I like guns. I appreciate the engineering, they’re fun to shoot, and it’s a skill I enjoy developing. That said, I’ve only been out shooting a few times and while I wouldn’t turn down an invitation, it’s not big on my list of priorities. What’s actually higher on my list of priorities is coming up with a long overdue solution to a very current problem: gun violence.
I guess I should start by laying out a few pieces of my framework on this one. I agree that guns are fun to shoot and that people should have the ability to protect their families. I also think that guns as they are today cause more problems than solutions and something needs to change. When both sides are asking for something reasonable, compromise is a lack of imagination.
The first thing that people have to acknowledge is that this has nothing to do with the history of the country or the second amendment. This is a conversation about how can we keep having fun at the range while protecting ourselves and our families, without putting lethal weapons in the hands of irresponsible people.
Part of how I arrived here is in observing the US’s global nuclear policy. Effectively, the US focuses on limiting the number of countries with access to nuclear weapons because it’s risky to have that much lethal power available to someone who’s intentions you can’t be certain of. So they go around the world intervening and restricting nuclear programs – perhaps rightfully so. Personally, I think there will just about always be something more sensible for a government to invest in than nukes, but I’m also empathetic to the only reason that they give: we want to be able to protect ourselves from a hostile government.
On a global scale, America agrees that people should have limited access to deadly weapons. On a domestic scale, they disagree. I’m pointing out the hypocrisy so that we can agree that guns and gun violence aren’t an ‘American thing’ or part of our culture. The situation that we’re in now is caused by mental illness, bad government, and a lack of innovation. Mental illness is something that will take a cultural shift, bad government will take a revolution, but innovation is something we can tackle now.
So how do we close the gap? How do we give everyone what they want? Easy.
Whether you’re at a gun range, or keeping a gun under your bed for home defense, you don’t need to kill your target. There is literally zero need for a recreational target shooter to need lethal ammunition. I would go so far as to say that without the risk of death, shooting ranges would be significantly more popular. Further innovations would lead to a variety of non-lethal munitions, further diversifying the sport.
For home defense, I suspect most people would agree that if they had the choice, would rather incapacitate than kill. The reality is very few of us, if any, have the wisdom necessary to know when it’s appropriate to take a life. As we continue to be reminded, most who think they do are wrong. If we can agree on that, let’s agree that the reason we want guns isn’t so that we can kill each other, or even kill someone who poses a threat to us, it’s about keeping ourselves safe. We need a non-lethal ammunition that can reliably incapacitate.
The non-lethal options that exist today hasn’t proven viable, so we need to innovate. I’m not smart enough to know exactly what this product or these products would look like but I do have an idea on how we could get there. First the government announces an intent to shift from lethal weapons to non-lethal weapons. Then, allocate $100 million to a venture capital fund and have that fund approach universities across America, looking to invest in companies developing alternative munitions. This will spur a wave of innovation in the direction of non-lethal munitions and with a little bit of time, we should arrive at a better mouse trap. Who knows, maybe we’ll end up with a Star Trek-esque stun gun.
The idea is that if we could design a weapon that was easier to use, barely needed to be aimed, and put your home invader into a comatose state until the authorities arrived, why would you want a classic pistol? It wouldn’t increase your chances of defending yourself, only your chances of harming the other person. If we can agree that the people who want to keep using lethal ammunition because it increases their chances of being able to hurt people shouldn’t have access to lethal ammunition, I think we’re all on the same page. If we could get alternative munitions to the point where they were this safe and easy to use, imagine what it would do for everyone’s personal safety.
I know, I know, I forgot something. Or rather saved it for last. Hunting. I’ll admit I didn’t quite have it figured out when I started writing this but a thought occurred to me while I was writing and it might be a good one. The one recreational scenario where lethal ammunition does make sense is when you’re hunting, especially when you’re hunting for food. Hunting for sport should probably be non-lethal to begin with so for the moment, let’s focus on hunting for food. We need the ammunition to be lethal for our target, but preferably, only our target. It would be nice to not have to worry about shooting other hunters. If that’s our criteria, we could probably innovate our way out of this one too. So we need a bullet that can be fired from a standard rifle which upon impact, would kill a… let’s say moose, but if it hit a person, would be non-lethal. Sounds to me like a miniaturized dart (like from a tranquilizer gun) containing a compound that would kill a moose while leaving a personal unharmed. Not only would that prevent nearly all hunting accidents, it may also be a more humane way to hunt.
When reasonable people are asking for reasonable things, compromise is a lack of imagination. People should be able to protect themselves. Protecting yourself isn’t the same as hurting someone else though. If you want to protect yourself by hurting others, you need help. Let’s find a means to protect ourselves without hurting others, and find a way to help others who haven’t yet figured out why hurting others just about always creates more problems than solutions.