WHO IS REALLY AT RISK WITH A GUN IN THE HOME?

What kind of homes are these, where people are at risk of homicide and suicide? We’re not talking about accidents with guns; these are deliberate acts. People troubled by thoughts of suicide, people at risk of violence – domestic abusers, meth heads, drug abusers, drug dealers, drunkards, other criminal activity – these are all risk factors that may contribute to violent death. So why not just remove the gun from the equation? By all means! An awareness campaign to help people at risk avoid guns and crime would be a fine thing.

But is it possible we’re all at risk? Much has been made of the often “impulsivity” of the act, which combined with the presence of a gun results in a death which the perpetrator later regrets (or, in the case of a suicide attempt, more likely to be successful if a gun is used), whereas without the gun it would not have happened. But here again we’re talking about people with strong risk factors: risk of impulsive suicide or murder. And how did the gun become present at the scene anyhow, who brought it there and why? It didn’t arrive there on its own. That is part of the chain of events, the human behavior that provided the gun in the first place, brought it into what proved to be a risky situation.

Now some might say that anyone is capable of impulsive suicide or murder. Anyone who really believes this would be wise to avoid guns. But this says more about the personal weakness of the individual who feels that way than it does about the general public. It is not an excuse to project that weakness onto everyone else.

Anything’s possible. If I have a gun, it’s possible I might end my life with it by the end of the day tomorrow. It’s possible I might chew my thumbs off instead, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to wear handcuffs behind my back. Similarly, I’m not afraid of having the gun.

I have known people who did not trust themselves with a gun. They did the right thing by not having any. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging this. Indeed, it is the only responsible thing to do. No one even has to know.

Most people have to force themselves to think seriously of actually shooting someone. The idea is so abhorrent to civilized people that it takes effort to bring ourselves to face the possibility and actively prepare for it. The vast majority of people can learn to handle the responsibility. If you don’t think you can handle it, don’t. If this sounds like self-policing, it is: you’re responsible for not being a murderer.

For most of us, guns are not something to be feared. But everyone must have respect for them and what they can do. That means knowing your limitations, knowing what you are capable of, and understanding the consequences of what you do.

Odysseus M Tanner

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