The gun was designed for one reason, and only one: to kill.
There are those who would suggest a different viewpoint, that the gun is necessary for self-defense. This might be true, although I would argue that in this instance it’s primary purpose would be the same: to kill a would-be assailant first.
There are those who enjoy practicing with a firearm. They take satisfaction in pumping as many projectiles as possible into the central core of a target. In doing so, they hone their skills with the weapon, making it more likely that, if and when the time comes, the bullet fired will find its mark — and kill.
There are those who use guns to hunt wild animals. For the most part, these sportsmen have a deep-seated love and respect for the out-of-doors. Many of our most ardent environmentalists started out as hunters. They were introduced to the wild through the use of the gun — in this case, a shotgun or hunting rifle. The object of the hunt, of course, is to pursue the quarry — and kill it.
Sometimes the hunter’s prey is used for food; other times parts of it will be preserved as a trophy to demonstrate the hunter’s prowess or courage. In any case, the once living animal is transformed into a carcass, its life-blood drained, soaking into the soil.
We kill for various reasons: for food, for sport, for necessity, for preservation. Is not the law of the wild to kill or be killed? For these purposes, what better technological tool to take up than the gun?
Lastly, it would appear that some of our species would kill for ideological purposes. These seemingly random acts of violence perpetrated against members of our own species are committed to make a statement, to draw attention to the fact that an injustice has been done. And so the perpetrator engages in a destructive act of injustice to retaliate against injustice. One injustice, the reasoning goes, deserves another. The problem is that once set in motion, the resultant destructive spiral is difficult to break.
“Human drama does not show itself on the surface of life. It is not played out in the visible world, but in the hearts of men….One man in misery can disrupt the peace of a city….Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world.”
Today’s New York Times features the story of Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he viewed as threats of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration. Breivik planted a bomb in Oslo and subsequently went on a shooting spree at nearby Utoya Island, leaving nearly 100 people dead:
“[Breivik] has said that he believed the actions were atrocious, but that in his head they were necessary,” his lawyer said.
“The time for dialogue is over,” Breivik had written. “We gave peace a chance. The time for armed resistance has come.”
His lone Twitter post — “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests” — suggested what he saw as his ability to act.
Of the Spanish Civil War Saint-Exupéry writes: “The purpose of this struggle was not to rid the country of an invading foreigner but to eradicate a plague. A new faith is like a plague. It attacks from within. It propagates in the invisible.”
“[Breivik] wanted a change in society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution. He wished to attack society and the structure of society.”
“Here, in Spain,” Saint-Exupéry observes, “a man is simply stood up against a wall and he gives up his entrails to the stones of the courtyard. You have been captured. You are shot. Reason: your ideas were not our ideas.”
[Breivik] was equipped, the police said, with an automatic rifle and a handgun….He gathered the campers together and for some 90 hellish minutes he coolly and methodically shot them, hunting down those who fled. At least 85 people, some as young as 16, were killed.
Today, on the island of Utoya, Saint-Exupéry’s words became prophetic: “There is no place here for mothers who bring children into the world in ignorance of the faith that will some day flare up in their sons, in ignorance of the ideologist who, according to his lights, will prop up their sons against a wall when they have come to their twenty years of life.”
“We can’t disavow this person,” a Norwegian citizen commented on Breivik, “he’s one of us.”
Or in Saint-Exupéry’s words: “Solitary he may be; universal he surely is.”