Recent debate over gun control legislation reveals a contradiction of sorts in conservative rhetoric on the relationship between weapons and people.
As millions of bumper stickers explain, people, not guns, kill people. A criminal is a criminal and needs only a fist to commit acts of violence. If that is so, why fret over weapons proliferation on the international scene?
The notion that weapons, in themselves, are not a source of violence obfuscates the rationale behind efforts to curb weapons development programs abroad, and certainly obviates the need for total hysteria. If weapons aren't the problem, what would make, say Iran, or North Korea inherently more violent with nuclear capabilities?
The stock answer is, of course, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad and Kim Jung Un. But if the bumper stickers offer anything more than a meaningless platitude, Iran and North Korea's metaphorical fists would have sufficed.
It is true that Iran has employed covert methods to undermine America in the Middle East, and North Korea has made thinly veiled rhetorical threats against the United States. There is no disputing these facts.
But if the idea is that nuclear weapons would embolden these countries to act out more violently, would guns not embolden criminals with two perfectly capable fists to also act out more violently? The answer is, categorically, yes.
Questions surrounding the efficacy of gun-control measures and the need for punitive action against allegedly rogue states are critical to security.
But effective solutions require serious consideration with respect to the relationship between weapons and people, not partisan rhetoric and political pandering.
These debates matter, but so does consistency. To achieve it either requires both domestic gun-control legislation and punitive action against Iran and North Korea, or it requires neither. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
Safety and security are everybody's goal, but the real debate has yet to begin.
Dina M. Badie is assistant professor of government and international studies at Centre College.