Many people evidently think the answer to gun violence is for everyone to be armed. As a longtime New Yorker, who has difficulty loading a water gun, I believe universal gun ownership makes as much sense for the five boroughs as does enhancing the decibel level of car horns.
Even worse: guns would do away with what’s left of peace of mind during subway rush hours. For those readers who bus or cab it around town and are unfamiliar with the train, imagine thousands of pit-bulls chasing a bone thrown into a dog house, and you’ll get the idea.
Elbows fly, arms shove, tongues curse in multiple languages...and this is just to get through the turnstiles. Once a subway car door opens a mass of overly-caffeinated, overly-competitive, overly-neurotic New Yorkers try to squeeze into an area so jammed that PETA would declare it unfit for cattle.
In the scramble for space, briefcases become battering rams, umbrellas are converted into spears, pregnant women are trampled. There is more anger than at a Tea Party rally, a greater chance of concussion than on a football field. In such a fraught environment it would be unnerving to think that the heavily tattooed, biker-type I just beat out for a seat had an assault rifle in his backpack.
Since the average commuter thinks “I’d love to kill that guy” 10 times per rush hour, we should probably limit the opportunities to do so. Rather than encourage straphangers to carry weapons, we should dispense a bottle of Valium along with each Metrocard.
Either way I am skeptical that a subway car of gun-toting passengers would be of much use during a shoot-out. While people in some areas of the country are apparently given hunting rifles as baby gifts, most New Yorkers never learn to hunt anything more trophy-worthy than rats and cockroaches. My lone experience with guns was as a teenager at summer camp, where we had a rifle range. Lying prone on a mattress alongside my fellow campers, the closest I came to getting a bulls-eye, was hitting the target of the shooter next to me.
My workplace’s transit stop is by several courthouses. So if I were drafted into a gunfight I would probably miss the bad guy and wound a personal injury lawyer…who would sue me for millions. Given that most New Yorkers are as unfamiliar with guns as they are with NASCAR, I doubt they’d have better aim than I would.
Guns also clash with New York’s sense of style. Rifles and six shooters might be a fine clothing accessory for those who parade around in Stetsons and spurs or Colonial era wear. But with the possible exception of Times Square’s Naked Cowboy, New Yorkers look better carrying around a yoga mat or squash racquet than a uzie. As for fashion-conscious lawyers like myself, wearing a pistol around our waists would create an unsightly bulge under our well-tailored business suits. All in all New Yorkers would rather be hip than macho; we prefer to express our selves, than express our rage.
But if the NRA convinces everyone to access their inner vigilante the MTA would have to craft a new public service announcement: If you See Something Say Something—But For Godsakes Don’t Shoot!