Guns Don’t Kill But They Sure Make It Easier

Click to view clip from Falling Down (1993)

Click to view clip from Falling Down (1993)

Way back in 1993, Michael Douglas starred in Falling Down, a relatively uneven movie that tried to tap into the angry white, middle class male demographic. The movie, boycotted by the Korean-American Coalition and rejected by engineers in the defense industry, was marginally successful, but failed to generate huge box office returns. I’m sure part of the lukewarm reception was the overall sadness of the Michael Douglas character. He’s virtually unredeemable as he slips into a kind of psychotic disgust with daily life in America. In same ways, Douglas (whose performance is really very good in this movie) is simply a gun-toting version of Peter Gibbons of Office Space. Whereas Gibbons is sardonic, cynical, and peacefully looking for a way out of the rat race, Douglas’ character is sad, lost, and carrying a loaded weapon.

While I do remember some of the response to the movie, I don’t remember how the NRA reacted to a pissed off white guy toting a gun around L.A.. But, based on their inability to have any perspective at all about owning weapons, I can only imagine their secret glee as Douglas wanders around L.A. “bearing arms” and glorifying in his second amendment rights.

I’ll admit I have mixed feelings about the second amendment. When we look at the Constitution in its historical context, we see a clear need for such an expressed right. For the authors of the Bill of Rights, their memories are dominated by English troops patrolling the country-side and invading their homes. As a recently occupied region, owning and bearing arms was essential to uphold and maintain the core freedoms they just worked so hard to earn. I’ll also note that the core of the Bill of Rights focuses on limiting government intrusion into our family homes. Freedom of speech, for instance, is really less about our freedom to speak and more about keeping the government from constraining our speech and freedom of religion is about stopping the government from requiring religion.

But, it’s also worth noting that the second amendment is the most poorly written amendment of the bunch: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I don’t want to get all English professory, but if a student turned in such a sentence, I might be tempted to take the red pen to it. Was Yoda involved in writing this thing? “Own a gun, you shall, young Skywalker.”

The NRA, it seems, likes to focus on the “shall not be infringed” part of the amendment, reading that as a de facto statement that any gun laws are unconstitutional. As such, they argue American citizens should be able to carry any gun anywhere at any time. Workplace, college classroom, church building, mall–doesn’t matter to the NRA. Beyond the second amendment, NRA supporters are prone to argue  ”

the measures are needed to protect employees during their commutes. They say that employers who ban guns on their property are preventing workers from possessing their weapons when they commute, leaving them vulnerable to attack.


  “This provides safety and protection for workers who oftentimes travel 20 to 50 miles to their jobs,” said Alabama Democratic state Sen. Roger Bedford, who has introduced a parking lot gun law in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. 

  Bedford said he introduced the measure at the request of constituents. He couldn’t point to any incident in which a commuter would have benefited from having a gun in the car.”

With a certain cynical glee, I note that the GOP is caught in the cross hairs of two false political gods–business and guns, but mostly I’m struck by the sheer stupidity of gun rights nuts who lose any semblance of perspective regarding public safety and common sense. The Senator has no evidence he’s right in his claim, yet he will still push forward.

Let’s forget for a minute that the greatest danger the workers have is driving 50 miles to their job (with or without a gun) and that the danger of being carjacked on the back roads of Alabama is pretty slim, and focus on why a business might want to maintain some semblance of control over what it’s employees bring onto their privately owned property. Let’s think about Michael Douglas above and make it just a little bit more difficult for him to walk onto the job site carrying a loaded weapon.

We also shouldn’t assume that having a large body of armed citizens will make the world a safer place. There’s a reason most law enforcement agencies don’t advise getting in a gun fight with criminals. Random, mass shootings generally happen very fast and in large crowded areas. (Aurora, CO lasted about 2 minutes.) Even I, as someone who doesn’t shoot guns, knows that bullets fly really fast and they rarely go exactly where we want, especially in times of duress. Why, after all, does the military keep looking for guns that fire lots and lots of bullets very quickly? Because only the trained sniper, sitting in a relatively secure spot, is a dead eye. Deer hunters don’t shoot on the run and, let’s face it, if the deer ever started shooting back none of us would eat venison. The prospect of multiple shooters, circled by law enforcement agents trying to stop the violence, can’t be positive.

Like most Americans, I don’t really have a problem with guns, per se. I think our right to bear arms, to hunt, and to shoot recreationally is an important part of our cultural and historical heritage. While I’ll admit I do all my big game hunting at HEB, I’m glad my friends shoot deer and turkey (and even more glad when they share). As the bumper sticker says–I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables. I’ll also admit that crazy people who want to shoot up the workplace aren’t going to look at a sign on the door that says “No weapons” and think “Darn! I guess I’ll have to go off company property to be a homicidal maniac.”

But, let’s keep some perspective. While guns don’t kill people (people kill people), pissed off people with guns are a lot more dangerous that someone without a gun. The guy in the deer stand is pretty relaxed. The guy who just drove 50 miles at 6:00 probably isn’t. Let’s start being big boys and girls and have an honest and open conversation about guns. Change the language and perhaps we change the culture.


About John Wegner
John Wegner is a Professor of English where he also serves as the Dean of the Freshman College. He and Lana, his wife, have been married over 25 years. They are the parents of two great sons who (so far) haven't ever needed bail money.

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