What If We Stopped Calling Them “Guns” And Started Calling them “Death Machines” Instead?

Stone cold fact: from the get-go, guns were imagined as a way to kill living things more efficiently than the technologies preceding it could. One can mass murder people with a bow and arrow but it’s way harder than doing it with an AR15. Way harder. Yeah, sure, one can take out a crowd with a car or truck – as some terrorists have. But the big difference is (and it makes the “but cars kill people too” argument stupid on steroids), cars were DESIGNED to transport people from point A to point B. A car that kills someone was being used OUTSIDE its design specs. By contrast, a dead body – human or animal – with a bullet hole in it is evidence that a gun was used correctly – as it was designed – to do the thing it was designed to do: kill.

Maybe our problem is the word “gun”. It’s an innocuous word all by itself. You can “gun” your engine if you need to get somewhere faster. You can make toy versions of guns. Signs that say “Guns For Sale” look quite ordinary to us. But, gun doesn’t tell us what the object does. Guns are literal machines; every gun is “an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task”. The goal of any gun is to send a piece of metal flying at speed into a living thing so as to kill it. Yeah, sure – your “warning shot” may only mean to wound, but if you’re firing a gun at someone? Death is always a distinct possibility because death is the point.

I wonder if we all agreed to stop calling guns “guns” (or any of the other cute names we’ve imagined for them – “personal protection” for instance) and start calling them what they are – “death machines” – instead, would that finally change our attitude toward guns just enough to finally DO something in the face of more dead school children and teachers? What if, instead of a debate about “guns”, America understood that it was having a debate about “death machines”? What if we removed the word “gun” from the debate entirely and made this a conversation about what it’s really about: the need for one group to hold the power of life and death over the rest of us.

Every last bit of our gun legislation that doesn’t restrict the use of guns is a nod to racism because our gun laws – like so many of our laws – were a cynical attempt by fearful white people to maintain power. That’s what a poll tax is – or any law that tries to discourage voters from voting. Our gun laws are designed to put more guns into the hands of white people (as Texas governor Greg Abbott advocated when Texas came in second place to California when Californians apparently bought more guns during the pandemic than did Texans). How many guns does any gun owner need to feel “safe” from the rest of us – who don’t own guns?

It isn’t really safety that concerns gun owners. It’s the power that a gun puts into their hands. The power to kill. What bigger threat can you pose to another living thing than the power to stop them from living?

“Responsible gun ownership” sounds like a very “adult” thing but it’s self-deception and nothing but.

What if we called it “Responsible death machine ownership” instead? How does one “responsibly” own a death machine? The truth is, one can’t. Accidents happen. It’s why they’re called “accidents”. No one plans em. They just happen – unexpectedly. Can any gun owner guarantee that an accident can NEVER happen with their death machine? Of course they can’t! So, by “responsible” what they really mean is “lucky until now”.

But luck can change.

The massacre at Uvalde, Texas has brought back terrible memories of Sandy Hook. Shooter Adam Lanza’s mom Nancy Lanza thought she was a “responsible gun owner” up until the very moment her son shot her to death with one of her own legally purchased weapons. Since Adam had never murdered anyone before that morning, I guess we could say that, yes indeedy – up to that point, Nancy Lanza HAD been a “responsible gun owner”. And then she wasn’t.

That’s the problem with “responsible gun ownership”. It assumes its own reliability. From the vantage point of a pile of gunshot bodies? That was hubris. Arrogance. Lethal bullshit.

The truth is quite simple. No one can “responsibly” own a death machine. America’s founders recognized that fact when they made “well regulated militias” the arbiters of who may “keep and bear” arms. The Second Amendment does not use the word “own” – a perfectly good word at the time. “Keeping” a thing is not the same as “owning” it. The Second Amendment does not grant anyone OWNERSHIP of the arms in question. If the militia says “give it back”, you have to give it back; you don’t “own” it.

The conservative adoration of death machines – this right wing death cult mentality – has bullied the majority of us for long enough.

– at the time – did not mean the same thing as “keep” or “bear”.

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