One of the most translatable characters from Greek mythology to modern reality is a young man named Narcissus. He was famously in love with himself, which led to his infatuation with his own reflection in a pond, and then his ultimate death by drowning. One other not so endearing quality was his disdain for those who loved him. So, roll these things together and we have the modern adjective “narcissistic.” It is often used, even overused, when describing self-centered people.
Earlier this week, I wrote another installment on my quest to see policy makers do something about gun violence in America. During the course of distributing my lovely piece, I provoked a couple of responses that call for rebuttal. It’s as if Narcissus himself had been revived for the occasion.
First, a notorious guns right advocate in our community claimed that it was “immoral” for me to choose not to own a gun. This conclusion comes from his view that I was asking someone else to keep me safe since I was unwilling to do it myself. He implied that private gun owners among us bore this burden. Sounds ludicrous, right?
Well I have heard this from other guns rights people over time to varying degree. I dismiss that any of them actually believe it, but I have heard it said. This is the problem: those who own guns for their own protection cannot be trusted to protect anyone but themselves. They have no duty to me or anyone else. They aren’t trained to protect the public. They aren’t authorized to do so either. So while I do not own a gun by my own active decision, I also actively ask that no private gun owner pretend I want them and their guns “contributing” to my safety.
During a more civil and statistical discussion this week, it was pointed out to me that gun ownership in America has risen 62 percent since 1994 and the national homicide rate has decreased by 49 percent since 1993. These numbers were published in a story in the National Review using data from the National Institute for Justice and Pew Research.
However, I discovered through data gathered by the ATF and Pew Research that households with a gun peaked in 1977 at 54 percent and had dropped to 33 percent by 2009. Remember, that is households.
Combining this data leads to the conclusion that fewer Americans have guns, but those who do, have more of them.
One response to this conclusion sounded as narcissistic as the first one above. A member of the public wrote “That means fewer of us are shouldering the security burden!”
No sir (and of course it was a man who wrote that), you are not.
The fallacy that some gun owners and their weapons are providing some sort of public service is absurd. But over time, this thinking error and ego driven nonsense has crept up the list of justifications this bunch is selling to America. I don’t choose a gun free life because I can rely on a neighbor who doesn’t to pick up the slack if unrest breaks out. I choose a gun free life and hope my neighbor does the same.
Further, a portion of the taxes I pay go to a list of law enforcement agencies. Those agencies have an agreement to protect and to serve me, are authorized by law to do so, and are trained to do it in a manner vetted through years of the public policy process. A private citizen’s license to carry brings absolutely none of that with it. So please, stay out of the business. As I have written before, that license to carry is an agreement between the government and the licensee that makes carrying the gun legal. It is not an agreement between the public and the licensee for the provision of security. How the NRA has confused its members into believing this is baffling.
Actually, “baffling” is an overstatement. The NRA does provide training services to law enforcement and military on weapons operation and safety techniques. But somehow these consulting type arrangements have confused the organization into believing it is more than that. I am a consultant. I help organizations with communications and government processes. But by being hired to help a health care provider work on a licensing matter, doesn’t magically make me a doctor.
It is narcissistic for “law abiding” gun owners to believe that they have some role in my safety. And the two modern day versions of Narcissus cited above would fittingly admire the reflections of themselves with gun in holster included. Their self centeredness and off the charts self worth goes hand in hand with the disdain of the public around them. They are classic modern versions of the old myth.
I don’t want these people to drown. I just want them to back away from the pond.
Not only do I not want a gun, I don’t want a private gun owner’s “help” by using his gun on my behalf. This doesn’t make me immoral. It just makes guns and their owners, uninvited.