Charlton Heston Put His Bullet Proof Vest On – How The NRA Are Right. Sort Of
I was a great admirer of Charlton Heston when I was a kid. After all, it takes a person’s entire day’s energy resources just to watch Ben Hur. Imagine how exhausting it was to actually make the thing. This is why the film is only shown on Bank Holidays at midday, to give people a legitimate excuse for lounging around listlessly for the rest of the day. It lends that indefinable Four O’Clock ennui we all should be ashamed of some kind of basis in fact. Can’t be arsed to do anything until bed time? Of course you can’t. You’ve just valiantly sat through Ben Hur.
I have to admit how surprised I was when I learned how much Mr Heston was into guns, despite how violent most of his films were. In my mind’s eye he had been an erudite actor/philosopher who just happened to be very good at playing dangerous psychopaths in the movies. Shows how wrong you can be. My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw him utter the immortal words “From my cold dead hands” in reference to the circumstances that might result in him giving up his gun.
History does not record whether anyone actually managed this feat, or even had the opportunity to manage it. Much as he liked firearms, I doubt even Charlton Heston lay on his deathbed clutching a rifle in order to blow the Grim Reaper’s bony noggin off when he loomed over him, scythe in hand. Though I could be wrong of course. Mr Heston really, really liked guns.
Another phrase associated with firearms fans is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Fair enough. Well sort of fair enough, if you discount the habit that guns have of going off for no readily apparent reason when they’re just lying on a table, thus killing or maiming their owners from the other side of the room. Though to be fair, this is usually down to two factors: poor maintenance of the weapon and stupidity on the part of the weapon’s owner. So even in these cases, the phrase “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” still holds true. Well maintained guns that aren’t left around the place with live rounds in their chambers simply just don’t go off unexpectedly.
A gun is just a collection of chemicals and mechanical parts. You could argue, if you were that way inclined, that it is just an inanimate object. A knife is also an inanimate object. A knife can be used to peel and chop the ingredients for a lovely meal. The same knife can also be used, after the consumption of the lovely meal, to go out and slit someone’s throat. The nature of the knife does not change from the act of preparing a meal to the act of slitting a human throat. Only the intentions of the person holding the knife are different.
The “Guns don’t kill people” statement attempts to apply the same logic to firearms. The argument is that a gun is just a tool. And a gun is a tool, but it is unique in being a tool that evolved in on battlefields with the sole purpose of killing human beings. Shoot all the deer you like with them, that is simply not what guns were designed for. Well actually there are other weapons which evolved this way. The sword, the mace and chain, the hand grenade, the land mine etc. Strangely though, no one is suggesting that anyone should be able to walk around carrying these items with impunity. Why is this?
The answer to that question is simple. Guns are really fucking sexy. I hate guns. The idea of what they can do horrifies me. But even I think guns are sexy. A well designed gun is indeed a thing of beauty. A well designed steam locomotive is also a thing of beauty, but I wouldn’t want to be standing directly in front of one when it’s thundering towards me along the railway tracks. Guns are beautiful and sexy, but only when they’re not being fired.
Obviously, I’m writing this from the perspective of a British person. We have gun crime in Britain, but nowhere near on the scale that the US has gun crime. Part of the reason for this is that we simply don’t have anywhere near as many guns. But this was not always the case. Immediately after World War Two, Britain was awash with guns. The Government organised many gun amnesties. Bring your guns in to your local police station and they will be safely disposed of, no questions asked.
This is because, in Britain, we regard the population having access to guns as a problem. In America, the population having access to guns seems to be regarded as some sort of solution, or even a right. The NRA are right in stating “Guns don’t kill people”. No, it’s people’s attitude to guns that kills people. You can’t un-invent the gun, so it’s attitudes that have to change. If you get angry at the prospect of someone taking your gun away, you’re not the sort of person who should be allowed to have one in the first place.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013