Thursday, May 22, 2014

Irony, Hypocrisy, and the Debate About Guns

A friend of mine coined a saying some years ago: it's a good thing irony is so damned funny, because there is so much of it.

This meme, and variations on it, has been making the internet rounds of late (and, possibly, for quite some time):

The sentiment behind this is quite reasonable, even insightful. For those who are wondering (since the meme doesn't say) Jeremiah 17:9 reads:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?
This is a point that many in the NRA and others supportive of gun rights have been making for years. The more popular phrasing is, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people", but I like this one better because it actually points to something of importance: what is in the hearts (and minds) of people leads to violence.

What makes this ironic (and hypocritical) is that many of those in the Tribe of Gun Rights who promulgate this notion have been active contributors to the poisoning of people's hearts with respect to violence. These are in many cases the very same folks (indeed, I found this meme on the very same FB feed) as those who glorify the use of retributive violence. I've written about this before (here and here, among others). Here is perhaps one of the more egregious examples, which you can find on Snopes (it's been circulated in a variety of forms for years):


March 5th, 2009

Last Thursday night round midnight, a woman in Houston, Texas was arrested, jailed, and charged with manslaughter for shooting a man 6 timesin the back as he was running away with her purse.

The following Monday morning, the woman was called in front of the arraignment judge, sworn in, and asked to explain her actions.

The woman replied, "I was standing at the corner bus stop for about15 minutes, waiting for the bus to take me home after work. I am a waitress at a local cafe. I was there alone, so I had my right hand on my pistol, that was in my purse, that was hung over my left shoulder.

"All of a sudden I was being spun around hard to my left. As I caught my balance, I saw a man running away from me with my purse.

I looked down at my right hand and I saw that my fingers were wrapped tightly around my pistol. The next thing I remember is saying out loud, 'No way punk! Your not stealing my pay check and tips.' I raised my right hand, pointed my pistol at the man running away from me with my purse, and squeezed the trigger of my pistol six times!"

When asked by the arraignment judge, "Why did You shoot the man six times?" the woman replied under oath, "Because, when I pulled the trigger of my pistol the seventh time, it only went click."

The woman was acquitted of all charges. And she was back at work, at the cafe, the next day!

You cannot circulate stories like this one and then claim that the "real problem" is people's hearts (the story, by the way, is false). This story tells a simple fable: money (specifically, my money) is worth more than a human life (especially if that life belongs to a "punk", something less than human). Anybody who believes that has a very selective reading, at best, of the Bible. Cain killed Abel, by some interpretations, because Abel was wealthier and had been more successful than Cain.

If gun rights supporters want to live by the first meme (the real problem is human hearts), they should be doing something to heal those hearts - to appeal to the "better angels of our nature", to borrow Lincoln's phrase - rather than steeping themselves in the glory of violence. I know that expecting consistency, especially on the internet, is tilting at windmills. But folks within the gun rights community should at least try to rein in the more violence-accepting of their brethren, if they expect anybody else to take them seriously.

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