Being someone who has an appreciation for science, technology and advancement, it frustrates me no end when I witness block-headedness and neanderthal thinking. I see it in science fiction far too often, with books and movies that feature characters who deal with aliens exclusively by blowing them up (and box office profits soaring as a result).
And today, when America is in the throes of a lethal epidemic of gun violence, and the country can’t even admit to itself that the mere presence of guns in public hands is the root of the problem, I get just as frustrated. It seems that the only people saying what needs to be said about guns in America are comedians like Jim Jeffries and Samantha Bee… everyone else is too damned timid to just admit that the guns are the problem and removing them is the only solution.
I mean, I get that people feel they need guns for protection. But… dudes. It’s the 21st frikkin’ century here. We’ve harnessed the atom for power, seen other galaxies born seconds after the Big Bang, connected the world with instantaneous communications, sent and returned humans to the Moon and put thousands of times the computing power that got us to that Moon in each of our pockets.
And we, as a country, still believe that we need guns?
That’s the textbook definition of block-headedness and neanderthal thinking, right there.
I mean, think about it. Muskets were the epitome of defensive weapons when George Washington was alive. And today, over two centuries later, we’re still using explosives to throw molded pieces of metal at each other in self-defense (and more often in offense).
But we know that there are other weapons to be had, both defensive and offensive… and other ways to protect ourselves… right now. Fiction is full of heroes who use devices other than guns to protect people and stop bad guys, including (non-exploding) physical devices, chemical concoctions, illusions and misdirection, and even raw physical and mental prowess.
In real life, it’s clear our law enforcement divisions understand this: They don’t just arm their police with guns, they also outfit them with multiple devices, including pepper spray, tasers, shields (police cars are frequently good shields), gas and flash-bang grenades and batons, and they train them in hand-to-hand combat and strategies to bring down a perp. Many of these tools, or variations of them, are also available to the public to carry and use.
If you caught the first season of the ABC TV series The Rookie, you saw proper use of most of these tools by rookie and veteran officers (in admittedly ideal situations), examples to be applauded for prime-time television. Another personal favorite series of mine, Elementary, has featured Joan Watson (played by Lucy Liu) effectively using a non-lethal telescopic baton in self-defense.
And we should expect that arsenal to only improve over time. As an example, while brute sonic devices like flash-bang grenades and sirens are employed to distract and disable perps today, some labs are experimenting with more tuned sonics to better distract and disable attackers, as well as the microwave devices recently deployed against American diplomats in some overseas embassies. It is believed that devices like this can so thoroughly disorient an attacker as to make it difficult to see targets or aim weapons, and can even provide some level of muscular paralysis that will make it easier to disable and disarm them. And these weapons may be capable of fine direction to limit the impact to others nearby.
Tasers are perhaps the most futuristic-seeming weapons available today, using electric charges tuned to disable muscular control in attackers… and it still amazes me that these devices haven’t become more widespread in this country. Most of them are designed to fire wires with charged electrodes into an attacker, or to apply a charge when directly touched to an attacker. But there might be other worthwhile configurations for this tool, including firing charged projectiles over longer distances, or quick-tuning charges according to the type of attack. Presently tasers are fairly bulky devices, but we will probably see their size and portability improve as well, making them even easier to carry unobtrusively and deploy quickly.
As an alternative to throwing electric charges, some chemicals are potent enough to bring down a person almost instantly upon contact. Perhaps small devices that inject upon contact or shoot small capsules of such chemicals will make it into the public’s arsenal of protective devices.
And even the fabric industry may play into future protective strategies. Some companies are experimenting with ways to knit exotic materials, including kevlar, into fabrics that can be made into normal-looking coats and suits for everyday wear. Presently the more well-heeled of us are buying the first of this exotic protective wear, but over time and perfection of the process, we should be able to buy clothing in our favorite styles manufactured with these fabrics.
Further down the road, I suppose we can talk about lasers: Still considered part of the sci-fi realm, lesser-powered lasers can already permanently blind an attacker. However, they really haven’t been configured or intended to be used to do so. Someday, that may change. We’ve recently discovered certain light frequencies can operate directly on the nervous system, even non-visible light that penetrates the skin, and there may be the potential to provide quick disorientation or incapacitation that doesn’t involve blinding the attacker. We may see tiny devices designed to be pointed at an attacker to flash a precise light pattern and/or frequency and bring them down effectively.
And even further: Force fields? Well, I’m not holding my breath for that one. But there may be technologies we cannot even imagine right now that may be available to us a few centuries down the line, some of which may be as effective as the iconic force fields of sci-fi television and movies. Hey, who would have imagined a century ago that we’d be knitting bulletproof materials out of spider silk today?
Not only do we have a number of defensive devices at our disposal today, but the future of protective devices could be much more extensive, much more effective, and still be easily carried in a pocket, purse or holster. When you look at such a considerable existing and future arsenal, the idea of carrying around such incredibly dangerous devices as guns seems increasingly ludicrous, and the national obsession with guns looks primitive and, considering its potential for misuse, increasingly pointless.
What’s that?… you say many of these tools are ineffective against guns? Well, if there were no guns in America, they’d be fine for defensive protection… wouldn’t they?
But hey, don’t take my word for it… I’m only a writer, one of a long line of people who stop to think about the state of the world and its people, and who take the time to think of alternatives to the old ways of thinking. Also someone who’s now old and tired enough to not really care if the rest of you want to just gun each other down and continue to ruin this country.
But understand that if you really, really think that the gun is the one thing that Americans have a right to own and use, as indiscriminately and dangerously as possible, then I have only one final thing to say to you:
Ook, ugh, ook. Snort-guh, ook. Mmeh, ooga ook. Yabba dabba dook. Boom.