Updated: Jan 28
by J. Michael Atherton
The NH Republican platform says the following about what most people call “gun rights”: “We believe that the 2nd Amendment is in a position of prominence with the intent that law-abiding citizens of the United States of America have a right to protect and defend their lives, their families and their property without government infringement.” Granted people must protect their lives, family, and property; however, even in the defense of such things there is such a thing as overkill. Numerical evidence suggests many Americans exaggerate the concept of defense.
Some statistics: for every 100 Americans we have 120.5 guns = gun saturation. 400,000,000 guns have not made this a safe nation. Guns kill 50,000 Americans every year. This number does not suggest gun owners shot 50,000 bad guys invading homes. We don’t have a home invasion epidemic. The real reasons for this huge number of American deaths? Guns make suicide, accidental deaths, and mass shootings easy. We need a new way to think about guns in society.
Here’s another way to see our country-wide dilemma. Picture thousands of people standing knee-deep in gasoline. Now picture every one of them holding matches. One mistake and a conflagration erupts.
One observation springs to mind: These people need fewer matches, not more. Why fewer matches? Accidents happen. All the time. People get angry, or act stupidly, or in a thoughtless manner. We don’t all think of the ramifications of our actions and with the state of flawed human nature being what it is, more matches increase danger
Let’s make some actionable suggestions. Matches go only to those old enough to use them wisely. This keeps matches away from teens whose developing brains often let them bypass reason to make emotion-based bad decisions. Teens get time to mature and we get time to relax.
Law officers already determine drunk driver behavior. If something as obvious as swaying cars serves as a drunk's “tell,” there must be similar “tells” for match-crazed people. We should all learn those signs. After all, friends don’t let friends play with matches.
Nor do we need devices to boost the heat, volume, or range of matches because such enhancements endanger everyone. Some match enthusiasts may get thrills with boosted matches, but their temporary glee disappears compared to the permanent dangers of enhanced matches. Remember the gasoline.
While we need access to improved mental health, as is often suggested by the pro-match lobby, this long-term solution ignores the gasoline now. We can’t wait until the distant future when we have enough high-quality mental health facilities and professionals to address this monumental problem. Such a demand merely kicks the can down the road and ignores today’s dangers. Even if we develop the world’s best mental health system, we can never catch every match-crazed person. It only takes one person to light a match.
So, let’s limit the matches. Not do without matches, just limit them, control them, and make them our servants instead of our executioners. A good man with a match cannot stop a bad man with a match. The moment someone’s match lights up, everyone dies.
Perhaps we can do the same with guns: limit, control, and make them our servants. We will all be safer, more secure, and relaxed. Stressed-out people do not need guns in an argument. They need argumentation skills, alternatives ways to frame problems, and experience with conflict resolution. A day at the shooting range may be fun, but such training will never help us live together in a peaceful community.
If you doubt the gasoline analogy, just picture us standing knee deep in anger, distrust, and hatred. Such emotional gasoline makes people explode. In 2022 there were over 300 mass shootings. Guns and anger have brought on upon us the Biblical slaughter of the innocent. Even if we limit guns, we still have anger, stupidity, and foolishness; however, without guns these emotional conditions can be contained.
About the author -
John Michael Atherton (Mike) has retired from 30 years of teaching philosophy (after 20 years of teaching a variety of subjects from elementary to graduate school). He spent four years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland (now Eswatini), followed by marriage to Cynthia Walter, the birth of their first child, and a PhD all at the University of Chicago. They moved to Southwest Pennsylvania where Cynthia taught ecology and he taught philosophy while they raised two daughters. Moved to Dover in 2019 to be near their two grandsons in Maine. He has consistently found the Dems to be a group that publicly and privately follows their stated values: compassion, honesty, integrity, respect the dignity of all people, expanded freedom, responsible citizenship, promoting civil society, and protecting our environment. Just add that they are great fun to be around and you have a winning combination.