Monday, December 7, 2015

Monsters in the Closet

Doug Muder at The Weekly Sift once again says it for me, this time on the topic of guns and why some folks are so attached to them. While people like me cite statistics about the likelihood of suicide or killing someone you love, gun advocates instead tell stories:

...and often those stories are dark what-if fantasies: What if home invaders came to kill you, kidnap your baby, or rape your teen-age daughter? What if you were a hostage in a bank robbery? What if you were at a restaurant or grocery store when terrorists broke in and started killing people? Wouldn’t you wish you had a gun then?

Such stories are easily stretched to indict even the mildest forms of gun control, like limiting magazines to ten shots: Picture your wife hiding in a closet with a handgun. Before she hid, she already gotten off a few shots at the invaders, and now she’s not sure how many shots she has left. Don’t you wish now you’d been able to buy her a gun with a larger magazine?
And we all know how effective stories are with humans. Guns are lethal teddy bears or security blankets for adults who live in a self-reinforcing "scary world" where they feel unmoored from security. For a child who fears monsters in the closet,
the problem isn’t the real-life probability of danger, it’s that a dark fantasy has gotten into your head and you can’t get it out. If you’ve ever dealt with a frightened child or remember being one, you know that you can’t solve a closet-monster problem by finding statistics to demonstrate how low being-eaten-by-a-closet-monster ranks among childhood death risks. Instead, you need to come up with some talisman or ritual that creates an aura of safety. The child needs a security blanket or a teddy bear, not more accurate information about relative risks.

That’s the need that guns fulfill for most of their owners. They’re security blankets, not insurance policies. The point isn’t that home invasion is a major risk in your life, that you are well-trained enough to win a middle-of-the-night shoot-out if home invaders show up, or even that you have a practical way to get the gun out of its safe-storage location in time to use it at all; it’s that when the home-invasion fantasy plagues you, you can tell yourself, “It’s OK. I have a gun.”
Having been asleep in my bed when my house was broken into, having heard the voice of the intruder telling us not to come downstairs unless we wanted to get shot, having the recurring nightmares to go with that experience -- I really do sympathize with the wish for some talisman that could make me safe no matter what or when.

But that's not realistic, and in grasping for it, gun owners make themselves and everyone around them less safe.

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