‘Bout the Whole Sharp, Pointy, Stabby Things Issue and Guns

I am not feeling particularly well these last few days. In addition to the usual depression that is  just an everlasting companion these last years, and the hay fever due to my neighbour not having harvested the hay yet, several joints have decided to act up so I cannot work properly. And I do not feel like discussing partisan politics this week except to say fuck all politicians and political ideologies across the spectrum left right and center – sideways.

However this is my hundredth post on Affinity and despite the number being completely arbitrary, I thought it should be about something more substantial than about strawberries misbehaving.

The whole issue of sharp and pointy objects has got me thinking more than one time throughout my life. When I was a kid I was being told that I will be allowed to handle sharp things from the age of ten years. I looked forward to it. For my tenth birthday I got a small pocket knife and my father has taught me how to sharpen it and how to properly care for it. In our household a sharp knife is really sharp and a blunted knife is what usually gets called sharp by many people I know. I had a knife somewhere around my person ever since.

I really like knives, daggers, machetes, axes and swords. I also like bows and crossbows. I am not collecting either, but I would like to make some of each and when I do make them, I will take care to make them not only functional, but beautiful too.

However there is no denying that all these objects are potential murder weapons. Some of them are indeed optimised for being a weapon, whilst others can have as a primary function being a tool.

I would like to know where this fascination with dangerous things comes from. My take on the issue is that it si far more common than people might realize at first thought. For example many of the most aesthetically appreciated animals are very finely tuned killing machines. Many people like cats and a person who does not appreciate the beauty of a tiger or a leopard would be a rare specimen indeed. Dragons and dinosaurs are very popular among kids and they are not known for being fluffy and cuddly.

This has brought me in a roundabout way to thinking how is liking knives different from liking guns and how is that in turn different from liking squids? And my take on the thing is, that not too much, if at all.

The important thing is not what one does like, but what one does about it. A gun collector or skeet shooter is just as normal as a sword collector or a fencer, and they all are just as normal as a stamp collector. The difference is in how people are conditioned by culture about dealing with the specific issue – both from the point of the enthusiast, and from the point of of the general populace. Some hobbies are frowned on, some are viewed as harmless oddities, some are reviled, some admired. And accordingly some people are reclusive about their hobbies, whilst others engage in them publicly and proudly.

And this is what makes the american gun nuts such a big problem. The difference between a gun nut and me is not that they are someone “other”.

It is not that they like guns and like to collect them and/or tinker with them. Gun/weapons collectors and enthusiasts are in every country around the world and nowhere, regardless of how strict/lax the laws are, are they a problem of the magnitude one sees in the US.

It is not that they think about their weapons in terms of how dangerous they are and how optimised for doing harm they are. I do that too and I do not believe that anyone who has ever held a sharp knife in their hand has never thought about it.

It is not that they think about how they could use their weapons in self-defense should the need arise. Whoever has ever been on the receiving end of violence will think about what they will do next to minimise the harm to themselves and their loved ones.

It is the culture that has elevated owning murder instruments onto a right in itself, sanctifying it and worshiping it, that pushes otherwise normal people over the border of normality into the land of the dangerous. It is the culture that makes people actually wishing to use the weapons against other people, instead of dreading that it might come to that.

In a culture where carrying a sword  was similarly held in high esteem, and where dueling for the slightest offence would be considered not only normal, but positively desired a different problem might arise – instead of an epidemic of mass shootings an epidemic of dueling, where the young and hopeful would waste their lives pointlessly at the end of a sharp piece of steel.

And you know what? That scenario ain’t fictional. And it took both legislative change and a shift in culture to deal with the problem.


  1. kestrel says

    A very thoughtful post and I find I agree with you. Just taking a look at song lyrics gives me great discomfort -- the songs often tell stories about people who solve problems with violence. Certain people in songs (women, children) are written in as objects to be owned. These things are also written in stories in books, passed down in tall tales told to children and on and on. These ideas are everywhere and hard to avoid, I think everyone gets subjected to these ideas throughout their lives.

    I was particularly thinking about this as the Partner is a professional musician and I spent all night in a bar Friday while he played a gig. Before all the equipment was set up the bar was playing songs over the radio, and they were all depressingly filled with violence.

  2. says

    100 posts! I think you’ve struck an excellent balance with your posts, Charly. This is a good one, thought provoking, and this:

    It is the culture that has elevated owning murder instruments onto a right in itself, sanctifying it and worshiping it, that pushes otherwise normal people over the border of normality into the land of the dangerous. It is the culture that makes people actually wishing to use the weapons against other people, instead of dreading that it might come to that.

    I could not agree more. It permeates every aspect of society, too. Ustates has a lot to answer for in this regard, with the great mythos of the ‘wild west’ and a good guy with a gun is what you need against a bad guy with a gun, and so on. There’s a distinct unreality to it all; it’s an absurd surreality.

  3. voyager says

    Congratulations on the 100, Charly.
    This post to mark the occasion is well thought out and interesting. I could not agree more.

  4. avalus says

    This left me very much in thought. “They are just idiots with guns” is neither helpful nor enough. Thank you!

  5. gattomonstrosis says

    As a Brit on the outside looking in the problem of weapons in the US seems an incredible one to have, especially for a first world nation, on the one hand it is hard to understand how this problem could have survived the first mass shooting, it seems like a no brainer if every there was one, on the other hand though it is a very American problem. I don’t say that to be insulting, “Oh they’re just stupid yanks”, not at all, gun ownership has bugger all to do with stupidity and it’s a mistake for anti gun activists to go down the “If you don’t agree with us you must be a moron, or evil, or psycho” route, that’s some damn lazy arguing, the problem is the extreme polarization pushed by interests who don’t want public debates to get in their way, the absolute refusal to compromise that allowed one party to outright declare that their sole purpose in office was to prevent the elected president from doing anything he or they were elected to do, the all or nothing “you’re with us or against us” mentality that does seem such a staple of the American psyche, not to say that is uniquely an American problem, it’s not, but the celebration of it does play to a lot of cultural peculiarities we really scratch our heads over, you’re rich or you’re poor, you’re a winner or loser, a patriot or a traitor… blah blah blah.

    The whole idea of everyone having the right to own a gun, not just the opportunity but an absolute right that has become so enshrined that it’s as American as apple pie and to even suggest otherwise is a commie plot, it’s not enough that you *can* own a gun, you *must* own a gun, it’s virtually the eleventh commandment “Thou shalt fill thy hand and make thy day”…
    Well ok, i can see the original framers of the constitution being a bit paranoid about the UK turning its attention away from France (never happen, it’s France, we’re like two alley cats hissing and spitting at each other, first one to blink is a fur coat!!) and giving the US its undivided military attention regardless of what the rest of Europe thought, it made sense to make sure everyone had the means to resist a UK backed counter revolution, invasion from Canada or opportunism from Spain or the Netherlands, all of whom had interests in and around the colonies, and of course the colonies were hardly a land of peace and tranquility even without the war of independence so there were plenty of reasons to be armed to the teeth in the seventeen hundreds.
    It’s not the seventeen hundreds anymore though, and regardless of what the Orange one might say to get votes the average citizen is not a desperately isolated homesteader fighting off maurauding bands of drug crazed Mexicans determined to molest your cattle or whatever it is the fearmongers have everyone so worked up about.
    But there is that mentality, that the US is still a frontier land and every man has to be his own army, that a man without a gun is a helpless target. That kind of fear isn’t easy to dispel, especially with so many vested interests bigging up the dangers and convincing John Q Public that if he’s not packing an Uzi then he might as well bend over and squeal like Ned Beatty in Deliverance.

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