I was glancing through the news this morning, and I clicked on a story about some guy who had a boatload of guns in a hotel room somewhere. Nothing particularly unusual about that over here.
What caught my eye was the large, clunky revolver in the center of the picture- it appears to be a Webley Mk VI, the standard sidearm of British Empire soldiers in the First World War. That pistol is probably a hundred years old, and I would imagine it is perfectly functional. What weird twist of fate caused that weapon, born in England and bloodied in the trenches of Flanders, to end up with a crazy who said he was on a secret government mission?
I gave it some thought.
A firearm, competently maintained, can last for centuries. In those centuries, that same weapon will pass from hand to hand, and it will undoubtably be used for reasons that were not in the original manufacturer’s intent. A good example is an M3a1 Grease Gun we took from the bad guys overseas. I examined it back then, and ran the serial number. The weapon had been made in Detroit in May of 1945. And here it was, on a distant battlefield being used by the other side over sixty years later.
We procured some .45 ammo, and it worked as good as the day it was made. We ended up using it as a turret gun, and on one memorable day we armed our interpreter with it. The Grease Gun is an excellent example of a weapon that got passed around like a joint- originally used in WW2, sold to someone, bounced around, and eventually ended up back in the hands of US soldiers. Very, very strange.
Another example of a weapon that came back around to bite its producer is the Kalashnikov, the AK-47. A number that gets thrown around a lot is one hundred million. That is the estimated total of AK-47’s that were built. Personally, I think this number is crap. It’s a lot higher. And no weapon on Earth has killed as many people as the AK, hands down.
The US Army taught me about the AK-47, and its care and feeding. During this training, we learned about the various types of AK’s. Our trainer told us about the very earliest AK model, the Type One. He said we would never encounter it in the field, and that the Type One was the least robust of all the variants.
LOL. Here is a picture of a Type One AK my platoon sergeant carried in Afghanistan. I took a picture of it in my lap so that people would believe me when I told them I had seen such a rare beast in action.
It was one of the very first AKs ever made, hard used, and still perfectly functional nearly seventy years later. Unbelievable.
That’s the problem. Millions upon millions of these military grade weapons are floating around, and no laws will ever stop their movement, use, or sale. They haven’t yet, and the UN keeps trying, to zero avail.
And that’s one type of weapon out of thousands.
Many times I sit and wish for a world with no guns, no war.
My dad used to tell me to shit in one hand, and wish in another, and see which one fills up first. He was right.
Guns are neutral, they can be used for good or evil. I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve used guns in defense of my life. My Grandma was shot during an armed robbery (she lived). The sword cuts both ways.
As S.M. Stirling describes in his books, a world without guns can be scarier than one that has them. Murderers and creeps use them, but so do the innocent. The innocent have a lot easier time defending themselves with a gun.
But I do so wish that lunatics couldn’t get the things. There I go- wishing again. The cold, hard fact is that in the United States alone there are an estimated 300 million firearms in private hands. If all guns were banned in the US tomorrow, and magically all lawful users turned them in (haha), there would still be more than enough available for criminal use into the far distant future. And the average Joe would be defenseless against criminals who would still be heavily armed. A bad situation.
But there is hope. I have racked my brain over this problem and there are concrete, realistic steps that we as a society could take to mitigate the issue.
First, don’t allow crazies to buy guns. This is more difficult than it sounds. Medical privacy laws here in the US are pretty ironclad- it takes a lot for medical providers to share anything with law enforcement, and then it usually happens after a crime has been committed. Unsatisfactory. People who are a clear threat to others should not be able to buy a weapon, at least temporarily. Nicolas Cruz is a good example of someone who could have been prevented from owning a gun, but was not.
Second, make theft of firearms a very serious offense, to the extent that thieves will avoid taking guns because of the penalties involved.
Third, to purchase a firearm, a citizen must have a certified weapons training course/military/police training on record (along with a clean criminal history). A notation on the Driver’s License would be sufficient, and purchasers would have to show such an ID when buying a gun either at a store, or from a private seller. This stipulation will make some people unhappy with me, but tough. It’s crazy that you can buy and operate weapons with zero formal safety training. As my daughter says, you have to jump through hoops to own and drive a car, why not a gun? She’s right. Some will say this creates barriers to firearms ownership- exactly. That’s the intent. If you don’t care enough to be trained, or if you can’t legally own a firearm anyway, then you shouldn’t be able to buy one.
Of course, the above steps will only slow a determined criminal. But I do believe the steps wouldn’t just be some stupid symbolic gesture. They would actually help curb the current problem while allowing responsible, sane citizens to own firearms.
The weapons aren’t going anywhere. They are, for all practical purposes, immortal. They are laying around worldwide. People will have them, one way or another. The only thing that really takes them out of the picture is destruction, or advanced obsolescence. As I have demonstrated, weapons don’t have an expiration date.
The question is, how do we manage a weapon’s problematic immortality?
One thought on “Problematic immortality”
Interesting article. Living in Australia we don’t have the issues you folks have as gun ownership is pretty limited and even then it’s normally hunting weapons not the military grade stuff we see in the U.S. The idea of gun control in the U.S. is a pretty hot topic all over the world and it is complicated for the reasons you point out. I support gun control 100% but if i lived in the U.S. i would train and arm myself to defend my family. I hate the idea but i know i would do it.