Guns are technology. Many of us no longer think of firearms as technology, however. We’ve allowed popular culture, emotional mythos and political propaganda to affect our view of these tools. We see them not as labor-saving devices, but as statements. We may uphold them as emblematic of liberty or we may condemn them as inherently, murderously dangerous, depending on our political outlook. But we’ve stopped understanding them technologically.
Greek mathematician and physicist Archimedes is reported to have said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” A gun is a lever. It is a hammer. It is a screwdriver. It is a pair of pliers. By this, I mean that a firearm is a force multiplier. It saves you labor by making it easier to deliver force to a target with less effort than using your fists alone. This is what all tools, including the lever, do. They amplify – they multiply – your effort so that you can do more than you could with your bare hands.
It is in losing this recognition that guns are labor-saving technology that we commit mistakes at the socio-political level. Our popular culture has begun to vilify firearms and those who carry them. Law-abiding citizens who struggle to comply with complex and onerous laws, such as those found in left-leaning states like New York, are repeatedly cast as villains in our popular media. Worse, this propaganda has infected our courts, resulting in a “justice” system that punishes gun owners for daring to be anything other than passive victims.
This was the lesson learned by Roderick Scott, a 42-year-old black man living in western New York. In April this year, Scott responded to a disturbance in his driveway. He had a legal firearm with him. He found one Christopher Cervini, 17, across the street. With Cervini were his cousin, James, and a friend. These three petty criminals were caught rifling through neighborhood cars, looking for things to steal.
The teens were drunk. Cervini also used marijuana and amphetamines. James, only 15, has been on probation twice – once, unsurprisingly, for burglary, and again for holding a knife to the throat of a 10-year-old boy. Roderick Scott could know none of this at the time. When he told the three teenagers to stop, Cervini rushed at him, shouting, “I’ll get you.”
Roderick Scott fired his weapon twice, killing Cervini. He was tried for manslaughter. “I had no idea what was going on,” Scott said when he took the stand in his own defense, “so I had to protect myself.” He was, he testified, aware that he was outnumbered, and of course he had no idea if these three people robbing cars at three in the morning might be armed. He feared for his life, he said, and so he used technology to defend himself.
A few days ago, a jury, after what surely were the longest 19.5 hours of Roderick Scott’s life, found Scott not guilty of manslaughter. The assistant district attorney whined, “I just hope it’s not a message to this community that you have the right to shoot an unarmed 17-year-old kid for breaking into a car.” This is the same dishonesty – the same lack of understanding of what guns do, what they are, and what they are for – that prompted countless local radio show callers to bleat in ignorance during and after the trial. Too many members of our society believe that a trio of young men found at three in the morning engaged in a crime on your property, or on a neighbor’s property, could not possibly be a threat. Roderick Scott should have, many spectators opined, cowered in his home, dialed 9-1-1 and waited as his neighborhood was ransacked.
If Colonel Colt’s revolver “made men equal” by giving them the tools necessary to negate disparities of strength or numbers, Roderick Scott’s .40 caliber handgun gave him the means to confront crime. Technology gave Scott the option not to do nothing. Technology allowed him to be a victor rather than a victim – a choice for which he was pilloried before, during and after his arduous legal battle. Christopher Cervini’s family, ignoring the fact that this “boy” was a petty criminal who associated, drank with and committed robberies in the company of violent drug abusers, cried that Christopher was “brutally murdered.” They claimed that Roderick Scott “was the judge, jury and executioner,” even though Scott himself had to prove his innocence before a judge and jury of his own.
Until we, as a society, relearn that guns are tools, we will continue to put armed citizens like Roderick Scott on trial. Until we, as a people, remember that guns are technology – that they are neither good nor evil, possessing neither volition nor intent as inanimate objects – we will continue to uphold victimhood as morally preferable to using force in self-defense. Until we, as a society, stop vilifying law-abiding, productive members of society who take responsibility for the protection of their homes, their families and their property, we will continue contributing to the problem of crime in an increasingly out-of-control nation.
It’s Christmas Eve. If the bump in the night, the knock on your door, the footsteps on your roof or the footfalls on your porch are not those of Santa Claus, what will you do? Will you hide and pray? Will you beg your telephone for help that can only come too late? Or will you take up your lever, prepared to move those who threaten you and the people you love?
If we, as citizens of this nation, forget that firearms are necessary tools, we will be left only with the choice to lie down and hope. Hope is not a strategy. Wishful thinking is not a tool. To preserve a free America, we must remain equipped to protect ourselves.