Evil is Just an Excuse: You Don’t Buy a Gun Unless You are Willing to Use It

There is something seductive about holding a gun; the way it fits in your hand and gives you the illusion of control. There’s power there, very personal power. I have felt it.

If you told me I would ever find myself at a shooting range, holding some kind of Glock, I would have done far more than laugh at you. I was vehemently anti-gun and shooting was was not something I could ever imagine.

Yet there I was, at the insistence of a friend who felt I should know how to defend myself from Millennium wackos and other ill-intentioned people I might encounter in the year 2000.  He had recently purchased two guns to protect his home and his office (a bank) in case the power went out and the ATMs stopped working on New Year’s Day 2000.  I didn’t share his fears, but the idea of knowing how to handle a gun in an emergency appealed to me.  I took him up on his offer to teach me.

The guns came in slick, miniature briefcases like something out of a spy movie.  My friend brought his own targets that looked exactly as they do in cop shows.  If the plastic eye protection and the giant ear protection spoiled the effect, I could ignore them because the gun felt solid and heavy in my hand and I was ready.

The first shot missed completely. Even with my ears covered, it was so much louder than I expected. The force was greater than such a small machine should give off. Some adjustment was needed.

After the first two shots my aim was better, much better. Ultimately, I hit the target in the head, twice.  My friend was pleased, proud even. He reeled the target back in for me to admire my own handiwork.

I burst into tears.

I could never imagine using that kind of force on another living thing, knowing I could end a life.  Here I was staring at a pockmarked paper target and all I could think of was the person on the other side of the gun who might not ever have another day on this Earth. I knew if I ever found myself in that situation, I would spend the rest of my life wanting to take back that moment, no matter what.

But now I understand that power.

On Friday afternoon, as we discussed the unspeakable massacre at Sandy Hook, I found myself explaining the Constitutional origins of our nation’s gun culture to a co-worker from another country.  But our national love affair with guns is not really about history or freedom, it’s about the personal appeal of the power of a gun, and all the money there is to be made from the people who crave it.

For the next several days or weeks, we will have to endure gun rights supporters maintaining that there is nothing to be done about gun violence in this country except allowing more guns.  They will suggest that you can’t control for the mentally ill, and the presence of “evil.” They will advocate for things like arming teachers and bringing prayer back to our schools. They will use any tactic to avoid admitting an addiction to that power.

Let’s be clear: Evil is just an excuse.  This is not about taking God out of our schools. It is about taking too much money out of our mental health budgets.  It is about letting too many guns onto our streets and into our homes.  Mostly though, it is about a steadfast refusal to address the reason that anyone buys a gun in the first place – a willingness to kill and the desire to have the ultimate power over another living being.

Our country has successfully confronted other abuses of personal power in the past; slavery, child abuse, sexual molestation, discrimination, rape. In every case, we not only legislated these issues, we changed the conversation about them. With twenty tiny schoolchildren going to their graves this week, it is past time to add civilian gun ownership to that list.

Melissa Tingley is a writer, instructional designer, and ten-year veteran of her local school board. She invites photo and story submissions to her latest blog project, Artifactual, which re-launches in January 2013.

Image via iStockphoto/Ephraim Rivera

  • Eloquently stated. Gun rights activists also ignore the first clause of the Second Amendment, the whole well-regulated militia being necessary for the defense of a free state part. With organized police forces to take care of domestic safety and organized armed forces to take care of international safety, the Second Amendment, as it was written, is obsolete. At the time the Bill of Rights was written, the deadliest “arms” in existence were muskets. They took 30 seconds to reload after a single shot, and they were highly inaccurate. They were a far cry from the fine-tuned machines designed for fast-paced, indiscriminate killing we have now.

    • Ivan

      The wording of the Second Amendment is very deliberate. The militia is both a supplementary force to the armed services and also the force that would act against an authoritarian government The framers wanted the people to be as armed as the government, so they included that other clause: “shall not be infringed”. The goal of this was both for defense from invasion and as an insurance policy from a perverted government. The founding fathers were not fools and knew well that more advanced weaponry was inevitable.

      • The “well-regulated” phrase in the 2nd Amendment would go a long way toward mitigating the many challenges of our gun culture.

        But the very reason that gun-proponents tend to want to ignore the presence of that phrase has far more to do with the desire to possess the power to kill than it has anything to do with dedication to the law.

        Possession of a firearm is nothing less than a willingness to kill, whether we are talking about a deer in the woods or a hooded teenager in the street. As a civilized society we need to keep asking why this desire is so prevalent in our country and so much less so elsewhere.

  • “There is something seductive about holding a gun; the way it fits in your hand and gives you the illusion of control.”

    I 100% disagree with your first sentence.

    I was a victim of a crime. My family and I are VERY lucky to be alive. My husband and I were advised by a detective to do whatever we had to do to protect ourselves because next time we might not be so lucky. The criminal was a convicted murderer and rapist.

    I support the right for a law abiding citizen to bear arms.

  • Jonah

    I see that Obama says he’s confident the Syrian guns won’t fall into the wrong hands. If we can give guns by the crate to a bunch of terrorists, why can’t we use the same techniques — background checks, whatever — to insure guns here don’t fall into the wrong hands? I’m sure Obama will, and this will be a MUCH better idea than his sequester plan was.

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government… A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” ~ MLK (1967)

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