My erstwhile physician this morning sent me an article from The Times directed at a putative analysis of the American love affair with guns.

The US is different from Europe. There’s no getting away from this American starting point: at least 400 million guns are in private hands. The more your neighbours own guns, the more you seem a fool not to own one, too. Mass shootings that grab headlines reliably increase gun sales owing to popular fear that a political backlash will constrain access to the means of self-defence. Such shootings also trigger a feedback loop: the country seems more dangerous, which moves people to buy more guns, which leads to more shootings. Especially in the heartland, gun ownership is cultural, an expression of the once quintessentially American qualities of autonomy and self-reliance. A rifle in the rack betokens the traditionally yet by no means exclusively masculine determination to protect your family. Although we watch fewer Westerns, in which all the good guys are packing, owning a gun still suggests a trace of frontier spirit. Many rural inhabitants really do use firearms for hunting and sport, even if Democrats suspect the claim is a ruse.

Soaring crime rates, weakened police forces and fear of disorder increase weapons sales and bring more deaths

The Times


It is difficult to follow the logic of the piece because there isn’t any. The author (named Margaret Ann at her birth in North Carolina) is an American fiction writer who lives in the UK.  She notably spent time in Belfast and Nairobi; and as meaningfully her father, Donald, is a Presbyterian minister who became an academic and president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York; her mother was a homemaker. The author is clearly adjusted to fiction and masterly taradiddle surrounding all elements of mystery though little associated with deductive reasoning.

Nor do I imagine there was any intention to provide any reasoning to her piece; it would only contaminate the entertainment of her inspiration. Instead the article is balanced not with logic or reason but rather with murder statistics and market trends neither of which is related except by conclusion not deduction. Murderers (including those who kill themselves) are mad by definition. Mad people intent on doing harm find guns a convenient tool.  It hardly promotes the intention of sane people.

The American wave of interest in guns is nothing but retail expression: I have one too! Otherwise there is no connection between them and guns.

The obvious deduction from the facility to acquire guns is that without guns the crazies would be neutered. To think otherwise is self-deception. Guns have for the most part no more utility than a curling iron. But for those that use a gun the ambition is unequivocally to do harm whether or not the object is human or another animal. If we insist upon the “right” or other glorification of entitlement (such as the Hollywood image of daddy protecting his family) we should at the very least have stricter licensing prerequisites.

Guns have become nothing but the same perpetual argument that governs war and refusal to negotiate; namely, they’re all dead end streets. You may seek to dignify the low-level conclusion by suggesting there are instances where guns, war or disagreement had some advantage but it’s always going to be a Pyrrhic victory.