Sympathy for the Devil

I’ll assume, if you’re one of the many people now advocating in an outspoken way for tougher gun control laws, that you might be getting pretty frustrated that right wing (or left wing, for that matter) gun and 2nd Amendment advocates won’t back down and admit that you might be right that tougher gun laws are needed.

Maybe it’d help to play a little devil’s advocate—to get into the minds of Americans unwilling to pass stricter gun controls and discover what mental reflexes are occurring to prevent a meeting of minds. To that end, maybe it’d help to think about something you couldn’t imagine any good reason for giving up. Like your privately-owned car. Imagine lots of Americans want to make it tougher for you to privately own and drive a car. They want to do this through various car-control laws, street-design reform, and implementing transit while ending government subsidization of solo-driving. They want background checks to discover if mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse is present in a potential driver’s family, and if it is, prevent them from driving (believing it leads to dangerous driving). They want annual re-testing of driving competence.

Let’s say they make a good case and have a well-thought out argument, just as you do, explaining via social media and articles that car violence is far more common and injurious than mass shootings and getting deadlier. And what if a victim’s family told you how a car was used to assault or terrorize their loved one who was on foot or bike at the time, killing them before the killer drove the car away, leaving their loved one bleeding in the street with no witnesses or help. They’d explain two reasons the media doesn’t cover this carnage: 1. Their main advertisers are from the auto industry 2. There often isn’t video coverage of the death. What if they added that costs of emergency response vehicles called to car and street design-related injuries are subsidized by Americans at great expense, not including the expense of car pollution-related illnesses or other societal health disturbances, like noise cars make and all the earth they cover. What if they told you in summary that you shouldn’t have reason to resist because you can go everywhere you need by way of more quiet, environmentally sustainable & peaceful ways, namely: biking, walking, car-share, or using transit. They say, “You can even quax with kids.”

Quaxing with kids

Would defenses still come to mind, reasons why you personally can’t give up your car? Would you find yourself saying, “But that’s different, cars are for driving to work and grocery shopping (even as hunters say guns are for capturing dinner) or in case of emergency (some gun owners want guns for emergencies requiring self-defense). Acknowledging these similarities in reasoning, even in light of the potential ease of living without those technologies, might help all of us get to the bottom of why cultural change is so hard to produce (that is, when it isn’t due to big money, both gun and oil).

This article, incidentally, shows some of the problems with recent comparisons between car vs. gun deaths. But it doesn’t admit the greatest problem in its own language, which is that of calling car deaths “accidental.” Streets engineered to allow drivers to speed along in 5000lbs of metal over 35mph at high volume where people also need to walk or bike is no accident. Nor is it an accident when drivers keep eyes down toward their drink console or groin area while driving. People walking along the street can see perfectly well that driver is using their phone while driving. On purpose. Some drivers are even more blatant. Cell phone drivers may not have “meant” to drive four or five tons of steel into someone while reading a Facebook post, but it’s no accident that they did. Our court system should probably reflect that, to manage the few who want to commit violence or just don’t care if they do.

Just like we should have more stringent gun control. But also, a little more love. A little more understanding. A little more patience. A little more sympathy for the devil.