By now, some of you may have figured out I’m a writer. Hopefully, more people will. My chosen genre is action adventure – think sort of spy novels, although a little less hard edged than most. Basically, I try to write stories that feel close to the kind that I read when I was a kid and young adult, the ones I don’t seem to find as much in the market these days.
In my current series of novels, my protagonists, Steve and Amy, have joined Triangle, an organization formed a number of years ago to work on the edges of society to help protect humanity from the worst consequences of technology and progress. (There’s an origin story for it in my notes, and I may develop that into something more formal to share with you someday). Do I think there really is something like Triangle out there? Of course not. It’s wish fulfillment, the ability to bring together a lot of functions spread ut over a vast network of tiny groups that daily fight to keep us safe on the great blue marble in space.I have to say, as a group, we don;t seem to want to make it easy.
But the thing is, while technology can do things, but that doesn’t mean it always should do things. And one of the areas I find myself having this debate constantly with friends and colleagues (and making more enemies by the day) is regarding weapons technology.
For me, I find it a pretty simple case. A weapon is a tool. It is designed, just like a hammer, to project force in a direction for a purpose. In the U.S. we’ve even enshrined in the Constitution the rights of private citizens to own weapons, unlike other countries. But in my land, the debate seems to be not if you can own a gun, but what type of gun, and the almost religiously held the belief is that if you ever restrict any types of weapons from being owned, then you are one step away from forcing everyone to give up all weapons.The problem is that is a slippery-slope argument, and even if there is no evidence of that being the truth, t does not matter. Its believers and adherents will use logical fallacies such as “You can’t prove it ill never happen, so it must be happening.” It’s like trying to play cat’s cradle with Schrodinger’s Cat.
In the days of the Constitution, the most advanced weapons technology were muzzle-loaded, black powder muskets and rifles. Since then, technology has made guns easier to load, easier to air, easier to fire, more accurate at a distance, with greater stopping power. In recent years, weapons designed for battlefield use – semi-automatic, easy to care for, easy to load, with high capacity magazines – have became so easily available that they have become tools used in mass killings in the U.S. You can go online and find web-site after web-site that lists the facts of what happened in these cases. The evidence stares at you in the face – we’ve made it easier to kill people using guns.
In a way, the NRA and their spokespeople are right. Guns don’t kill people. When the tool sits there, inert on the shelf, it is just a lump of metal, just potential in design and construction. And yes, just like a gun, you can use a hammer, or a car, or a Ryder truck, or a box cutter or a passenger jet to kill people. It really is an elegant argument. But it ignores one simple truth.
Of all those tools, the gun is the only one that was designed, specifically, to kill.
As I stated, I learned how to fire a gun when I was in the service. Why? Because at that time, I had a job to do. And so, the gun was a proper tool as part of that job. But as a civilian, I have to ask, d I still need that tool?
I agree with the right to bear arms. I just don’t agree with the need to.
But it goes beyond. Weapons technology has, like all other technologies, improved. In the military, it makes sense. Throughout history, technological advantage on the battlefield has often spelled the difference between victory and defeat. But the problem with technological genies, especially when it comes to arms, is that they don’t always go back in the bottle so neatly.
Over the last month, we’ve been confronted with the gruesome details in a pair of shootings in the Northeast. Both at Sandy Hook and at Webster, people who should not have had access to high tech weapons did, and because of that they wee able to use them to kill effectively, rapidly, and quickly. In Webster, the gunman took out volunteer firemen responding to an arson he set in a deliberate trap. In Sandy Hook, the gunman entered a school, and in less than five minutes, killed twenty children and six adults, shooting each of them multiple times. One child was shot eleven times.
Eleven hollow point rounds hitting a six-year-old.
I’m not trying to exploit a tragedy, i’m attempting to make a rational point:
Technology made these shootings possible.
That’s why I have come out, calling for the implementation of some common sense restrictions (certain weapon types, certain magazine capacities, certain ammunition types). But I also know that’s only a small part of a much broader solution needed for dealing with the epidemic of these violent incidents. We need a real conversation. We need to look a other societal issues, from medical treatment issues regarding mental health, to a frank discussion of how our entertainment choices contribute. I think very long and very carefully before a character of any sort pulls a trigger or pushes a button in something I write, because I know someone reading it might be influenced. I know “entertainment” I read as a youth influenced some of my critical thinking as an adult. I can only hope mine may have the same effect some day, hopefully for the better.
But imagine my surprise when I found this bit of news yesterday…
Watch the video. Then watch it again.
Now remember, we are talking about firing what is basically a sniper rifle. It’s set up on a target range, but it’s designed to let an absolute novice accurately hit a target of seven to eight football fields away.
For those of you counting, that’s a half-mile.
As a technological advancement, it makes perfect sense. As a tool for law enforcement, or for the military, it is a great idea. But this wasn’t introduced there. It was introduced at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas. It was demonstrated in the hills, but the display was in the convention hall, next to the 90-inch flat-screen 3D HDTVs and the latest smart phones.
In other words, this is being marketed as a consumer product for the civilian population.
In other words, a really, REALLY bad idea.
Why? Simply this. Any technology that is available t be used will eventually be misused. And a technology that is designed to be used for one purpose, and one purpose only – to kill things more efficiently – can only end up causing us more problems.
Call me crazy, call me alarmist. Call me a liberal wimp if you want. Fine. But the folks who have wanted pretty much unlimited sale and expansion of weapon technology have pretty much had their way for the past two centuries here in the United States, and the question I ask them is the same… do you feel safer now because you own a gun?
Strangely, the question starts out with a ‘yes’ answer, but a month later, they always seem to need to buy another one, just in case…