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Abler-Minded: Inanimate objects

When was the last time you read about a firearm loading itself, heading out of the house or store and killing a number of innocent people?

Did you ever read about a motor vehicle starting on its own, opening the garage door, driving out of the driveway and eventually running down some people on a sidewalk, ramming a house, hitting a group of pedestrians or throwing itself into a roadside ditch?

Often when you read newspaper accounts of tragedies or incidents you get the impression that’s exactly what happened. Can you imagine a news story that reads like this? “Mr. Rocko Wrestler was riding in his gas-guzzling SUV down Center Street on Thursday afternoon, when without provocation it attacked and destroyed Percival Dovetonsil’s innocent Prius.”

Or try this one on for size. “An assault weapon owned by Mr. Wesson Smith robbed the clerk at the Acme Gas and Go store on Main and Fifth late last night. The assault weapon is the very same model that was used in a similar robbery in Everytown last week.”

Yes, I know the news isn’t written exactly like that, but it’s closer to the truth than most of you might realize. Next time you read a newspaper about a car accident, note how little the driver has to do with the story. Just this morning, a headline read that icy roads caused three deaths. As you read the article you found out the vehicle lost control on the road — not the driver was going too fast for conditions or he lost control. The vehicle did.

Every time there’s a serious crime where the person used a firearm, you are left with the inescapable impression that it’s the gun’s fault. By the time this column is published, the recommendations of vice president Joe Biden’s group on measures to prevent future events like what happened in Newtown, Conn., will be known. I’m betting most of them will be focused on the inanimate object instead of the human part of the equation.

This country was founded by people who were seeking a better way of life other than what they enjoyed where they lived. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights all reflect a deep belief in Judeo-Christian morality and the then-emerging concept of individual freedom.

Those two philosophies managed us well for many years until too many folks wanted to get away from that morality part and rely only on that individual freedom thing. More about that in a few paragraphs.

Our nation was formed through a violent, bloody revolution. As the nation expanded into the wilderness, people who lived on the leading edge of that expansion needed firearms for hunting and protection against many threats — animal and human. In less than a century, we fought a war against our former colonial masters and another one against ourselves. The firearm never prevented or caused a war, just how it was waged and how fast, and perhaps how many people died. That we extended firearms into personal conflicts, including murder, robbery and other mayhem, is our individual fault. That we may now try to use draconian measures to restrict gun violence is evidence of our intellectual and practical folly.

Once more, we will focus on the instrument and handicap ourselves in restraining the perpetrator.

As a society, we have pretty much evolved to the point, philosophically, that everyone should be able to do his own thing, anywhere, anytime, with anyone. That’s not workable for a society that wants to continue its existence in peace and harmony.

At one point, we accepted the premise that as long as whatever a person was doing wasn’t hurting anyone else, it was OK. Now we have reached the point where blatantly offensive and harmful behavior must be accepted by all of us or we risk being accused of intolerance, even by our own government!

While people should not be judged, their behavior should still be open to criticism and censure. But even that seems to be out of bounds today. If we don’t get back to placing the responsibility for human actions back onto the human, we’ll continue to see the tyranny of the government increase and the ultimate freedom of the individual decrease.

Our own misconception of what constitutes individual freedom and the abuses we tolerate or instigate in the name of freedom will ultimately build our prison.

It won’t be long until that bottle of beer, wine or spirits opens itself, pours into a glass on its own and then forces your mouth open and slides down your throat against your will. Some unseen force will then put you in your car and drive you down the road until you have an accident and get arrested for DWI.

Do you think in court you can plead it was really the combined fault of the bottle and your car? And heaven forbid that a gun was hiding out in your car, too!

Well, that’s what’s been on my mind.