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What Is a Gun?

Kwade is a freelance writer who is always in pursuit of education. He feels every subject is fascinating and worth studying.

What exactly is a gun?

What exactly is a gun?

A Gun Is a Tool

We'll start with a popular argument in favor of guns. The argument has been made time and time again: “a gun is a tool.” Let's run with that a moment.

A gun is a tool. It doesn't do its job unless there is a person using it, right? So what are guns designed for?

A hammer is a tool. A hammer is designed to hit things. You can use them for other purposes, but they are made to hit.

A spoon is made for eating. You can use it to dig or cut someone's heart out (notice what I did there?), but a spoon is made for scooping food.

So, what's the function of a gun?

A gun is a tool. Guns are made to kill. We can use a gun for target practice, scaring away a criminal, drilling a hole, or hammering a nail, but they are designed to kill. This includes hunting. Hunting is killing, whether or not we find it acceptable. Different guns are designed with different specialties in mind—close-range, long-range, intimidation, high capacity, penetration power, etc.

That said, guns are designed to even the playing field between large and small, strong and weak, old and young. With a simple aim and squeeze of a trigger, you can fire a projectile that will kill. We can use them to do other things, but they are designed to kill. How we use a gun makes a difference.

Guns used to protect don't have to do damage. More often than not, if a criminal assailant sees a gun, the fight is over. Many guns are designed to look impressive for this very reason. If a thief breaks into your home and you pull a gun, the thief is likely to run away. It happens regularly.

Guns don't kill, hammers don't hit, and spoons don't make you fat. It takes a person to make any tool work. But it's important to remember what the function of the tool is. This is why said argument isn't very impressive against those of us who favor gun control. We don't care that it's a tool; its purpose is killing.

War and Firearms

To really discuss the design of firearms, we need to keep another thing in mind: war.

War is ugly. The point of war is to hurt someone else more than they hurt you—to cause enough pain until one side is destroyed or accepts defeat. The progression of war is to make stronger and more lethal weapons—to create more advanced defenses and better strategies than your enemy. It has always been about scaling up. More soldiers. More weapons. More armor. More machines. Better soldiers. Better weapons. Better armor. Better machines.

In the past, war had weapons like spears and swords. War was terrible. War was dirty, ugly, hurtful, and consuming. War took men and young boys and turned them into killers. The need to protect one's home, desire for power, and quests for ideals, inspired many changes to make weapons more efficient. With the invention of siege engines came the awesome and awful power to take down even the strongest defenses. Castles made of thick stone would crumble at the awesome might of a catapult or trebuchet.

Then came firearms. Yes, some are designed with hunting in mind, but war is a heavy influence. With the ability to fire projectiles at targets from a greater distance, and the ability to pierce even the toughest armor, firearms quickly became an essential addition to military forces. Many great machines of the past could kill groups of people, but even the arbalest, one of the most efficient devices for cutting down troops, wasn't nearly as portable.

Over many generations, the firearm was made more efficient, compact, and powerful. Over time, these powerful weapons made war less personal. Perhaps the greatest travesty of all is how impersonal killing has become.

With close-range weapons, you can't pretend the person you are killing is anything but another person. You see their face. You feel their death in your actions. With a gun, the slightest movement of your finger is all that stands between death and your “target.” It's both easier to kill and less personal, especially if that target is distant.

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Okay, part of why I post this is because it's hilarious to see Seth McFarlane impersonate Captain Kirk. However, I also think there is something to the speech. The more we can disassociate from the awful, the easier we accept travesty. The easier it is for us to ignore the personal pain, the easier it is to destroy the lives of others.

I said perhaps the greatest travesty was to have war be impersonal. The flip side is, it's terrible for killing to be personal. Killing is a terrible experience for those of us who have killed. It often weighs on our conscience. When it's less personal, there is a greater disconnect with the terrible event.

I think an important question is: Which is worse; to kill, or to kill with no regard or remorse for the loss? It's terrible for a person to carry the weight of life. But is it more terrible for a person not to? Just look at serial killers. Those of us who are not serial killers find such people abhorrent. Also, just because we do not consciously carry it does not mean we don't subconsciously carry it. Those who shut down a part of themselves to do something they would feel bad about often have deep-seated trauma.

What a Gun Isn't

As we've been discussing, a gun is a tool designed to kill. A gun is incapable of killing anyone without someone loading the gun, putting a round in the chamber, and squeezing the trigger. Without a person, a gun is nothing.

As a tool, a hammer is incapable of building a house. A car doesn't force a person to drive. Similarly, a gun is incapable of making a decision to shoot someone. I own three hammers. The ownership of said hammers has not made me decide to build anything. Likewise, owning a gun does not make a person start killing. They don't have some incredible power to force a person to become immoral.

If you were holding a gun, would it force you to kill? Would you suddenly lose all control of yourself and go on a killing spree just because you held a gun? No. These are ridiculous ideas. A person doesn't kill another purely because they have the means to do so. A gun is not a magical killing machine that forces its owner to become an immoral slave incapable of resisting the desire to murder.

Put the right kind of safety measures in place, and the danger a gun poses is all but removed. Even a particularly powerful and dangerous gun is completely useless if it has no ammunition and no one to pull the trigger. It must be under the control of someone. "Oh, no! That gun is sitting on a shelf! We're all going to die!" Said no one, ever.

So, What Is a Gun?

  • Guns are designed to kill.
  • Guns can make killing less personal.
  • Guns make death easier to dish out.
  • Guns are scary.

Do guns kill people? No. Guns are the tool. Are guns used to kill? Absolutely. That is their primary purpose. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not. All other uses are secondary things.

So what is a gun?

A gun is a device designed to kill.

What isn't a gun?

A gun isn't a strange machine that compels a peaceful person to kill for no reason.

© 2017 kwade tweeling


kwade tweeling (author) from USA on January 11, 2018:

Thank you! I hope you enjoy Part II as well.

Jennifer Mugrage from Columbus, Ohio on January 08, 2018:

I read your Part III, so now I have to back & read parts I & II.

Just as in Part III, I find delightful humor, shrewd psychology, and arguments that acknowledge the complexity of reality. Can't wait for Part II.

Whitedeer Heart on July 30, 2017:

I appreciate your statement: " . . . just because we do not consciously carry it, does not mean we don't subconsciously carry it. Those who shut down a part of themselves to do something they would feel bad about often have deep seated trauma."

Your words give a better understanding to PTSD and what our returning military may be experiencing. Killing goes against our inner knowing and tears at the center of our soul. We all know right and wrong deep with in. When we go against it, even when we feel "Just" there will be consequences.

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