Personification is an effective literary tool used as a method for describing something. It is a technique by which human characteristics, qualities or emotions are attributed to something that is not human — or even alive. Personification can add interest to a poem, presentation, advertisement or story. It’s fun to read. It can bring life and understanding to the subject at hand. For example, have you ever heard someone say, “Traffic slowed to a crawl,” or, “The stars winked in the night sky?” We know that cars are not literally crawling around the asphalt like infants. We also understand that big balls of gas in space are not human, and they do not have eyes, so they cannot wink. But we also comprehend what is meant by both statements: Traffic was really bad, and the starlight twinkled.
With that, I would argue that most people know that an inanimate object does not really have feelings, needs, desires or the ability to do human things. We get it. So that is one reason it bothers me so much that people are allowing — and falling for — the personification of firearms.
Consider the gun owner who destroyed his AR-15 in a viral video after the atrocious incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He stated, “I can’t live knowing that my gun’s out there, and it can one day possibly commit a horrific act like the other day in Florida.”
See the problem?
We know that guns do not kill people. While they can certainly be used by human beings for malicious intentions, guns are not alive. They cannot commit crimes. They do not have emotions. They do not get angry. They cannot make decisions. Guns do not choose to wound or kill. They cannot move on their own. They do not have the ability to get up and go.
Guns are things — inanimate objects — and yet, guns are constantly blamed for injuries. Guns are blamed for deaths. Guns are blamed for mass shootings. This blaming is an egregious error because personifying firearms takes away attention from the person or people who actually committed the crime. It takes away the responsibility of the criminals who use guns to hurt or kill others. It takes away the accountability from the human beings at fault. And instead of people seeing these bad guys and wanting to bring them to justice, people are seeing the guns and wanting them either destroyed or taken away. And sadly, that’s not the problem. And it’s certainly not the solution.
Personification is a poetic technique; it is not an excuse for terrible people to do terrible things with guns.