Knives don’t kill people, I kill people

‘Guns don’t kill people,” a t-shirt I saw recently said, ‘people with moustaches do.’ There are other variations: ‘Guns don’t kill people, I kill people.’ Or: ‘Guns don’t kill people, Chuck Norris kills people.’

They’re all playing on a National Rifle Association (the American pro-gun lobby) slogan that goes: ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do,’ and its logic is that we shouldn’t ban or control gun ownership, because guns aren’t the cause of violence, people are. It’s a popular idea in a country where the right to bear arms (as opposed to the right to bare arms, sadly absent from Sharia law) exists, but it’s unlikely to catch on here.

The weapon of choice in Britain, according to the news, is the kitchen knife.

Last week we learned of more youth and knife-related killings. So far, I have seen very few bumper-stickers saying: ‘Knives don’t kill people, young people do,’ and there are a few reasons. One is that the debate is a little more complex than the one surrounding guns, but the other is the well-known fact that if you try to stand in the way of a knee-jerk reaction you tend to get kicked in the goolies. ‘Panic!’ is usually what newspapers proclaim, and politicians (particularly ones in beleaguered parties) are desperate to be seen to be ‘doing something’. So they legislate.

And fair enough. The problem is serious. People are dying. Indignation and anger are legitimate emotions. But they mean that disagreeing with proposed action is often read as not taking the issue seriously. ‘Here’s the choice,’ the voice of outrage says: ‘Do you think we should implement my knee-jerk solution, or would you prefer that more children die?’ Well, gosh, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure.

Some proposed solutions last week were predictable (‘Jail! More jail! Jail everybody!’), but some were surprising and just a little weird (‘Ban kitchen knives – they’re pointy and therefore more stabby’).

While I’m not used to agreeing with Germaine Greer (Who wouldn’t love to tell her: ‘You’re a feminist? That’s so cute!’?), I agree with her that we are once again mistakenly focusing on the implement, not the force and reason behind it.

Remove pointy knives from every household and the killings will stop? I doubt it. Last week’s news also carried a story of a man beaten to death, remember? Do we really think it’s beyond our young people to learn how to slash a throat rather than stab? And when all knives are banned and they start using broken bottles, what then? Send kids to prison for longer and they will spend longer mixing with criminals and being brutalised. They will come out more likely to want to harm people, not less. Simplistic answers make us feel better, but rarely fix the problem for long.

I’m no NRA sympathiser. I think guns do kill people. But the British example proves that there is more going on than just weapons proliferation in our (or American) homes.

So do we blame TV? Violent video-games? Jazz music for songs like ‘Mac the Knife’? I’m just throwing this out there, but our post-Christian, postmodern culture has raised a generation that has no objective standard for right and wrong. At the same time, our leaders resort to violence on a massive scale for apparently no reason. Order is maintained by increasing levels of force, some of it deadly. Are we really surprised they do the same?

Twenty years ago, as Ms (Miss?) Greer pointed out, a boy with a pocket knife caused no fear. Something has changed in our society and if we keep talking about symptoms and don’t bother examining the causes, the body count will grow exponentially every year.


One Response

  1. The very fact that the right of people to be armed, in the US, is the 2nd Amendment to our constitution is a reflection of how important our Founding Father’s thought it was to have an armed citizenry. It has nothing to do with self defense. The right of someone to defend themselves was sacrosanct. Our Second Amendment is there so people would always have the ability to oppose their government with arms. Just like they had to do to eliminate the english crown as a government back in the 1700’s. If a government has reason to fear it’s own armed citizens, then that government needs to go. Misuse of guns by criminals is a very small price to pay for freedom.
    Jack Karle
    “”Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American G.I. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.””—Tony Blair, British Prime Minister.

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