Who, or what, commits the action?

First, I want to show a picture of one of the world’s greatest writers, whose works have transcended the ages and are adored to this day:


Hmm, actually, that’s not a very good picture. A rather poor composition, in fact; it doesn’t really focus on the subject at all. Here, let me crop it down:


There we go! Now the focus is where it should be, on this pen named Shakespeare. This pen, shown in this picture writing The Merchant of Veniceproduced many plays, sonnets, and other written works that to this day are studied, referenced, and performed. While today most written works are done by computers, pens such as this pen named Shakespeare demonstrated that pens are capable of producing fantastic works of art.

I’m sorry, what’s that? You say that this pen is an inanimate object? Shakespeare is actually the person holding the pen? Haha, that’s funny. Clearly, that pen carried the ink that traced the letters onto the page. What possible involvement could that person have had?

Ok, back to reality. Shakespeare is the person who wrote all those plays; that pen was just the tool he happened to use to write the actual words on paper. The pen cannot do anything on its own. To be able to write anything, someone capable of performing actions must hold it and use it. Without anyone doing anything to it, the pen will simply sit, motionless, until it decays.

Furthermore, that pen will do whatever the person holding it decides to do with it. That pen is just as capable of writing Mein Kampf as it is an episode of Sesame Street. The pen is neither good nor evil. It is simply a tool for writing.

Which brings me to guns and “gun violence.” Why the scare quotes? Because guns can commit no more violence than pens can commit great works of literature. Take my gun, for instance:


(Probably could have taken a better picture, but you get the idea.)

This is a Beretta 92FS in 9mm, with an 18 round magazine and a few rounds of hollowpoint ammunition lying scattered beside it. You could even say that this is a “military-grade” weapon, as the 92FS is exactly the same as the Beretta M9 that is the current (for now) sidearm of the US military.

Is there any reason to be afraid of this gun? No. Why? Because I have no desire to shoot anyone with it, and thus I will not perform the actions necessary to use this gun to fire on another human. I, the person that owns this gun and uses it, will not use this gun to fire on another human, except as according to the laws of the jurisdiction that I am in governing the use of firearms for self-defense. (And even then, I’d really rather not.)

If a gun like this is in the hands of someone that intends to harm someone else, then people can rightly be afraid. Why? Because of the intentions of the owner of the gun. The intentions of the gun owner are what matters in determining whether there is a danger to yourself.

Guns, like pens, are merely tools. They will do what the person holding them “tells” them to do. Whether or not a gun or a pen is dangerous depends on who is using them, and what that person intends to do with them. A person with a pen can inspire great acts of murder; see the aforementioned Mein Kampf, or the Communist Manifesto. A person with a gun can directly commit greats acts of murder, such as what we saw in Las Vegas this past Sunday. These acts were all committed by sick and twisted individuals. The pen and the gun may have affected the way in which they carried out their actions, but neither the pen nor the gun affects the darkness within their hearts.

“Gun violence” may be solved by a magic wand that makes all guns disappear, but that will never solve the actual cause of the problem: people that choose to commit those acts of violence.