8/21/14

Guns as Tools, Choices as Conditioned Behaviors


It's a pretty popular idea that tools are completely neutral and all the will to use them rests in our heads (our wills). But anyone with a smartphone has already experienced the almost compulsive urge to reach for their phone, check it, hold it. (Indeed, surveys done by companies like Nokia find that the #1 thing people do with their phones is fondle them. Seriously.) The point is that tools become an extension of our bodies--we become habituated to having them, using them, expanding our range of options. We choose to live places based on our cars as our imaginative range of “where-I-can-go” becomes based on our walking-extender, our car. 

What this means for guns is that, to the degree we let them, they have become part of our bodies, our habits, our range of choices. They are not separate tools which can can choose to use or not. The choice to avoid the tendencies that come with guns--and the consequences--has to start earlier, with their acquisition. If you don't want to *be* unhealthy, you give yourself a big assist by not buying a lot of junk food--because “you are what you eat.” If you don't want to be a person who responds with deadly force, don't buy a gun--because “you are what you brandish.” And since guns kill other people while potato chips only kill the eater, we have a justification to extend their limitation beyond just ourselves.
One unexpected benefit of this way of seeing things is that it relieves some of the guilt-or-innocence burden on cops. Yes, there are killer-cops out there--cops who enjoy killing with guns, who are “trigger-happy.” I find it hard to accept that is a high percentage, though. What we can understand if we change our view of the line between tools and human choice is that there is a dynamic between “cop” and “gun” that is not simplistically “up to” the cop. Yes, the British police are admirable for not firing their guns or killing people as often as American police; but a bunch of that credit needs to go to the culture in Britain, not to a bunch of super-willpowers dressed up in bobby uniforms. The British just understand tools better than Americans do.

No comments: