Guns: Ideology or Technology?

smrt2Polemics is defined as contentious argument that is meant to establish the truth of a specific belief and the falsity of an opposing belief. It comes from the Greek word polemikos, meaning hostile, or war-like. Wikipedia says it is usually reserved for controversial arguments.

Like gun control.


Capital punishment.

Brittiany Spear’s latest hair-do.

In the case of gun control, it may be difficult to class it as a polemical argument, since those saying wide-spread gun ownership doesn’t increase gun-related crime are clearly wrong. Every single fact is against them, and those they do have in their favour are manufactured. I’m not going to go into them. You can look them up.

But what I do know is that an ‘I’m right-you’re wrong’ approach with these guys is not going to work. It hasn’t worked in the past and it will not work in the future. You can’t make a reasoned argument with someone who isn’t willing to be reasonable. You can’t talk turkey with someone who screams second amendment rights every time you try to pull off a thigh. You can’t even quote statistics in a world so large and so distorted and subject to vagary that one could prove we have the right to slaughter and consume each other if you had a good statistician. In short, you can’t have the discussion at all. Adam Gopnik’s


reasoned articulate argument in favour of gun control in the New Yorker will go unheeded, because it only preaches to the choir. If anyone from the NRA subscribes to it at all it is only to see where their resistance is coming from. The genius of lobby groups such as the NRA and the republicans and our corporate masters is that they somehow convince the average man that policies clearly not in his favour are a matter of his basic human rights. It’s a bit like all the animals on Animal Farm squealing “four legs good, two legs better ” when the pigs turn back into the human masters. This is clearly not a matter of policy. Something far more sinister is at work here.


I knew a man in California who was rabidly in favour of gun ownership. When his kids went to school he would strap a hand-gun in a holster onto his side and sit down at the computer to check his mail. He would walk about the house all morning and afternoon this way, until the kids returned on the bus and he would put it away. This seemed to border on fetishism to me. I just couldn’t understand what he could possible get out of doing this. It couldn’t be just to make himself feel safe, for if it were, wouldn’t he be more inclined to wear it when his kids were home rather than away? It seemed completely crazy, until I realized something.

Unlike abortion, and capital punishment, and even Brittiany’s hair, gun control is not just about ideology. It is not just about crazed deluded beliefs vs rational balanced argument. It is about technology, and therein lies the crux of the problem. Technology is the most vital issue facing human beings today. Once it is acquired it is very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to give it up. Considered George Steiner’s quote from his book In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards Culture.

We cannot turn back. We cannot choose the dream of unknowing. We shall, I expect, open the last door in the castle even if it leads, perhaps because it leads, onto realities which are beyond the reach of human comprehension and control. We shall do so with that desolate clairvoyance, so marvelously rendered in Bartók’s music, because opening doors is the tragic merit of our identity. 

Not owning a gun, in much of American society, has become the dream of the unknowing. For many the gun has become fused with them physically and psychically, as it was for my friend in California. It is prosthetic, appealing to some deep and atavistic need when killing a man or beast was necessary for survival. You’ll be no more likely to get it away from him now than you would the club or stone ax from homo erectus 400,000 years ago. You can’t ask a man who has been fundamentally altered by technology to give that technology up. Just imagine asking me to give up the Internet, or my cell phone. I’d rather die.

As long as we think of gun control as an ideological issue we will not win. Guns have become a part of our identity, an addition to the cyborg. Which is why my friend wore his and why so many people refuse to give theirs up even in the wake of such a tragedy as happened in Newtown. Imagine this scenario: Adam Lanza went into that school and strangled a bunch of children, and then we suggest everyone have their hands cut off. What would be the reaction to that? You may think this an extreme example, but believe me when I tell you that for those who see guns as a fundamental component of their persona and personality this is exactly what you are asking them to do. That is why the reaction of the NRA and the gun enthusiasts don’t surprise me, and I don’t see them as monsters. Rather they are cyborgs, and we’re asking them to remove a vital chip.

The solution? I don’t have any. I just wish to see the problem clearly, and perhaps explain how people can react so incredibly and with such insanity when the jury has long been in.

Gun control in the future maybe a moot point anyway. Consider this quote from the 3D printer entry on Wikipedia. A 3D printer is a machine that can manufacture three dimensional objects from downloaded schematics from the Internet. They are widely used industrially and quite a number of them exist in private homes. You can buy a cheap one for five hundred dollars. The technology is nascent, but proliferating. It’s shuffling along about as fast as computer technology did in the eighties, which means that likely within another decade or so we’ll all have one, where we can make everything from socks to Tupperware by buying only the solvent and powdered base materials and a cheap schematic for 99 cents on 3D Bay.

“As an example of a possible future application, an open source group emerged in the United States in 2012 that is attempting to design a firearm that may be downloaded from the internet and ‘printed’ on a 3-D Printer. The weapon would however still need bullets fabricated by traditional methods. Calling itself Defense Distributed, the group wants to facilitate ‘a working plastic gun that could be downloaded and reproduced by anybody with a 3D printer’.”

Full entry here:  3D Printing

In the future we will be able to download and manufacture guns right in our own house. And not that far in the future either. And if anyone thinks we can just “control” open source think again. Ask the cyber group Anonymous how successful that will be. The question of why other countries seem less addicted to gun technology than the U.S. is a strange one. Then again, many of them are less addicted to drugs and food too. The U.S. is a litmus test for our future. Technologically and financially one of the most sophisticated countries on earth, ideologically and emotionally it is one of the most stunted. This strange combination of technological sophistication and primitive ideology is very dangerous. I have no answers. I’m only asking some questions.

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