Should we let children play with toy guns? Is the idea of running around playing cowboys and indians, shooting each other with imaginary bullets reinforcing violence, or just child’s play? How about water guns, or laser tag? These are simple questions that can have incredible implications in the lives of us all. If we are indeed learning form all our activities in these young developmental stages it is possible that a propensity to gun violence could be developed. But, that is something that is only exacerbated by a environment in the first place. Or is it?
In looking at the decisive factor between how to classify whether people can be trusted with dangerous objects we tend to most often look at the object. The question of whether children should play with toy guns is not too far from the right to bear arms debate. There are those that say guns are too dangers, and yet others that say it is our right to carry them for protection. It is there in lies the debate for many. Whether the gun is really used as a device of protection. A shield and a sword are designed very differently. One is clearly a defensive tool and other an offensive tool. In order to know what we are dealing with we should take a step back and look at the statement many gun owners use in their defense, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
It is the root of this statement that effects the core of the whole debate. There have been children who have accidentally misfired weapons and hurt or killed people just as there have been accidents with automobiles and farm equipment. At least in the United States we tend to allow these dangerous objects to be used freely but tend to rely on licensing or registering to keep track of them and protect from untrained use. Still, once a sniper is trained to shoot, it doesn’t matter if he is aiming at a deer in the woods, an enemy in combat, or an innocent bystander. The skill is not necessarily the danger, but the person who commands the skill. This is the case not only with guns and other weapons but with any object, or no object at all.
Our last post on the subject took a look at objects themselves. Our investigation revealed that many common objects can be modified to be used as weapons and yet some items simply need to be used in a violent fashion. Now we must look at the source of violent intent, our own heart. Just as a vehicle can be used as a weapon, it can also be used for positive change as well. It is in many ways, unrealistic to remove all innovations that have the potential to be dangerous. But we do limit their saturation into our society, by regulation and screening. Such is the same with military training and martial arts training as well.
A person can be trained with skill to such a level that they could be classified as weapons themselves. We all have seen martial arts movies where a skilled fighter easily slays several opponents. That ability is not a common one, nor is it something we would feel comfortable with everyone having. It is the same as a gun, it becomes a threat when in the “wrong hands”.
This notion of which hands are right or wrong is purely subjective as well. Those that wish to do harm to someone often claim self-defense as justification. But how we define the seriousness of a threat is also very ambiguous. How appropriate our response is to a threat has a lot to do with its severity and how likely we believe an attempt will be made to carry it out. Here we see that the “wrong” hands do not have to be someone with anger in their heart but simply fear is enough to illicit violence.
When the hands themselves can be used as weapons, what level of access to we prohibit. How much danger is acceptable to exist freely in our society. The answers there are in the climate of our culture itself. If we permit, or sustain violence as a solution in our society, reinforcing it with cultural norms that are ingrained in us since childhood we normalize those behaviors. Once a culture of violence has been adapted it doesn’t matter if the item is a gun, or a bat, or a closed fist, any of those items are weapons because the intent of the user is to inflict pain or damage.
The real question becomes not, “Is the object a weapon?” but “Are we the weapon?”