Driving through Dandridge, Tenn., I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun.
The gun was part of a bumper sticker proudly pasted onto the back of a Dodge Ram. Normally I would write off the cliché of a country-living, truck-driving gun lover. This time, though, the caption twirling around the pistol stuck to my memory:
"Think twice, because I won't."
A lot has been said these past few months about gun control and the priority of self-defense, especially following the Zimmerman case and the easing of gun laws in Southern States.
Thirty-one states – including Tennessee – have adopted so-called "Castle" laws. Under these laws, if a person invades your home or threatens your life, you have the right to shoot and kill them, even if they don't have a deadly weapon.
This summer, the argument moved even closer to home when Tennessee courts passed the "Guns in Trunks" law, which allows for loaded firearms to be on school property provided they're locked away in a car trunk.
I understand the motivations behind this move, but I question the policy of increasing the number of guns in order to promote peace. Knowing you can fire back is not the same as knowing no one will shoot at you, and that's the reality that more guns creates. Is that what we want?
Gun advocates argue for what's called the "Cold War Principle" — when one person has a deadly weapon, the only way to keep them from using it is the threat of force from another deadly weapon.
In mass shootings, gun groups argue that a gun-owner could stop the shooter before he or she unleashes too much carnage. "If only," they claim, "there had been someone there with a concealed weapon."
This argument took a hit last week when one shooter killed 12 civilians, including himself, at a U.S. Navy Yard. Although soldiers have restricted gun rights on bases, there were military police present at the shooting. Though trained to deal with this situation, they were too surprised and unprepared to stop it.
Can we expect civilians to be more poised and prepared? When a poised, prepared mass murderer gets in a shootout with a shocked citizen, who gets caught in the crossfire?
Still, it's hard to deny that, theoretically, a civilian with a weapon could – and on occasion does – prevent a murder from ballooning into a mass shooting. Still, how do we make sure that only the right people get guns?
Concealed carriers only prevent crime if criminals think there's a threat that their victims will be carrying. According to NBC News, six million citizens now report carrying a concealed weapon. Thus, of the 313 million Americans, only 2 percent can be expected to carry a gun.
We would need a lot more legal guns in the hands of potential victims to scare away criminals. And since every illegal gun starts as a legal gun, that could lead to many more illegal guns too.
Don't believe me? In 2009, when undercover New York City private investigators admitted to gun sellers that they couldn't pass background checks, 19 out of 30 agreed to sell them guns anyway.
Fact checkers at the Washington Post say that between 25 and 40 percent of gun sales are completed without background checks.
Add to this all the guns stolen, sold by corrupt owners and bought legally by non-criminals who turn criminal, this means a lot more shady guns out there, possibly in the hands of criminals. This brings us to our last question: is it worth it?
I, for one, do not want to feel that I need a weapon to ensure I won't be killed in public. I don't want fear as reason for peace, and every citizen who gets angry or drunk or crazy to reach into their waistband and start firing shots. I never want to shoot someone, even if I'm called a hero for doing it.
I don't know if we need more or less police officers, more or less gun-free zones. I do, however, know that our goal is for less people to get shot and killed – to achieve peace.
Carrying a weapon can make you safer, but not through peace; your safety is achieved at the fear and threat of death.
Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.