Watership Down and Why I've Given Up on Gun Control

You win.

All you guys in Open Carry Texas and everyone else who feels like even the slightest infringement on the types of armaments you can own and where you can take them is the end of freedom? You win. I officially surrender, and the reason is Watership Down.

Yes, the book about rabbits, a beloved classic by Richard Adams that is usually assigned in school.

If you've never read the book somehow, the story follows a group of rabbits that flee their warren because one of them named Fiver has a prophetic vision of the warren's destruction by men. All in all a group of 20 rabbits or so leave with Fiver in a quest for a new home.

Along the way they come across a prosperous warren run by a rabbit called Cowslip. The rabbits there are large, well-fed, and have an aristocratic air. Every morning good food randomly appears in the fields near their warren, and so they have no reason to forage. Instead, they spend their time making art and poetry, and they never, ever mention the mysterious disappearances of some of the rabbits.

Fiver figures it out. A local farmer has been setting snares near the warren to catch the rabbits. That's why he feeds them his trash vegetables. While standing over the limp body of one of their friends Fiver delivers a speech regarding the arrangement.

"Even to themselves they pretended all was well, for the food was good, they were protected, they had nothing to fear but the one fear; and that struck here and there, never enough at a time to drive them away. They forgot the ways of wild rabbits... for what use had they for tricking and cunning living in the enemy's warren and paying his price?

Instead, Frith sent them strange singers, beautiful and sick like oak apples, like robin's pincushions on the wild rose. And since they could not bear the truth these singers, who might have in some other places been wise, were squeezed under the terrible weight of the warren's secret until they gulped out fine folly - about dignity, and acquiescence and anything else that could make the rabbits believe that they loved the shining wire."

We, too, are living in Cowslip's warren. Except that we haven't embraced guns in exchange for something as worthwhile as food or protection. We've embraced it for the freedom to carry them around and the right to imagine fantastical video game scenarios where we might mow down threats with righteous wrath. We've accepted the death toll from guns, which is higher than any other developed nation, to be an acceptable price.

Some of those strange singers will point that the homicide rate by guns is lower now than it's been since 1993. That's true enough, but if you go back to 1981 you'll see the twisted lie of that song. 1993 was a peak of an unusual spike in violence related to the crack epidemic. Remove that spike from consideration and it seems we haven't dropped the number of gun deaths much at all. It's the same old status quo. Same old number of people who wander into snares.

Or there was that fact was making its way through Facebook saying that there had been 74 school shootings since the massacre at Sandy Hook. Even the folks at Politifact jumped on the chance to sing a lullaby and assure us that by any "real" definition of a school shooting there had really only been 15... as if we should be lulled by having a shooting every two months or something.

At least it's not 74, though, right? That would be insane. We might have to leave the warren. No one should stand for that.

60 people were shot in Chicago over the Independence Day weekend, something the police there attribute to the fact that gun laws in the city can be circumvented by an afternoon drive to less stringent jurisdictions.

Two more were shot in Maine this week. Another at a night club in Ohio. Another on Bourbon Street. Another in Lexington, Kentucky as she sat on her porch. Bang. Bang. Bang. Google "shot" in the News filter. Stories are measured in hours. Go on. By the time this piece sees print all the people I mentioned will be on the third or fourth page of search results.

Every day we try and make cars safer to survive crashes. We fence pools to prevent drowning. We start initiatives to eat better, stop smoking, remove carcinogens from the environment, and made getting a check up free in hopes we'll find a problem before it gets too big. We fight to live.

But for some reason we don't do it with guns. We sing songs of freedom and buy that freedom with pointless deaths. No other developed country in the world puts up with this. We're the only ones who call the wire good.

Jef's collection of stories about vampires and drive-thru churches, The Rook Circle, is out now. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner