“People who don't want to think about outlawing handguns haven't seen firsthand the kind of damage they do." -- J. A. Jance, "Payment in Kind"

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why Men Love Guns

     B and I were driving back from Savannah to our vacation house last week when I saw a billboard advertising a shooting range where you can go fire off a military-style machine gun.

     My first reaction was: That's crazy! No wonder why . . . And then about half a second later I realized my pulse had quickened and my thought was:  Hey, I bet that's really cool!

     I saw an image in my mind. I was standing at the range like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, heavy-duty machine gun at my side, blasting away at some vague, ill-defined target.

     Then I shook my head a couple of times. My critical mind took over again, and I asked B sitting next to me:  "You see that sign? Isn't that terrible?"

     And of course she agreed. "Why would anyone want to do that?" she asked, completely perplexed that a civilized person would find pleasure in shooting a heavy duty gun, like they're some kind of combat soldier, or in-the-line-of-fire cop . . . or crazed mass murderer.

     And we agreed it's a terrible thing that businesses are out there trying to lure people in to shoot their guns -- powerful, military-style guns designed not to kill people but to destroy them, turn them into an explosion of flesh and blood. We were baffled that the government even allows private businesses to exploit that sick side of people's psyche, the side that wants to get revenge, get even, make others cower and beg and kneel before their superior power.

     And yet, for a milli-second, I too felt the thrill of shooting a gun. (The last time I actually shot a gun was when I was about 14, in the woods in back of my uncle's house.) And, not a wimpy .22 caliber single-shot rifle. But a big military-style piece of equipment. And I admit, the appeal was the power. Me, standing there, not taking any shit from anybody, suddenly in control of the world. Like Superman. Or Iron Man. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

     And then, of course, I realized why the NRA and the so-called "gun nuts" are hardly interested in protecting the right of an American citizen to own a simple hunting rifle. They don't want a simple gun to hunt any more than the people who climb up into their 4-wheel-drive Hummers or Land Rovers want their behemoths to take them through the desert or up into the mountains. They want them because they want to feel the power. Because where else in this overly organized, corporatized, bureaucratized world of ours are you going to feel like you control the world, like people will listen to you, like you own the place?

New movie; same old violence
     Coincidentally, I happened to hear part of a report on Bloomberg radio about guns. They pointed out that not all gun owners are the stereotype of either the stupid Southern Redneck or the black gangbanger. They interviewed a dentist from Atlanta who owns an AR-15. He seemed very innocent. He didn't like to play golf, he explained; he liked to go to the shooting range instead. He found it very relaxing. Took his mind off his work and his everyday problems.

     But why not a simple rifle for target practice. Why did he need a semi-automatic AR-15 that could shoot more than a dozen rounds a minute?

     "Because it's cool, man!"

     It turns out that part of the appeal of the AR-15 -- the weapon used in mass murders from Aurora to Newtown; and a weapon favored by some hunters -- is that it offers a whole range of add-ons, many designed to make the weapon actually look worse than it really is. In other words, it makes people feel even more powerful when it's tricked out with all its extra options.

     I don't know. I personally don't feel the need to own a gun. I hate violence. I was a victim of some violence when I was much younger, and I know how painful, humiliating and debilitating it is. But my brush with violence only confirmed my pacifism. The last fist fight I got into was in 5th grade. (And I lost.)

     But I also understand how modern Americans have lost their individuality. Corporations only care about your credit score and what zip code you live in. The government only cares about your ethnicity and your taxable income. Modern man has been so emasculated, so trivialized, so marginalized, that we at times want to stand up and say, "I'm here! Pay attention! Don't mess with me!"

     I guess I'm just sayin' . . . if you feel that way, maybe instead of going out and buying an AR-15, you could go see Iron Man 3 instead.


schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

I think men love guns because they are phallic symbols. I don't know why so many women like them. Don't say it Freud. Dianne

#1Nana said...

...and women get breast implants. Self esteem is a fragile thing for some people.

stephen Hayes said...

I will definitely forgo buying an AR-15 and go see Iron Man 3 instead.

Olga said...

Men like guns because they make a boomy noise. My husband has a number of rifles that he really enjoys shooting. He doesn't hunt although he did as a youth. Now he likes to go to a private place and shoot at empty coffee cans. I guess it makes as much sense as hitting a little white ball into a distant hole. He is otherwise an very nice man.

DJan said...

I heard the NRA spokesman say that he thinks there are a whole lot of people in Boston who wished they had a gun at the Boston Marathon. That sure made me wonder what I thought would have transpired to shoot anything that looked suspicious! I have a hard time with guns and agree with some of your earlier commenters.

Anonymous said...

My brother owned a lot of guns and rifles, which he later sold for drugs. Awful.

Linda Myers said...

My husband has locked-up guns. He hunts some years. I have never owned one. Never wanted to.

However, the idea of having the feeling of power? I can understand that, if you're really powerless. But there are other ways. In my opinion.

Bob Lowry said...

Your thoughts, Tom, and the comments so far are excellent additions to the "debate" over guns in this society. Of course, why we are debating something so obviouslyly in need of fixing is for another post.

I never picked up a weapon until I was in the Army. There I qualified as the best shot with an M-16 in my training cycle. I could kill a target at 200 feet. I thank God I never had to use it except on the firing range. I haven't had any interest in any gun since my discharge.

Our society's fascination with guns and the twisted logic that uses the second amendment to justify the ongoing mayhem speaks volumes about our maturity.

Guns at the Boston marathon? To shot who? It took the FBI a day or two to find the guys. Who were those NRA nutcases suggesting all those gun carriers should have shot? The injured?

Unknown said...

Power. For me I need gadgets: I have two book readers, a laptop, IPod and an IMac. Then I save money for power tools and scavange garage sales for tools. Last year I bought an 8-gallon air compressor for $20 and tinkered with it to get it to work.

That is my Power Kick.

Dick Klade said...

Bob Lowry said it well. I, too, excelled as a marksman in the Army. But it didn't give me any feeling of power that needed to be carried through to my civilian life. I think if some otherwise rational folks absolutely must recreate by firing military style weapons at ranges they could be granted licenses for that and keep the weapons locked up at the ranges when they were't visiting. That would be one sensible control we as a society could adopt.

Banjo Steve said...

Well stated, Tom. The power thing is huge, especially for those (men or women) who, for some reason or another, feel - or revel in feeling - victimized by demon society or demon media or demon government. A big, powerful gun is a great substitute for trying to understand and apply more functional ways of living and co-existing.

Which unfortunately shadows those many individuals who legitimately enjoy the challenge of hunting and/or target shooting.

Douglas said...

I suppose you are right... it is that power one feels when firing an automatic weapon. It's similar to the power a politician feels, I suppose, or a CEO, or an anarchist who triggers a riot. But I couldn't be sure... not having been one of those. And I think you have the psychological basis for that desire to feel it.

Don Portlin said...

I have an AR-15 I use for target practice exclusively (no power trips/machismo here), owned it just prior to the Clinton gun ban. I bought it because the gov't doesn't want me to have it AND, I enjoy using it.

We Second Amendment people have our firearms and ammo, the Supreme Court has ruled. Why not just let it go?

Anonymous said...

"Why not just let it go?"

1. Because things change over time and we should change with conditions.

2. Because too damned many people are injured or dead from weapons - whether by murder (including one sister-in-law)/suicide (including one bother)/accident.

3. Because I have a brain that tells me there is a saner way of doing things.

4. Guns may not be at fault (how could they be); but, neither is a flu virus at fault. As one who was abducted at gunpoint, and as one who has suffered four bouts of flu, I want neither of them around me. Do you want your radical neighbor to have a nuke next door?

avenueroo said...

For me it comes down to what kind of person has a gun, not where or how did they get it. The nut in Newtown didn't own a gun but caused complete horror. If he killed with an ax would governments start enacting legislation on buying an ax? That reactionary thinking won't work. Rather there should be a law that every school have an trained armed individual on staff, might not stop the person but could certainly minimize the damage done.

No way to know what crime your neighbor is thinking about doing or was the gun to be used legal, but there is a way to stop or deter them and that is with your gun.

Anonymous said...

i love guns, but, like with all my other vices, they cost money; and i love money in the bank more.

Anonymous said...

I just turned 30. I am getting my first gun soon. I am excited by guns, I love the power they give, they offer an outdoor hobby, sharpen your senses and put you in a state of a hunter all men used to be since we split from the monkeys.

I don't like the noise of shooting the guns, so it's not so simple and stupid as one older woman commented above. Im getting a sniper air rifle with a silencer.

Some men are 'soldiers' and got balls. Men who claim not to like aggression are scared. They are afraid and never got over the fear of a fight. So they align with their mommies and wives, hold hands and sing songs about world peace and daisies.

It clear to me I gave aggressive traits and I cant help that. It's just part of me. Life is a race of dominance, financial, social status, physical strength, bigger tits, bigger biceps, shinier cars etc. You cant change that, it's in out reptilian brain and will stay there. We are animals. Conscientious, self-aware, but animals.