My thoughts on gun debate in Daily Yonder

A scene from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” starring (l to r) Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and John Wayne. This film stands as a good parable about the “civilization” of gun-toting western towns, and the role of guns in American life.

Today, the rural American online magazine The Daily Yonder published a piece I wrote about guns. It’s more personal than political. This piece reflects what I think weighs at the heart of the gun rights/gun control debate.

I know that many have tread over this controversial topic. My comments section stands ready to melt down into a black hole over the issue. Nevertheless, I hope you will take this for what I intended it to be: A personal expression over a painful topic not tied to the dogma of one “side” or the other.

Guns are Tools; Mixing them with Fear is Lethal


  1. David Gray says

    I think it would be hard to argue that those who wish to disarm the American public, in whole or part, are not motivated by fear.

    • I agree with you that the desire to restrict access to guns and restrict carrying of guns in public is related to fear of getting shot.

      I also agree with Aaron that the sale and ownership of handguns and assault weapons and the carrying of guns is driven by fear. People who buy and carry guns for protection are afraid of being assaulted or having members of their families assaulted. Having a gun acts to calm that fear. That is the primary reason most people own guns and the only reason people carry guns. The number of gun owners vastly outnumbers the number of people who engage in shooting sports.

      Both sides are, of course, very wrong statistically. Suicide aside, the risk of death from guns is lower than many risks we face cheerfully as part of our daily lives. And the chance of needing a gun to protect yourself from attack is virtually zero as long as you are not engaged in drug trafficking or transporting diamonds.

      All of the fear involved on both sides is related to well described psychologic reactions to “exotic” risk. People are much more afraid of being attacked than they are of the much greater risk of falling in the bathtub, and more people die in car accidents than from gun murders, but those things do not invoke the same anxiety that less significant but more exotic risks do. The fact that people are actually at greater risk if they own and carry a gun than if not is no more convincing to gun owners than the fact that if we did not have deer hunting we would have to pay people to kill them is to hunting opponents.

      People are not rational. Appeals to rational behavior are a very hard sell. In this particular case, both sides have a lot more success by appealing to essentially imaginary fears than they would by sticking to the facts.

      I think one of the best things I have ever read about the gun issue is the opinion piece written by Duluth News Tribune outdoor, hunting, and fishing writer Sam Cook. He states that we have guns and the associated increased deaths because we have made a choice. It is more acceptable to us that a couple hundred school kids are killed each year than to give up the right to easy access to guns, including high power anti-personell weapons, at least if it is not your kid. That is, in fact, a tiny risk statistically, and one which we have weighed as a society and decided to accept, in contrast to every other developed country. As Cook says, that is who we are.

  2. Interesting, but no mention, none, of eliminating fear instead. It’s always on guns.

  3. The power of a gun is unimportant. It is the power of the man carrying the gun and the transformation of that man as a result of the gun he holds. My point…. guns change people and different guns change people in different ways. “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

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