January 19, 2013

The Difference Between Guns and Bathtubs

If you've been paying attention to the gun control conversation of late, I'm sure you've seen or heard any number of entertaining but completely meaningless snippets like these:
  • Baseball bats kill people, why don't we ban those?
  • More people drown in their bathtubs every year than are murdered, but you don't see us banning bathtubs.
  • Cars kill more people than guns do. When are they going to ban cars?
  • We might as well take away scissors, box cutters, and pencils because they can be used to kill people too.
Frankly, I think these comments say more about the people making them than anything else. They certainly are not adding to the conversation; rather, they detract from the legitimate debate of whether more gun laws are necessary.

Regardless of where you stand on gun control, there's a very clear distinction between cars, scissors, pencils and a whole host of objects that could be used to harm or kill someone, and guns of any kind.

Let's take a look at some definitions:
Automobile (noun): a passenger vehicle designed for operating on ordinary roads and typically having four wheels and a gasoline or diesel powered internal combustion engine.
Bathtub (noun): a tub to bathe in, especially one that is a permanent fixture in a bathroom.
Box cutter (noun): a small cutting tool consisting of a retractable razor blade in a metal or plastic holder, designed for opening cardboard cartons.
Firearm (noun): a small arms weapon, as a rifle or pistol, from which a projectile is fired by gunpowder.
Handgun (noun): any firearm that can be held and fired with one hand; a revolver or pistol.  
Pencil (noun): a slender tube of wood, metal, plastic, etc., containing a core or shaft of graphite, a solid coloring material or the like, used for writing or drawing.
Rifle (noun): a shoulder firearm with spiral grooves cut in the inner surface of the gun barrel to give the bullet a rotary motion and thus a more precise trajectory.
Scissors (noun): a cutting instrument for paper, cloth, etc. consisting of two blades, each having a ring-shaped handle, that are so pivoted together that their sharp edges work one against the other (often used with 'pair of'). 
Shotgun (noun): a smooth bore gun for firing small shot to kill birds and small quadrupeds, though often used with buckshot to kill larger animals. 
Weapon (noun): any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon. 
Have you figured out the difference?

Firearms, handguns, rifles, shotguns, weapons: when used as designed either from an attack position or from a defensive position, are intended to inflict real or simulated harm. Hunting, target practice, skeet shooting, taking out a rival, assassinating a civil rights leader, or yes, killing children in a school are all actions from the 'attack' side of the design.  Firing a warning shot into the air to break up an unruly mob, brandishing a weapon to scare aware a would-be robber, or actually shooting a person you believe poses a threat, are actions from the 'defense' side of the design.

The other objects, when used as designed, are not weapons. Period.


  1. While I agree that banning bathtubs, cars, pencils, box cutters etc... are ridiculous arguments to be sure, based on the definition of "weapon" all of the items you listed here (except bathtub- I'll give you that one) besides their designed use also can indeed be used by a person as a weapon as defined by Merriam Webster:

    1: something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy
    2: a means of contending against another

    The argument "When used as designed" clearly places the debate on the user not the tool. Criminals will use weapons in the offensive mode to victimize and exploit. Non-criminals will use weapons in the defensive mode to protect & defend.

    The gun debate should focus on the Criminal using guns to victimize and exploit, not the non-criminal using to protect and defend. Unfortunately legislation only impacts the latter group. Criminals by their nature do not subject themselves to legislation.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jay. The point I was making was that the gun debate should focus on guns, how they are used, who uses them, and what (if anything) should be done. People who are anti-gun control should be distancing themselves from those who make statements like the ones above, just as people who are in favor of certain gun controls should distance themselves from their equivalent population who think that law abiding, stable, trained people should not be able to have ANY guns.