Most of us are well aware of the gun control debate currently raging in the United States, a debate which reached new heights in the immediate aftermath of the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook.
Personally, I'm on the fence about gun control; I've seen good arguments on either side. For the record, though, I'm not a gun owner. Guns scare the piss out of me.
Of course, that said, I own an impressive collection of prop and replica guns, because I think guns, in an abstract way, are really cool. Though, if someone pointed a real gun at me, I would in all likelihood soil myself.
It's certainly possible to think something is cool without having to personally indulge in it. For example, many historians study and appreciate past wars, but that doesn't mean they want to go jump into the trenches themselves. It's that very appreciation which fills our popular media with guns, even though the primarily-liberal film industry isn't full of gun owners.
Now let's take a look at Steampunk.
Within the community, you can see nearly every type of weapon you can imagine, from swords and spears to rifles and bazookas. It's rare to see a character without a gun of some kind, and yet does Steampunk glorify gun violence? It might be easy for an outsider to think so, but I'm going to come down firmly on the side of "no".
The majority of the folks I know who include weapons in their costumes don't own any real guns, and prefer to keep it that way. Those I know who do own guns are well-versed in gun safety and etiquette, and don't look at guns as toys.
Still, carrying gun props is a perpetuation of "gun culture", and if you buy into the argument that violent media encourages real violence, you may want to take a closer look at the props that your character carries. I don't, but there are many people who do. While you may not consider just carrying a fake gun (as opposed to indulging in war games of some variety) to be violent media, consider that even carrying fake weapons might be seen as implied violence.
After all, if you were to openly carry a real gun of that sort, it definitely holds the connotation that you're willing to use it, whether that's true or not.
The fact of the matter is that almost the entirety of fandom is based around violence. It's hard to think of a single sci-fi/fantasy show or movie that doesn't feature combat of some variety, and it will take a better person than I to do it. Steampunk is no exception to this rule, as I also can't think of a single example of Steampunk literature or film that doesn't incorporate combat in some form or another.
Of course, it's ridiculous to single Steampunk, or even fandom, out for encouraging violence when violence is strewn across nearly every genre of storytelling, even romance and comedy, and it's been that way since time immemorial. Just look at Beowulf or the Iliad for examples of glorifying violence.
Still, it's important to consider the ramifications of carrying even a fake weapon. Just by posing with a prop for photographs, you're choosing a side in the violent media debate, even if you never really thought about it that way!
Do you think that Steampunks are responsible about their guns? Do you wish less Steampunks would carry guns as props? Leave a comment!