Have we lost the fear of guns?

In the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Colorado it may be taken as a strange question. What we fear someone with a gun willing to do terrible things to unsuspecting innocents. As the tired phrase says, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”, and while the words do tend to grate on the nerves of many, it is the same as if a man builds a house. We don’t say that a hammer or a nail gun built the house, we say that the man built it so why blame a tool rather than the person?

Having grown up in a country where the police were more likely to use foul language as shock tactic on misbehaving youths than any show of force, and whose regular patrolmen aren’t armed. I didn’t even hold or shoot a loaded gun until three years ago in Vegas. I fear and respect guns. I understand the awesome power that the mechanical device in my hand possesses. It frightens me that an accident might happen and something terrible may occur. It affects how I handle a gun, it makes me much more cautious. Having visited a local gun club on a couple of occasions, I see the same kind of fear and respect from those members. If you treat a gun properly, the chances of a mishap are greatly reduced, although there is always the possibility of something unexpected happening.

In common culture, perhaps this is no longer the case though with gun ownership being widely portrayed rather as a cool thing, something that makes you a big man. How many rap videos feature guns? Plaxico Burress, an NFL player, took a handgun into a nightclub, tucked in sweatpants. Almost predictably, there was an accident and he shot himself in the leg. Sweatpants with a gun tucked in them? Seriously? NBA star Gilbert Arenas challenged a team-mate to a fight and laid out three handguns. There is no display of respect or fear of these weapons. They are treated like cell phones, to be taken everywhere, shown off so that those around realise how important the owner is.

Video games have much more impact than music videos though. Modern Warfare and Battleground feature tactical and military scenarios where players must use a variety of guns but games such as Grand Theft Auto puts players in urban, peacetime locations and put a gun in their hands. Video games do not cause shooting sprees but it surely lessens the fear and respect that guns should command. I have played video games for more than half my life, starting with titles such as Doom and Quake, all the way up to Duke Nukem and Rainbow Six and finally Modern Warfare and I am yet to feel the urge or the necessity to go on a shooting rampage.

Popular media cannot be blamed when something horrific, like Colorado or Columbine happens, but it does have to take responsibility for lowering the fear thresh hold of guns. Gun control advocates and those that oppose control will forever be locked in battle with both sides making valid and invalid arguments. Bad people will always get guns and do bad things, no matter what controls are put in place.

As much as I love shooting, and I love every part of it, from the challenge of hitting the target to the smell of it, I will never store a gun in my home, loaded or otherwise. I have two children, boys, and while the chances of them finding a weapon and mis-using it would be small, it would still be too great a risk for me to take.

We have to understand how dangerous guns are and how they must be respected, and reduce the coolness factor of them. They can no longer be treated as bling, like a status symbol, as something many claim to need but few truly do.

We also have to look more closer at those who commit these acts of violence and examine why they choose to do this and if there were indicators before hand. From looking at the build up to a shooting spree, perhaps a pattern or indicator will appear that can be looked for in the future. It is easy to react after the fact, demanding changes be made but for all involved it would be more desirable to defuse the situation before it starts.

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