“The only purpose of guns is killing!”
This is a familiar battle-cry from emotional, oversensitive people who harbour a deep-seated dislike for firearms and those who own them.
As with so many hysteric hyperbolic statements of a similar nature, this one is just as divorced from truth and reality as the best (worst?) of them. The issue at hand is also a lot more complicated, but the advocates of this argument do not usually busy themselves with the arduous task of fact-checking or even merely thinking about it beyond surface level.
Firearms are designed to shoot a projectile (a bullet) at a target within specified parameters of accuracy, velocity, reliability, and so forth.
Whether or not these firearms are used to hunt animals, fight wars, shoot paper targets, shoot clay pigeons, commit crimes, or defend innocent people from criminals is uniquely dependent on the nature of the end-user.
So far, so uncomplicated, right?
Almost all firearms can be used to kill with. Their ability to effectively project lethal force is what makes them so well-suited for use by law-enforcement and civilians to stop violent criminals from attacking innocent people, after all. Considering that defensive gun uses vastly outnumber criminal gun uses in the USA, I will go out on a limb and say that rather referring to guns as being designed to protect life has a larger grounding in fact than the heading of this article.
Conversely, it are these attributes that also make firearms desirable infantry weapons for use in the conduct of war, cutting people to shreds with sabers and lances being passé since at least the mid-19th Century. Of course, criminals also like using firearms because it is easier to subdue and victimise your target when you are armed with a weapon capable of projecting lethal force.
However, there are a large array of objects that are at least as effective as guns at fulfilling this role in the criminal trade. In South Africa the vast majority of homicides are perpetrated by use of sharp objects, be they knives, or screwdrivers, or anything else classified as such. Blunt objects also have a sizable niche in the criminal violence toolbox, with hammer-wielding assailants being far from an uncommon sight.
A colleague of mine became the victim of hammer-wielding robbers on two separate occasions while out cycling, so anecdotal evidence taken into account it would appear that hammers are indeed quite popular among robbers.
Does this imply that these objects, favourite weapon choices among members of the criminal fraternity, are somehow designed to kill, maim, or perpetrate robbery and violence?
Of course not.
Where one cannot ignore the patently obvious fact that firearms are used in the conduct of wars, they are not unique in the regard that killing is far from their only purpose. Helicopters, off-road vehicles, GPS, aeroplanes, and a vast number of other inventions have their origins as being designed and used explicitly for military purposes before they became commonly adopted for more civilian uses.
Civilian uses that have vastly improved the lives of those that benefit from the services of these devices. I don’t see the same shrieking outrage leveled at people who use GPS to find their way around town every day, despite the “blood-stained” history of this dastardly appliance.
Firearms have been in civilian hands for centuries longer than any of the aforementioned inventions, and have from the beginning seen use in variety of purposes. Shooting is among the oldest of the Olympic events, and has a proud and cherished sporting heritage. Firearms have made the difference between life and death, survival and starvation, in every agricultural and frontier society that had access to them. Firearms have been used to defend liberty, overthrow tyrants and oppressors (Nelson Mandela was not shy about the Tokarev he carried in his back pocket after all), and has become such a symbol of African liberation that Mozambique proudly displays a rather garish silhouette of an AK47 on their national flag and emblems.
When it comes to the purpose and uses of guns, there is clearly more to the discussion than meets the eye.
The only thing achieved by hyperbolic arguments stating that guns are designed only to kill, is to expose their proponents as ignorant, infantile, and ridiculous. The complete lack of understanding (or total dishonesty) of the complainant regarding the workings and uses of firearms is at a level comparable to parody. It requires no small amount of mental gymnastics to jump to the conclusion that guns exist only to kill, and if we are going to cherry-pick attributes of a design whilst ignoring all the others that do not satisfy our argument, then we are committing intellectual fraud.
Sadly, as we have seen from the conduct of university professors and other academics associated with GFSA, intellectual (and indeed academic) fraud is par for the course.