Jan 30 2011
I’m going to respond to a Facebook posting here, because my response would be far too long for a comment thread there.
Here’s the post:
To everyone who is calling for anti-gun laws in light of the tragedy in Tucson, may I offer this little tidbit: If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat! Remember: Hold the PERSON accountable for their actions, not just the means they choose to utilize!!! Reposted from another friend’s status message. Don’t just like it…..repost it!
It’s amusing how this mixes something fundamentally right with an incorrect analogy, and all for naught.
The correct bit is that guns don’t kill people, any more than cars drive people from place to place (they will in a few years, but that’s besides the point) or pencils write notes. People use tools to accomplish goals, and those are just tools being used by people. And people should be held accountable for what they do.
But here’s where the analogy utterly fails. It compares the misspelling of words and drunk driving to killing people. The first two are a misapplication of the fundamental utility of the tool, while the last one is the correct application of the fundamental utility of the tool. It would have been more apt to say that guns don’t kill people any more than pencils take notes or cars successfully get you from one place to another.
A gun’s fundamental utility is to kill things — the nature of the utility is based on the type of gun, so that thing can either be an animal or a person. Let’s talk about handgus, though. The fundamental utility of a handgun is to kill people. That sentence probably caused someone on the NRA side of the fence to burst out “self defense” — but self defense is a USE for a gun, based on its fundamental utility. If you doubt that, ask yourself how successful a gun would be at self defense if it couldn’t kill someone.
Given a handgun’s fundamental utility, the posting above is for naught. Why? Because it misunderstands the true argument being made by gun control advocates. We don’t want to limit guns because we think they kill people — we want to limit guns because we don’t think that the proliferation of a tool whose fundamental utility is to kill people is a good thing. A subtle difference, but one that “guns don’t kill people” mantra spewers don’t seem to grasp.