(I began this post over a month ago, in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings. The holidays intervened, so here we go again).
Guns! This is a topic that is in the news right now. Everyone has an opinion. Why not me? Well, I'm sure I do have an opinion, but I am not sure I have worked it all out yet. So, I am going to work my opinion out here on this blog. This is an area where my thoughts have changed over the past 5-10 years, but I have never worked out a clear opinion before, so I am going to give it a shot here.
First of all, I have worked out my opinion (I think) on the 2nd Amendment, so you can go read that here. To sum that up, I think that the second amendment is obsolete and should probably be repealed.
With that out of the way, back to the idea of guns in general. Now, I am a big proponent of the idea that no technology is in itself evil. As someone who teaches ethics, I believe that inanimate objects do not carry moral responsibilities. Only humans can make moral choices. So, it is not that any technology, in itself, is evil in any way, but rather the way it is used by moral agents, i.e., humans. See image to the right.
Guns are a piece of technology. They solve a technological problem. Namely, guns give humans the ability to hurl small pieces of metal (bullets) at great speeds over great distances. Now, there could be many purposes for hurling bullets over great distances at great speeds. Maybe I want to put holes in a sheet of plywood from 250 feet away. A gun would do the trick. Yet I cannot imagine that this would be a good technological solution to putting holes in plywood. Surely a much cheaper piece of technology, say a drill, could do the same thing, and much more accurately, yet not at a great distance. Clearly, the purpose of hurling bullets is to inflict damage on something. Almost exclusively, guns are used to disable moving objects at distances. Now, these objects most commonly are animals, whether they be of the human variety or otherwise.
Let me say at this point, that what I will be discussing below is the ownership of guns by private citizens. I am not yet ready to tackle the questions of government agents, law enforcement, or war. What I will be discussing below is simply gun ownership by private citizens for private use. Let me also get the hunting issue out of the way. I have at this point no problem with responsible and legal hunting either for food or sport. I am not a hunter, but I have hunted and married into a hunting family.
Now, I am not a gun expert, but I think I can classify three big categories of guns to be discussed here: 1) Rifles, 2) Handguns, and 3) Shotguns. There are two types of guns from this list that are useful for hunting: rifles and shotguns. I have hunted deer, and you use a rifle. I have hunted dove and you use a shotgun. I have no problems with these weapons when used for hunting purposes. But interestingly, neither of these weapons are the weapon of choice for mass shooters, and for an obvious reason: they don't carry enough bullets to effectively kill multiple people. A deer hunting rifle carries one bullet. And that is enough. Anyone who has hunted a deer before knows that you just get one shot. If you miss, you don't get a second chance. A typical dove hunting shotgun carries two-four rounds. Once again, not tremendously useful in a mass shooting.
Now to the guns that give me pause for a moment: semi-automatic handguns and assault style rifles.