Zachary Antoyan is a political science junior and Mustang Daily liberal columnist.
While I was in high school, a friend of mine said to me, “Cars are pretty damn dangerous.” It didn’t require any special powers of observation to see this, and so I replied, “They are, indeed.” Sensing that I wasn’t looking at it in the same way, my friend continued “Think about it, we’ve made it necessary that we use these two-ton steel blocks, and move them at speeds that consistently result in death or injury” (car accidents cause approximately 30,000 deaths in the U.S. each year). He was right, but it wasn’t anything driver’s ed hadn’t taught me already. I knew/know the risk of driving, and try to follow the rules of the road to avoid aforementioned death or injury.
The other day in one of my classes, the topic of punishment with regards to awareness of crime committed came up. In that same day, a 5-year-old boy in Kentucky accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister. He received the gun as his birthday present. I’ve tried to avoid talking about guns and gun control, because honestly, I’m not even sure of my own stance on the issue. But when it came up in class, I thought we were in for a heated conversation about use, control and regulations. The cat was out of the bag, and as my professor often says, “It was a puma!”
To my surprise, our class discussion did not revolve around what causes gun violence or how regulated the sales of guns should be. Instead, we spoke about the lack of gun education within our society and the lack of education regarding rights attached to them.
The reason why we don’t hold children in court on the same level of accountability as adults is because we believe children to not fully understand the ramifications of their actions. Oftentimes, philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes or John Locke will explain that how children act is akin to what a “state of nature” would be like, devoid of any social order or law. They act in their own self-interest, not because they necessarily choose to, but because they do not comprehend the larger abstract ideas like the right to life that our social contract documents guarantee. We give leniency because they are learning, and will hopefully understand those concepts by the time they are 18.
But when children commit heinous acts, we are sometimes forced to ask, who — if anyone at all — is responsible for such a crime? In the case of the 5 year old in Kentucky, our class came to the consensus that it might have been an accident (and so agreed the state of Kentucky). But that this accident even happened was an example of the lack of gun eduction throughout our society. Numerous students shared their own early age experiences with guns: fathers who had taken their daughters hunting, but who had stressed the importance of gun safety; whole families who attended gun safety classes together. “I got my first gun when I was 8 years old,” someone said. They claimed to have understood what it meant to have a gun and what that gun could do, but lamented over how sparse the education was.
Whether we like it or not, guns are extremely prevalent within our society. That there is so little education on their use and function is a little strange. Cars are pretty dangerous, but they aren’t designed to cause harm like guns are. And to even drive a car, we need to take a test. If you are younger, you take classes. These rules are stringent and can be so annoying that some people wait to get their licenses until much later in their lives (that means you, roommate who is 20 and still doesn’t drive).
We have very little regulation when it comes to gun knowledge and this issue, more than any other topic dealing with firearms, harms our society more than we realize. Just this week, a man successfully used a 3-D printer to create his own gun out of plastic. He easily built all the parts of the gun in the comfort of his home and made them available to anyone. Now, I don’t know very many people with 3-D printers, but with any sort of restrictive gun law being impossible to pass within our government system, we leave it up to ourselves to become educated on the dangers of the use of guns, especially when we can create them with relative ease.
I cannot claim to know the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind the recent mass shootings in this country. I don’t know if guns kill people or people kill people. But I also don’t know very much about guns in the first place, and I think that puts me at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to gun safety. Accidents like those in Kentucky can be prevented, and if we just take the time to educate ourselves on guns like we do with cars, maybe we will be better for it.
This is Zachary Antoyan, believing lemonade to be a very tasty drink. Have a great week.