There’s a small battle being fought in the comments of my previous entry about Bowling for Columbine. It should be no surprise that gun rights are a very serious matter for many people. Nonetheless, guns are involved in a huge number of homicides in the US each year. And so those who would seek to prevent or limit those murders find themselves battling gun owners who would rather ignore them.
I must admit that I find myself conflicted in this matter. We can point to other countries where guns are highly controlled and have very few gun related deaths, but filmmaker Moore also offers Canada — where guns are apparently widely available, but where few gun related crimes are committed — as a counter example. In the end, I believe strongly in civil liberties as laid out in our Bill of Rights. Gun ownership isn’t particularly important to me, but it comes second to freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights. And that’s part of the irony: how many flag-waving gun owners will claim their second amendment rights but deny first amendment rights to those who wish to burn a flag in protest?
Despite that irony, and the ongoing conflict, are the two groups really that far apart? It’s called the narcissism of small differences in some fields, and it’s a way of explaining how two groups of people which both oppose gun violence — we all do oppose gun violence, don’t we? — can grow so far apart. That gap is exercised and widened by politicians who use it to galvanize support for broad political agendas.
Despite the complexity of gun rights issues, it all gets boiled down to “pro-gun” and “anti-gun,” and the two major parties are well polarized along those lines. But arguments over gun control really only distract from issues like taxes and the coziness of business in government matters. It’s harder to discern differences between parties on those points.
Finally, when we compare the US against other countries, we usually only look at gun control laws in relation to gun violence. However — and this is where it ties together — when considering the gap between rich and poor (executives in the US earn as much as 450 times as much as average workers!), we find that gun violence (and homicide rates in general) fall as the gap narrows. Perhaps people who feel they live in a just society (with decent housing and health care) don’t kill other people?