A gun is an instrument of violence.
Sure, a gun is an inanimate object, a simple tool, but all tools have a purpose, and the purpose of a gun is to kill. This is different than being a weapon: hammers, axes, and shovels are all weapons, but each of them has a practical application other than the application of violence. Firearms have no other such applications. Of course, firearms aren’t the only tool whose only practical use is the application of violence; other prominent examples would be swords, spears, bows and arrows, bombs, artillery, and tanks. What sets firearms apart from the other examples is that firearms are the most advanced and effective dedicated tool for the application of violence commonly available to the average individual. The more advanced tools generally require either specialized knowledge or a team of operators, or both, while the less advanced tools require increasing physical prowess. It is only the firearm that allows the technically untrained and physically inept individual to apply violence against others.
Guns give the capacity to perform violent actions to those who would not otherwise have that ability.
Think about the school shooters covered endlessly by the media. They were all large, muscular football player-types with the ability to physically impose their will on their peers, right? Oh no, that’s right–they were frail, wispy fellows who were picked on by their peers and lacked the physical ability to stand up for themselves until they upped the ante and brought a firearm. Guns transformed them–in both their minds and reality–from the vulnerable to the powerful in a way that spears would not have.
Guns democratize violence by making it equally available to the strong and the weak–and this democratization of violence is necessary in today’s society.
In the past, the application of violence required a level of physical prowess and skill. Whether it was spearing bison from horseback or going to war against a neighboring tribe, men were simply more biologically suited than women to perform the violent activities necessary for the day-to-day continuation of society. However, these activities were inherently risky, which resulted in men bearing the brunt of physical risk in society. In compensation for the expectation of being subject to much greater risks, men naturally developed certain privileges, which were proportional to risk in order to ensure that men would remain willing to risk their individual lives for the benefit of the tribe. However, modern society decided to do away with that arrangement. Now that women earn up to 8% more than men with comparable jobs, and any type of male privilege is looked on as reprehensibly evil (although for some reason female privilege is still ok), there is no reason that men ought to feel any duty to bear the lion’s share of physical risk. In theory, women ought to have to register for the draft at 18, as there is no justifiable reason to require men to pay the majority of the cost of maintaining a society that benefits women more than them.
Of course, all that is at the societal level. However, those societal influences have led large numbers of both men and women to reject the traditional marriage model, in which the male provided physical and financial security in exchange for the domestic and sexual attentions of the female. The prevalence of divorce and of female-centric divorce laws that almost invariably award custody to the woman have further contributed to the redefinition of the family. Furthermore, the average US male is now so out of shape from sitting behind a desk all day that he lacks the physical ability and confidence to stand up for himself, much less for others. All these factors have erased the old system in which the strong protected the weak, and replaced it with a system in which the strong are discarded and the weak protect the weak. And when the weak protect the weak, weakness abounds.
When weakness abounds, the only way to apply the violence necessary for the continuation of society is through a tool that does not require strength or skill–and guns are the only tools that fit that description.