I have been told that if a man owns a gun and he does not secure it, and his child gets the gun and blows away his other child, that the man has suffered enough, there need be no regulation or law or investigation or charges related to his carelessness. Just let it be. He has suffered enough. His lack of regard for safety should not be punished just because it led to a death, because it makes him feel really really bad. So just drop it.
When I hear this sort of thing, at first, I understand why people say it, but then I rub together two or three brain cells and quickly realize that it is stupid, wrong, and absurd. Oh, and deeply offensive.
I’ve been told that if someone is utterly careless with a deadly weapon, such that an innocent four year old is blown to bits, that the very fact that this horrific thing has happened is somehow sufficient punishment. Often, those individuals making this argument are a) gun nuts and b) sub intelligent. Well, obviously. I suppose we should expect this argument from gun nuts … this sort of argument defines “gun nut.” Gun nuts don’t want people who cause the death of four-year-olds through irresponsible handling of firearms to be held responsible. Why? Because they worry that they themselves may some day accidentally kill a toddler or an infant and they don’t want to be held responsible for that if and when it happens. Perhaps that’s the main reason gun nuts advocate for the “he’s suffered enough” defense. Because they are selfish bastards. Ignorant, thoughtless, selfish bastards.
But still, there may be some people who don’t drool when they talk who might feel that the personal suffering one experiences when one is responsible for the worst possible thing happening to an innocent bystander is sufficient punishment. Let me explain why this is wrong by referring to a different problem, something not involving guns.
And, since gun nuts are so quick to point out that it does not matter if someone dies of a gunshot wound because so many more die people in car accidents, let’s look at car-related injury and death!
We have rules that say that you must properly secure an infant in a car seat. If you don’t, you can be fined. According to the Suffered Enough Defense, therefore, if you fail to properly secure an infant into a car seat, you get a ticket. But if you kill the infant, you get nothing. If you just toss the kid in the back seat, then have a minor fender bender that causes the unsecured infant to smash into your dashboard and break it’s little neck and die, that’s OK. You have suffered enough. Because someone else broke her neck. Because of you.
In fact, not only should you not be held responsible, but maybe you should get a medal. Or perhaps a college fund can be named after you. Or a public building or if you live in the Boston Area, a street corner can be named after you (all the street corners in Boston are named after people or things). Maybe that would make you feel better. Poor baby. You killed a toddler. We’ll bring you a hot dish and say a mass for you.
It is my position that guns should be locked up. Everybody with a brain agrees with this. When someone fails to do so, they should be subject to fines or having their gun owning privileges taken away. When a person dies because the gun was not secure, they should be subject to further penalties or punishment. Just like anything else. We treat everything else that way, but gun nuts want to be treated specially. They want to be able to do whatever they want, and when they screw up and someone dies because of their mistakes, they want the rest of us to feel sorry for them.
In case you were looking for a more precise logical argument, if it isn’t already obvious, here it is: Suggesting that the decision to hold someone responsible for an irresponsible act that has damaged another should be based on how the perpetrator of that act feels post hoc, extended more generally, means that the standard for punishment under the law is inverse to the severity of the crime. It is suggesting that the severity of the possible punishment be inverse to the seriousness of the crime because how bad one feels is proportionate to the severity of the crime. I alluded to this above indirectly. If there is a rule that says I must lock up my gun, and I don’t, and a kid gets his hands on it and drops it on his foot and gets a boo-boo, I could be fined, even though I feel bad that this happened. If he fires the gun and receives powder burns on his hand, I feel even worse, so my fine should be reduced. If he blows his sister’s head off I would feel really really bad so I should not even be questioned by the police. Applied to the specific case of gun accidents that arise from careless storage or handling, this makes no sense. Applied to safety regulations or laws designed to protect people from stupid decisions of others … it still makes no sense.
Oh, and if you are a gun nut and you got mad at me for calling you a gun nut or saying something disparaging about your intelligence, you must forgive me. Why? Because I feel really really bad about it. Honest. Really bad. Give me a medal.