Guns are man-made, like wheels, and hammers, and printing presses, and nuclear weapons. Everything man-made can be used for good or evil. They can support life and build community, and they can destroy. What God makes is pro-life, even though there is prey and predator, drought and flood, volcanoes and asteroids, disease and extinction, death and birth. Man-made things can be pro-social or anti-social. Let’s focus on pro-social uses of the things we make, and try to ameliorate their anti-social aspects.
What are pro-social values of guns? Enforcement tools of modern legitimate governments. Survival tools of hunter-gatherer societies. Period. Self-defense is left off this list because guns are an offensive tool; a bullet-proof vest is defensive. Let’s not confuse offense and defense.
What are anti-social aspects of guns? Murder, suicide, war, police brutality, settling disputes, accidents. What about “good guys with guns” to protect us from the bad guys? Well, that idea confounds the pro-social value of safety with the anti-social risk of accidents, and promotes the anti-social myth of redemptive violence by settling disputes through the barrel of a gun. What about Malcolm X’s dictum, “by any means necessary” (BAMN)? We need to talk about ends and means in a lot more detail at another time.
What about the Second Amendment, you ask. The whole Constitution, and the whole Bill of Rights, and all the Amendments, and the Amendment that was repealed, were all man-made. And they can be un-made. Is the Second Amendment pro-social or anti-social in the 21st century? Most of the developed world — ALL of the world, except the U.S.A.? — has decided that our Second Amendment is wrong-headed, and that their societies are better off with fewer rather than more guns. Check out the statistics of the numbers of annual gun deaths and injuries per capita compared to the number of guns owned per capita. If more guns made us safer, then I would have to eat my hat.
Think of printing presses for a minute. Do you think there would be more of fewer books per capita, or higher or lower literacy in societies with more or fewer printing presses? I say our democracy depends not on the number of guns owned per capita, but the number of printing presses, copy machines, computer printers, typewriters, video cameras, personal blogs, etc. — owned per capita. If you haven’t guessed, I consider democracy as fundamentally pro-social. We can talk about this more later, too.