While I was writing my article about the Nerf party yesterday, I found myself getting slightly off track. Unlike most times that happens, however, this time I noticed it, and decided to break the new train of thought into its own post. Which is probably a good thing, since the topic is one a lot of people (on either side of the fence) find it hard to be balanced and rational about.
I’d like to talk about guns.
One thing that made the Nerf party interesting for me is the fact that I don’t really like guns. No, that’s not quite right: I don’t have much of an interest in real-world, bullet-firing guns. I don’t own any, I’ve never shot one, and to be honest the cultural fixation on them (and resulting impossibility to be rational about them) makes me a bit nervous. But I’ve had fun playing laser tag and paintball, to say nothing of some of the video games I play. The Nerf party was, for me, abstracted enough from reality that I could have fun with it. It’s much like the melees I do in the SCA: sure, I may have no desire to wander into a crowded public space and start hacking and slashing indiscriminately, but I can still have fun hitting my friends with sticks.
While I was writing, that last thought gave me pause. After all, was my fascination with medieval combat and equipment (armor, swords, etc.) really that much different than modern gun culture? When I go to fighter practice every week, how is that any different than someone who goes to the firing range every Saturday? Is the collection of swords in my room any different than someone else’s gun rack?
Part of the problem, I think, is that “the gun issue” has been made out to be far more black-and-white than it really is. Guns are either elevated as a symbol of personal freedom or condemned as a bogeyman, with no room for subtlety in between. That sort of polarization will inevitably poison the well of any attempted conversation.
I know I’m guilty of this myself. It’s hard to stay rational when it seems you can’t turn around without hearing about some new incident of gun violence. And it’s so much easier to respond with a knee-jerk reaction than it is to take the time to stop, think, and perhaps face some uncomfortable truths.
Like I said, I don’t have any personal interest in real-world guns. I do find the intensity of gun culture in this country to be disturbing at times. But I do have several violent hobbies myself. To condemn someone else for theirs would make me something of a hypocrite. It’s not easy admitting that, but I try. I also tried hard to avoid offending anyone with exaggeration and straw-man arguments. No matter what your opinion on the subject, I hope I succeeded. If I fell short, I’m willing to have a conversation with you, as long as we can all agree to follow Wheaton’s Law.
P.S.: I would encourage you to go read this Cracked article on the subject that I think is relevant to what I’m trying to say. Too often the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the situation gets depicted as more polarized than it might actually be in reality.