The idea of control is absurd, guns or not. The world is far too complicated to predict events, system behaviors, or whether even your email will send when you hit the send button. Prediction is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition of control. And when we say “gun control” we believe we can predict who would be a responsible user of a gun and who wouldn’t. We believe with the proper equipment features we can control what happens when a user pulls the trigger or that it’s actually the user who owns the gun… and so on. It’s literally all based on an absurd premise.
And yet, control is exactly the fallacy of our political and social systems. Guns and other tools of destruction provide the operator the illusion of control. Lightweight, homage regulating laws provide the population the illusion of control. These illusions really just mask the chaos of a contingent world. Any distressed person operates under highly conflicting contingencies or has lost the ability to recognize contingencies (of behavior and consequence). In fact, this happens to all of us all of the time. We live under near constant confirmation and related behavioral (cognitive biases) as a result of our limited perceptive systems and neural componentry (and often sick and broken bodies). Our system constantly pattern recognizes incorrectly (we think God helps us score touchdowns….). These incomplete interpretations of the contingencies of the world become especially problematic in a stressed and distressed situation. (I’ll skip a deep discussion of behavioral, physical and chemical science and just lump all of it in an idea that we are all systems ecologically looking for homeostasis/equilibrium.)
When contingencies conflict or get very confused and the environment is primed properly disaster is more likely to occur. Priming includes a cultural dimension, accessibility of destructive tools, lack of obstacles to act, etc. Combined with stress, illness, and chemicals (drugs/booze/etc) in a person and a more combustible situation emerges – this is the nature of probability and complexity.
Proponents of guns and various “let’s all pack heat” strategies suffer from the same delusions of control as perpetrators of mass killings and gun murders. The world is not fundamentally controllable – in situations with guns and situations without guns. Every person and system is a collection of contingencies – the collective probabilities of circumstance and events. For instance, at Christmas time if you have hot colored lights plugged in, faulty electric outlets and dead, dry pine trees in your living room you have increased the chance of burning your house down. I assure you there are lower probability of raging fire decorations you can display in your home.
The key to dealing with our uncontrollable world isn’t pretending control exists. We either increase or reduce probabilities of events by changing ourselves and/or the environment. Changing the contingencies is non-trivial and multifaceted. One key is to not put too many degrees of freedom between an act and the experience of the consequences of that act. This is a subtle but very important point. Many studies show humans are not good at anticipating delayed consequences – delay in time and in-directness (associations) of consequences. This truth is at the heart of addition formation, financial debt, wars, education and literacy, and so on. You can do your own study on this truth by reminding yourself of your last Vegas trip, checking your alerts for all those idiot Candy Crush notifications from your “friends,” looking at your credit car bills or reviewing your local church (and bible!) for policies on tithing and confession and promises of heaven and hell.
Guns are so easy (very few contingencies) to obtain and use (poorly) that there is almost NO PERCEIVABLE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCE to gun ownership relative to THE DELAYED ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCE of gun usage. Pulling a trigger is such a simple act…. even gun makers and the NRA know this. It’s why they attempt to stratify guns into level of effort to use: manual, semi-automatic, automatic and so on. The delay in round expulsion is built on the idea that if you add more work for the user the less they can kill and the more time it takes to load and fire rounds the more the prey and other contingent circumstances can adjust in response. This is all highly consistent logic and observable phenomena.
Most systems, including individual people, operate on a strategy of efficiency AKA the path of least resistance. We resolve our stresses efficiently (according to our own weird histories/abilities). When guns are easy to get then that’s an outlet we go with (replace guns with drugs, TV, gambling, sex, food, yoga, etc). We know this truth. We’ve used it forever… Grocery stores get ya every time with this. And so does the government. Some things it makes hard to do or get (more contingent): health care, food stamps, driver’s licenses, info on NSA programs. Somethings it makes easy (less contingent): paying your taxes (do it online! send cash!), getting parking tickets, buying lottery tickets, campaign donating!
Never underestimate the power of laziness! (capitalism and governments/kings and religion don’t!)
If people generally didn’t operate this way voter turn out would be 100%, education rates would be off the charts and no one would ever buy a lottery ticket or use a slot machine again (well at least they might pull the handle instead of auto spinning).
I firmly believe in the complete disarmament and aggressive buy back and destruction of all arms – civilian and otherwise. For this country and all of them. I believe in trying to get the probability of widespread carnage and unintended consequences as low as possible. While compromise is inevitable my position is not one of compromise.
If you’re for guns or even a gun apologist you really just don’t trust the world and believe in control and want to maintain what you perceive as a competitive advantage to the unarmed or the less well armed. Perhaps it is a competitive advantage, local to you. System wide you’re increasing the chance of unintended disasters and you’re partially complicit more or less in the continuing violence against kids and students. You are also probably ok with it or don’t believe it because the consequences of your slight increase in probability of someone else’s disaster don’t register in your pattern recognizer.
As I said earlier… lowering the probability of gun violence takes more than gun laws. It takes education, first and foremost. And it takes economic opportunity, better health care, jobs, love, and everything in between. I chose to be complicit in increasing those things at the expense of my right to bear arms. We’re all just a small piece of a contingent and uncontrollable world and I’d rather stand in perspective and connection with people rather than behind armor, triple locked doors and concealed weaponry.