Driving home a controversial point


On Planet Analogy there was a country that loved cars. It was called Carland. Early in its history, the people of Carland depended on cars to transport because the food source was too far away to walk. Moreover, there were predators near the food sources that were very fast and would run down people and kill them. Thus, fast cars were of the essence.

In the beginning, Carland was not a free country. Its leaders abused the common people by over-taxing them, and when the people complained, their cars were taken away. So the people rebelled. A bloody war ensued, and in the end the people of Carland were victorious. They were free to make their own laws, and the smartest Carlanders designed a sweet system of government that facilitated individualism, ingenuity, and integrity.

Over time the cars became amazing things. They got faster, more powerful, more agile, and more indestructible. As war machines, the cars of Carland were the most formidable in the world. However, cars also became more and more of an obsession among the people of Carland. For many, cars became a Golden Calf within their minds.

Like the poison vines that grow hidden within the garden, an insidious force emerged that would profit greatly from the sales of cars, especially the cars of war, which were the most coveted by those who were most obsessed. Their clever lawyers fought against any legislation that would put restrictions on cars, always citing the injustices of the oppressors of the past.

So the most destructive and indestructible cars were available to all the people. The result was a country in which there were more cars than drivers, and more and more people lusted for the most dangerous cars. Then came more frequent incidents of crazy and vengeful people taking their powerful cars on kamikaze missions, driving onto off ramps or into high speed lanes going the wrong way and wiping out scores of other cars in spectacular crashes.

Despite the catastrophes, laws did not change because the insidious force that prohibited restrictions had expanded its root network to include the most powerful people in government who saw anarchy and division as the best means of getting and maintaining power.

OK, so that analogy is pretty far-fetched, and obtuse, I must admit. But here’s another one that is more grounded in logic and facts:

A fast-growing city is dealing with an old civil engineering plan that did not anticipate its growth in population or the ensuant traffic congestion. A major intersection had been expanded from four lanes to six, and then eight as traffic more than quadrupled. Predictably, accidents also increased, as did fatalities. Despite the best efforts by engineers and lawmakers, the intersection became known as “Death Alley.”

There were several factors involved. First, there was a high school nearby, and many young, inexperienced drivers made costly mistakes. Second, one of the roads was bordered by a high hill to the east that blocked the morning sun, thus preventing it from melting the night’s black ice. Third, because of numerous traffic jams due to construction and congestion, there were more incidents of road rage and other violent or erratic behavior.

All these factors can be reduced to simple logic: the more cars on the road, the more accidents. There is an obvious correlation here in terms of gun violence: the more guns there are, the more gun violence there will be. Yet the debate over gun violence features several typical red herrings, notions that often serve to distract from the truth.

There is no doubt that the media, especially video games, movies, and some music genres, glorify guns simply because violence sells. Yet the scientific research has not yet succeeded in drawing direct causation between virtual exposure to violence and real-life behavior. Regarding mental illness, no one disputes that crazy people should not have guns, but with so many guns out there and so many people with secret mental illnesses, there doesn’t seem to be a realistically effective means of intervention. Finally, it is convenient, especially for white people, to say that it is the inner cities and their black markets that are fueling social violence. All this may be relevant, but the core cause of violence remains easy access to guns.

John Adams, Ben Franklin and company, in their not-quite infinite wisdom, would be greatly troubled to witness a classroom of children being slaughtered like animals in their schoolhouse by a maniac with a war weapon designed for one and only one purpose — to kill as many humans as possible in the shortest amount of time. And they would be incredulous as to how these weapons of ineffable mass destruction could fall into the hands of just about anyone who desires them.

Perhaps they would be most dismayed to learn that so many lawmakers are beholden to corporate entities and lobbyists, and that decisions are made in the interest not of the people, but of those entities which have no moral compass. If this nation cannot restrict the sale of guns to curb violence, then it will have failed in its most fundamental moral obligation to protect its people.

Pete Howard is a Dunkirk resident, writer, musician and teacher. FOCAL Point strives to make insightful social commentary through the integration of Facts, Observations, Compassion, Awareness and Logic.