Friday, January 25, 2013

Unregulated Guns Are the Real Tyranny

We're, uh, not coming after your guns.
There are a number of falsehoods perpetrated by gun nuts. One is that guns make us safer. They don't. Another is that without our guns -- and access to military-style guns, magazines and ammo -- we'd be sitting ducks for a tyrannical government. There is almost zero chance of a tyrannical government arising out of the American system, and, anyhow, we'd be no match against a government hellbent on totalitarian rule, no matter how many AR-15s we had in the closet.

There is a tyranny to worry about, but it's not that of an all-powerful government. The real tyranny is that of fear, the fear created by unregulated guns.

Think about it. Gun "advocates" -- by which I do mean gun nuts, not mature, rational gun owners with a couple of hand guns well secured and maybe a hunting rifle or two -- will tell you that guns can guarantee our freedom and keep us safe from fear. But the outcome of unregulated guns is far from that.

Guns are a scourge on our country that they aren't in so many other civilized nations in the world. These guns have made city after city unsafe, fearful places to live. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, in fact in the North Bay where life is lazy and most of us don't even think about public safety. If we have a problem, it's all the tourists on the highways heading to and from wineries. But that's something we can live with. It's good for business, and it's good for the tax coffers.

Oakland residents want it to stop, too.
But sometimes I find myself needing to go to Oakland, or pass through Richmond on the way to somewhere else, and I don't mind telling you that I get a little nervous. These towns aren't safe, and there's only one reason: Gun violence is prevalent. I wouldn't think about safety otherwise.

As I pass through Oakland, would packing a little heat make me feel safer? Hardly. I'm not looking to win a gun fight. I'm just hoping not to get randomly shot.

Look, I have no idea how likely it is that I'd get shot driving through Oakland to get to Chinatown, where I do sometimes go to shop for things Asian, but it's not zero chance and it is higher than in my sleepy hamlet of Sonoma, where there is a near-zero chance of getting shot.

More guns can fix East St. Louis? Right.
What gins up the fear of being in Oakland? Guns. Since I moved to the Bay Area some 40-odd years ago, thousands and thousands of people have been shot in Oakland, and thousands of those have died. It almost doesn't matter where you live in the U.S. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you have some places you'd rather not hang out, whether it's East St. Louis or Chicago's South Side. You know what I'm talking about. (As an aside, it's actually out in the boonies, far from urban violence, that gun ownership makes the most sense since you're more likely to rely on yourself for protection because law enforcement is spread so thin.) Hell, I think many of the people in our more violent city neighborhoods would rather be somewhere else, too.

Look, this is not about me. I'll take my chances, I'm a big boy. But I'm on the side of the people of Oakland and Richmond, and every distressed urban space in America, for that matter. Oakland and Richmond and their people are part of the fabric of the Bay Area, and I want them to be as safe from violence as I am up in the North Bay. Right now, they aren't safe, and relief isn't coming any time soon.

I can list all the statistics or point you to links where you can find them. If you're a gun nut, you've got all your talking points lined up to counter the overwhelming statistics that put the lie to your point of view. But if you're a reasonable, basically thoughtful person -- who's also looked at the statistics -- you'd tend to agree with me, that guns cause a tyranny of fear, don't make us safer, and in fact can't possibly contribute to our "freedom."

Okay, there is a time and place for guns.
Our liberties in America don't come from the barrel of a gun, unless of course you're actually talking about the military, which has played a role in securing our freedom. That's a different story. No, Americans feel the freest when they're the safest. And guns don't establish that. Gun ownership may provide one a feeling of power and, in a sense, a feeling of fearlessness. Actually, however, that feeling is illusory. The safest place in America would be a place without guns, and that would be the place for me. Which, I imagine, is one of the reasons I live in sleepy little Sonoma.


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