In mid-July 2013, George Zimmerman’s innocence swept through the media in the U.S., inciting riots, debates, and an overall sense of fear and unease. The facts, legally-speaking, favored Zimmerman, but at the core of the event in question a young kid lay buried in the earth and his killer, guilty or not under the scrutiny of the law, was granted freedom. In a parallel incident, an older man fired upon four black kids sitting in a car blaring music, saying he feared for his life. In both cases, young people died at the hands of fear and the misuse of a device that has only one purpose: to violently end life.
The principal controversies that have risen from events such as these fall under the race category, inspiring racism to rear its ugly head in court cases and dangerous activity. The United States is now awash in political and racial hatred, as much or more than it has always been. And as an American living in Europe, the problem seems pretty plain to me. The truth is, Europeans have similar, albeit less overblown, prejudices depending on their particular region. Spaniards and Catalans can hardly stand each other, and Middle Eastern and North African people continue to live in squalor, Europeans often not able to bat an eyelash at the cultural and racial divides apparent here. The difference? Guns.
Try to look at the device itself without any questions of race, culture, and the hatred stemming from mistreatment and twisted beliefs of these things. A gun is a small to medium-sized object that’s explicit purpose is to hurl a metal ball with enough force to splatter any living tissue. All humans feel fear and a need to protect themselves, but we are graced with the incredible ability to reason with one another when the time comes. A human will most likely not kill another with their bare hands or even a knife, and if so, not with ease. Firearms take less time than reason and can simply end someone with a point and click. They grant the intelligent and mentally ill alike a power no person should possess, and create a distance between the user and the victim spatially and emotionally. Zimmerman’s fear manifested in a need to end that terror. He acted as a coward with a little object with the capacity for terrible destruction.
Many say that people play a larger part in violence than guns do, but guns are no help. Their purpose is to make violence that much easier, affording the ability to act on hatred (often passing hatred, the kind that fear inspires in a normally peaceful person) with explosive, inhuman power. Americans sometimes even see guns as toys; trophies for cutting down beer cans in a backyard. This isn’t respect, but ignorance toward something that should never be in the hands of anyone, soldiers and children alike.
The problem can’t be solved merely with the disappearance of guns. There’s still racism and other forms of hatred to worry about, but guns and stronger weapons are an insanity that can’t be allowed to continue actualizing horrors that could ultimately be calmed and gently reasoned with if not for the violent machines.