Thoughts and Perspectives

Responding Academically: “You Think Criminals Will Obey Laws?”

The meme below appeared in my newsfeed this morning; although, I have seen such rhetoric before. 

Problems, or shall we say limitations, with this line of reasoning are numerous.

First of all, why even have laws, if we are going to say “you think criminals will obey laws.” “Criminals” (and that is a highly problematic word) break laws all the time. Not having any laws would certainly simplify things and eliminate much of the mess politicians cause. I mean, such people are not going to follow what would be the law anyway, right…..

Realistically, Social Scientists (I’m in the humanities) say laws provide order and establish a version of culturally agreed upon mores. Laws provide structure to a version of society’s hopes and fears. These are never all inclusive because making laws and enforcing laws is (sadly) left to the rich and powerful. Laws are social constructions and responses to larger historical moments. Nonetheless, laws can and do send important messages about what is right and wrongacceptable and unacceptable and people, even if unconsciously, internalize such messages. 

Having laws is sometimes about hopes. It’s not always banning something. Free speech, the right to marriage (currently still limited in places to people who are heterosexual), and the right to speedy trials are all codified in various laws. Laws in this case are not about criminals per se. They are designed to guarantee and to masterfully state fundamental human rights. Stating such, in ways, is a profound human achievement.

Of course, “criminals” in this case could be various organizations and institutions. In this case, I would imagine the same people who say “we don’t need laws regulating guns” or “we need fewer laws regulating guns” or “we need open carry – don’t worry about criminals” would be completely in favor of laws that further made government encroachment illegal, especially if it involved many Texans and agents of the federal governments.

Regarding guns more specifically: of course, people who vocally and adamantly oppose open carry and guns on college campuses know that people have broken such gun laws and will continue to do so, regardless. There have been and are shootings, all the time, in our nation. And this is extremely tragic. Clearly, laws did not prevent these acts. Laws could have potentially prevented these if background checks were fully required and more rigorous, for example. And if we had a society more fully and sincerely committed to the full health of every-single-person.

And it is important to emphasize, more guns will not prevent or curtail damage in such tragedies. More guns will only complicate bad situations and result in more innocent deaths. 

But, such laws play an important role in preventing tragedies. Increased availability, visibility, and possession of guns will only makes accidents and violent non-accidents more likely to happen. Do you really want to be responsible for people being murdered? Laws are not just about people who are determined to be criminals. Laws are about preventing accidents. If no one legally has a gun in a classroom, a gun is not going to accidentally go off (guns accidentally go off all the time, as much as gun lovers will not admit it). Likewise, a student who gets angry or who is prone to mental anxiety or anger issues, will not use a gun in a moment of passion. Additionally, a gun will not be stolen and used to hurt others. Guns makes classroom dangerous. 

Most importantly, guns kill people. (Metaphysics provides interesting theories about such.) 

Desks, chairs, cell phones, ideas, etc, etc do not kill.

Guns have one purpose and one purpose only – to kill.

Laws are also important because they include consequences for actions deemed wrong by a society. Without a law, regardless of its morality, there can be no consequences for a “wrongdoing.” Such consequences should also focus on the rehabilitation of the person AND society, not just punishing the person. We know that people are not simply violent – they are violent from a combination of cultural, economic, political, social, and even perhaps biological factors. AND a person is always a person first before they are a “criminal.”    

Laws, of course, are very subjective and selective. No law is uniformly enforced. Many laws are ignored to the detriment of society if the person is rich, White, and/or a man.

Those in favor of more guns need to really carefully ask themselves why guns make them feel safer. What good the gun might do. And, statistically speaking, the harm it likely will do.

Hoplophilia–or the love of weapons–seldom helps anyone. Everyone is less safe. Look at other countries and their relationships with guns.   

The power of thinking critically, over-thinking even, if you want to call it that, is being able to write an essay over a simple, yet problematic and closed-minded meme. Memes can be great–absolutely–but not when they name-call or attack thinking.

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5 replies »

  1. Had no idea there was a word for love of weapons! The Virginia Tech shooter legally purchased his guns. He also had a documented history of mental illness. That tells me two things. First, access to guns is the real problem. Second, our mental health system is broken. When the two combine, it can be tragic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These topics are pretty complex and my comments can go in a lot of different directions. I’ll try to be as focused as possible.

    I agree that laws function to set boundaries and protections for individuals’ freedoms. As our definitions of freedom and fairness constantly evolve with changing social, economic, and cultural mores, we are bound to amend and sometimes completely change laws. The writers of our Constitution could not have predicted the way things would be in 2015, and it’s ridiculous to expect society to live exclusively under rules and laws written in 1787. Our Constitution provides guaranteed rights and protections, but those very words are subject to many ambiguities and interpretations. The Founding Fathers never had to deal with the implications of someone owning an AK-47, so it’s hard to rely exclusively on them to guide regulations and policies for using that gun today. I don’t have a strong view one way or the other on guns. I just know that “the right to bear arms” doesn’t mean the same thing today as it did in the eighteenth century.

    I’ll also add that a law that cannot or will not be enforced is a bad law that should either be removed from the books or more strongly enforced. Unenforceable laws weaken the authority and authenticity of all laws.

    Liked by 1 person

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