Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guns and helmets.

The rationale behind the need to own a gun is strikingly similar to the arguments supporting bicycle and motorcycle helmets. Even some of the arguments against guns sound somewhat similar.

Many people who tremble at the thought of being gunless tell you that they don't want to use it but they want it on hand in case they need it. Likewise, helmet wearers will say they don't plan to crash, but want the protective gear in case they do.

Opponents of both guns and helmets might acknowledge that each has its uses, but point out the ways in which either one can be a genuine hazard to your own personal safety, even if you're trying to use it correctly. Helmet wearers have suffered neck and facial injuries because the projecting edge of the helmet caused their heads to twist sharply during an impact. Gun accidents are well-publicized by the faction saying "I told you so."

Helmet wearers are almost never injured or killed because someone took their helmet from them and attacked them with it. So guns get the demerits there.

Helmet opponents point to unsubstantiated pseudo-scientific studies that seem to indicate a helmet wearer is more likely to have a dangerous encounter with a passing motorist than someone riding bare-headed. I don't know if wearing a gun makes people more likely to shy away from you or if it might inspire a few aggressive types to take it as an invitation to try you out. Someone wearing a gun certainly discourages me from wanting to walk up and say hello. I might find a safe place to watch if two of them decided to see who is faster. But there might be no safe place when the lead starts flying.

Ultimately the sense of a need to own a gun comes down to the individual's imagination -- one might almost say fantasy life. In fact it would be quite safe to say fantasy life in the case of gun cultists who imagine themselves as action heroes saving the day with their trusty shootin' iron.

Many of us -- perhaps even most of us -- will get through life without ever needing to shoot someone. People in the military don't have to buy the guns they use to shoot the people they're sent to face, so those confrontations don't really figure in the decision to go armed in civilian life.

Maybe I've just never lived in a bad enough neighborhood.

I have a couple of guns in the house. I even slept with them handy during a particularly ugly time in town politics. That level of intensity soon passed.

When I've considered carrying a gun on my bike rides I soon realized that it would not be worth its weight. By the time you know you need it, it's too late. The same is true of many imaginary situations in the rest of life. Deadly force is just so darn deadly. Revenge killing is just so darn illegal.

Ultimately you have to make your own decision. The rhetoric gets hot enough to melt lead.

No comments: