process, set in Alaska.


  1. I am quite glad that you had a good interaction when you commented on my blog posting. In the right column I even write that the comment section is for my readers to interact. I am even happier that people on both sides of the isle could converse without the usual extreme rhetoric seen in our media and Washington now a days.

    Though we do not see eye to eye on some things
    I must thank you for making my blog a better place to visit…
    and take a moment to ponder both sides of the issues of today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m tired, Jonathan.

    The gun debate matters to me, but it is not my fight (you know it is largely off the political grid with about 95% of the people who might care anyway), and I am really tired of that, actually. But your insights on gun debate are parallel in point after point.

    I make a simple case. Its not complex really. Guns kill people. People with Guns kill people. These are simple statements that oversimplify matters. The spectrum of issues with guns goes a lot farther, wider and deeper than such statements can handle.

    You bring up subsistence hunting! Yay! That is largely off the grid of consciousness for about 90% of the debate! I wouldn’t want to take that hunter’s gun away! I have enjoyed guns for sport, myself. I would find it an easy thing to give up, personally, but it still would be a shame to. And there are matters of the kinds of weapons… from knives and BB guns to hunting rifles, antiques, and odds-n-ends to assault weapons and NUKES and everything in between! Where should these lines be drawn? That is complicated in and of itself.

    Then there are matters of rights, matters of safety, matters of responsibility, not to mention evil intentions.

    Age limits. (Do you really want your half blind grandpa firing a gun in the house at night when he hears a strange noise?) What about senility and other mental illnesses?

    And THEN … what about Columbine, Sandy Hook, University of Texas and sooooooo many other mass shootings??? Should those kinds of things be allowed simply because to control it might infringe on a right? Did those victims not have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Have I not read those words in some important documents?

    I am sure I could go on with this actually…

    We use these simple slogans when they catch the gear that galvanizes “us” and stumps “them”. Anytime you can reduce complex issues to simple platitudes and pithy statements, AND ESPECIALLY when those pithy statements stump an opponent, then everyone can rally behind them. And you don’t really have to LISTEN anymore. The thing becomes a short-hand litmus test to tell who is with “us” and who is with “them”.

    “Guns don’t kill people; People with Guns kill people” has become somewhat of a club to beat people with in the debate – but it is a debate where the LISTENING is already an endangered species. Technically, it is rather easy to shoot holes in this pithy statement. For me, at least, I always wonder why such a statement doesn’t innately invite the idea that we should keep people away from the guns then. After all, the gun is pretty safe, but in the hands of people, it becomes a danger to ourselves and others! This is a no brainer! But it’s not a pithy statement that galvanizes “us” against “them”. So…

    And behind even that, then, we are stuck with the problem of listening and caring. We are hard toward one another over these things. We belittle one another and actually think one another is stupid. And there is a lot of stupidity to go around! I have toddlers in this house! Do they have the right to keep and bear arms??? Should they be allowed to own and operate assault rifles? Why not? Denying them this right is an infringement of their second amendment rights which is guaranteed them in the US Constitution… No?

    I hate to bring that up actually lest someone start advocating for that stupid idea just because it is a right!

    We don’t need to say it more simply. That is not what makes people listen. I am not a great debater, nor a great persuader, but I think such skills need to be employed. But even then, they must be respected too.

    Basically I am tired. I keep talking to the contempt of these people instead of to these people.

    Do you remember C.S. Lewis’s Tragedian from The Great Divorce? The character who was like a split personality… One part of the character was full size and stood out front of the other, but was tethered on a leash or chain that was held in the hand of a smaller figure standing behind. The small character behind was the real person, but he insisted that you talk to the persona on the leash instead of talking to him.

    That is what talking to people’s contempt is like. I hold in value what you hold in contempt. Please, let us talk reasonably about this! I am sure when you see it from my point of view, it will all make sense.

    But it doesn’t. And it cant as long as I hold the thing you value in contempt. And I will deploy all manner of diversionary tactics up to and including plugging my ears and shouting LA LA LA LA LA, I am not listening to Jonathan! over and over and over in a display of my utter stupidity.

    I am tired and discouraged trying to talk through, over, around, or under all that contempt. Where is the Trojan Horse that lets the guard down so I can smuggle my point in under the radar and get it a genuine hearing? I don’t actually want to destroy gun rights, but I really believe we can enhance them so that our schools and churches and nursing homes don’t have to be places where wild west shootouts are a constant worry.

    I think.

    but I am tired. And that is my point at the moment.


    Liked by 2 people

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