The famous Star Wars object, seen as a campaign for private gun ownership.

In: Images Reading Time: 4 min

Self defense is the main argument for private armament. The lightsaber, of Star Wars fame, is the ideal archetype of a civilized weapon that elegantly shows and hides its potential for violence.

The lightsaber, most iconic object of the Star Wars Franchise, is a pretty precise depiction of a certain belief. The proponents of gun possession rely on a morality that likes to think of itself as being far far away from the everyday brutality you may watch on your news. Despite the inevitable and devastating potential for violence, these people highlight the innocence of weapons and their righteous owners.

The idea of private gun ownership entered Europe with Italy’s minister of inner affairs proposing a law that allows citizens to shoot as soon as somebody enters one’s property. Although owning a gun does nothing against real or imagined threats, it seems to generate a feeling of security. Star Wars shows us how that works.

Images of a Weapon

The lightsaber is a fictional weapon, a fantasy and a promise. It looks simply great and fascinating: it glows and hums, it is alive, rather an insect than an object. Electricity has become a picture, pure energy. In idle state, it is a rather unremarkable piece of metal that does not show its potenial for destruction. It oscillates between discrete absence and a noisy need for attention.

Firearms are inscrutable. You can’t see whether they are locked and loaded, their appearance is fixed. One has to expressively outline the inherent violence by pointing it at someone or by employing specifically cinematic means – just like bombs that need a counter to communicate their possible outcome to the audience. The lightsaber, on the other hand, is a pretty comprehensible animal that is active or passive, belligerent or relaxed.

On top, the sword is nostalgic throwback to a romantic idea of an honorable duel, man against man. This is being introduced not only as a visual key, but also as a part of the narration: it is a messenger from the good old republic, not as »clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a cvilized age«. Straightforward times.

Enter lightsaber

Self control, calmness, power

To understand the lightsaber, civility is key. According to George Lucas it is explicitly a counterpart to a world that is being dominated by laser guns. After all, here is a dirty war raging, too.

The exclusive users of the lightsaber, the Jedi “Knights”, operate on their own terms as well. They conform to an idealistic idea of a gun owner: calm, selfless, passive, without emotion and aggression, driven by reason and rationality alone, self controlled. The Jedi is actually an impossible person who embodies all the characteristics a present-day terrorist is by definition not allowed to have (the movies provide an image for that, too: the Sith, an inverse mirror of the Jedi).

»This weapon is your life«: lightsaber an d Jedi are always thought of in togetherness, there isn’t one without the other. The constellation charges each part, but moreover, it provides for a discretion of violence. The Jedi controls two sources of power: on one hand the spiritual, telepathic force, on the other the devastating potential of his electric sword. The impact by appearance of the Jedi is based on these possibilities to manipulate and destroy. They are invisible but present, which suffices. The most powerful force is the self regulation of a fearful mind. A further advantage of this domination by sheer presence is the ability of the gun owner to believe that the attributes of the weapon had been transfered to him.

Star Wars Featurette: The Birth of the Lightsaber

Hide, show: National Rifle Association

Watching the Youtube channel of the NRA, you get a good feeling for the importance of the visibile/invisible differentiation for the association’s marketing. There is the classic muscle pose of males being ready to fire away at anything. But also attempts at showing neutral pictures of friendly neighbors with a rifle, accompanied by scenes of hunting, sports and nerdy gadget close-ups. A colorful spectrum of gun usage, ranging from sensual excitement to rational know how.

Next to these pictures you can find talk shows und interviews that don’t show any weapons at all, and many of them. You shall not show guns in the political discourse that tries to legitimate and reinforce private gun ownership. When trying to be responsible, you are not allowed to explicitly pose. This is not about personal strength but about defending higher values.

This rhetoric is the common ground of fiction and reality. Both design pictures of explicit force und determination, opposed to those of rational restraint. In their temporal separation they support each other. Wrath and reason are good buddies, if only there is enough space and dynamics between them.

Consultancy of Fear

„Guns don’t kill people, people kill people“ is the endlessly repeated claim, meaning the weapon itself is neutral and has no will to kill of its own. Of course, by saying so is to deny the only direction a weapon points to: destruction.

The gun lobby may fancy that a huge presence of weapons alone is enough to hedge any threat. But, according to Episode VIII, the Jedi failed time and again throughout the whole story – including Luke Skywalker, who makes this observance. Only the attempt at killing his disciple – who was supposedly leaning towards the dark side of the force – led to the evil transformation. Extreme self defence driven by fear – no, thank you.