How good it would be to put to rest once and for all this analogy, beloved of Sarah Palin and so many others on the right, between guns and spoons? “Blaming a gun for violence it like blaming a spoon for making you fat.”
Well, it’s true that a gun is a tool and a spoon is a tool. A gun is a tool meant for killing people. A spoon is a tool meant to help you eat. (Don’t blame the tool!) I can’t blame the spoon for making me fat. And yet, if eating were more difficult, I might not be fat. If I didn’t have wonderfully functional tools, if eating were a bit of a chore, I might lose interest in shoving so many calories into my gut so quickly. Spoons make eating easier, and easy access to too much easy food might well lead me to getting fat. Perhaps I'm just not as strong as Sarah Palin. I grant that I could eat with my hands. And I grant that with or without spoons, I am morally responsible for how much I eat. But I may not be strong enough emotionally to stay skinny or I may just not have the incentive to stay skinny. Human nature is weak. I can’t always control my impulses in the presence of ice cream. I might be better off without spoons! But I have to eat. Think of it.
I have to eat. But shooting people is optional.
And if I (or you, or that messed up young man from Santa Barbara) did not have such easy access to tools that made it so bloody easy to shoot people, a lot of innocent people who would not otherwise have to die would not have to die. Yes, you can attack people with knives and pillows, and you eat your beans with shovels or fingers. But it’s so much harder. Would that man in Sandy Hook or those boys in Columbine or that guy in Aurora have manufactured so many corpses without guns? Running through a school hallway with a knife would have been so much more work. Planting explosives takes so much more planning and is so much more subject to failure.
The analogy to spoons is not absurd. But it supports the other side of the argument. It’s a gun-control analogy. If you make it harder to kill people, fewer people will be killed. It’s that simple.