Nowadays, the idea of a white man running around with a veritable armory brings up unpleasant thoughts for nearly everyone. We’re in a country grappling with near-daily mass shootings (to the point where there is a website that keeps track). It’s no surprise gun debate is heated.

Because of that, THE PUNISHER doesn’t seem like a hero that would do well in the transfer from comics to television. The idea of a narrative that tackles gun control in a nuanced way doesn’t seem to mesh with an anti-hero that mows down mob members with a Gatling gun.

gun control
Sure, looks like a guy I want to have a pleasant political debate with!

In fact, some people have already lambasted THE PUNISHER for its stance on gun control — calling it incoherent, asserting the show is wishy-washy on its stance.

However, I disagree. I think THE PUNISHER is making people look more closely at the gun control debate.

I don’t think THE PUNISHER pulled any punches on showing the uglier sides of gun control debate. Why should it, when this is the same show that shows us people facing brutalization by bullets nearly every single episode? THE PUNISHER covers the parts of gun control that aren’t so black-and-white. From reasons why someone who is purportedly anti-gun would have a concealed carry permit to why average citizens might turn to pro-gun ideas in our society.

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The ideas behind gun control “complications,” so to say, already appear in the Punisher’s original introduction in DAREDEVIL. In the scenes covering the jury picks for Frank Castle’s trial, DAREDEVIL is very purposeful about who it shows. Which people are in support of Castle’s methods, and which aren’t. We see that predominately women, especially women of color speak in favor of Castle’s methods. Men, on the other hand, especially older white men, have no doubts that Castle is a criminal.

Wait — you might be thinking:

“Wouldn’t the opinions of a white man with a ton of guns be the reverse of that?”

On the surface, it certainly seems so. DAREDEVIL, however, was making a move to touch on something deeper. THE PUNISHER finds itself comfortable in these in-betweens. The show strives to speak on things that go against the narratives that are typically aligned with gun control.

Violence Begets Violence

There is a large argument in our society nowadays focused on the idea that “hate breeds more hate.”

Sadly, the people usually hearing the sentiment are the victims. People who chose to fight back against their initial aggressors. If a child beats up the person bullying them, they get in just as much trouble, if not more, than the bully did. Even if the bully initiated, self-defense is punished as “Just as bad” by our society.

This stays with us as we grow up. Punching someone who espouses the ideas of racial genocide brings critique from many people. People who seemed to have no opinion about someone advocating for genocide in the first place. THE PUNISHER cuts through this narrative. It repositions the viewpoint so that the actions of victims can be seen clearly for what they are: self-defense.

The issue of self-defense, especially for underprivileged people, has always rubbed elbows with gun control. Karen Page, one of the civilian characters on the show, has a concealed carry permit and owns a Smith & Wesson pistol (a change from DAREDEVIL, where she had a Llama III-A), and has owned it, supposedly, since the incidents involving Wilson Fisk in season one of DAREDEVIL. Her Smith & Wesson becomes integral in episode ten, “Virtue of the Vicious,” when it comes to both her and Frank’s survival.

gun control
Frank and Karen have a lovely bonding moment with Karen’s Smith& Wesson.

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Safety and Survival

Karen represents a common dilemma for gun control — as a woman in the city, in a particularly crime-filled area, she owns a gun because she feels unsafe. This isn’t an uncommon dilemma for women. In a society that is outright violent towards women in sexual, emotional, and physical ways, many women would rather compromise on their opinion of guns than end up another news headline.

THE PUNISHER aims to hone in on this issue—should a woman who feels unsafe walking home in the dark be shamed for owning something that might save her life? In fact, in THE PUNISHER, Karen’s gun does indeed save her. It could be said that the idea of saving oneself and others with a gun is simply a power fantasy — and perhaps, in large-scale situations, this is true. In the case of a singular woman fending off an attacker or abuser, however, it has happened many times — typically ending in the woman being punished for said self-defense.

The Hands Holding the Gun Matter

In episode ten, “Virtue of the Vicious,” Senator Ori clarifies to Karen that

“[His] regulations aren’t about taking certain guns away from all people. They’re about taking all guns away from certain people.”

Senator Ori’s presence in the series has been hotly debated. Many people say that Ori is a strawman that presents anti-gun people as cowards and hypocrites. I don’t fully agree — I think Ori is written the way he is not because he’s anti-gun, but because he’s a politician trying to push his platform for selfish reasons. At the same time, though, I can understand their thoughts on the matter.

gun control
“Oh, this’ll be bad for my approval rating, won’t it?”

No matter what the opinion on Ori, however, his explanation of his gun regulations to Karen stuck out to me. In particular, the use of the words “certain people” in the line drew my attention immediately.

Who Are “Certain People?”

What my mind immediately leaped to was the Mulford Act, which was passed in response to the Black Panther Party arming themselves to defend their neighborhoods. This history has a concrete history of taking guns away from oppressed people, ones who were simply striving to protect their own lives from rampant police brutality. When the “certain people” carrying guns are black, a state can go from open carry to no longer allowing loaded guns in public.

Again, people punished for the use of guns in self-defense tend to be women retaliating against abusers. The evidence that continues to pile up seems to imply that guns are all good and fine with our government. That is, until they’re in the hands of people who may threaten the authority of white men. It seems more and more that “certain people” is simply code for oppressed people. Even if Senator Ori doesn’t realize what he’s saying, he’s still saying it.

Senator Ori’s polished, detached ideals for gun control don’t land for Karen because she’s been in a position where she’s needed her gun. Karen expresses doubts about the possibility of keeping guns away from “certain people,” whatever Senator Ori’s definition of that may be. What hangs heavy in the scene for me is the wonder of exactly what kind of people Senator Ori means when he says those words.

The Opposite Side of the Coin

For the record, I am personally anti-gun, and I think THE PUNISHER is as well. While the show wants to examine the complicated sides of the issue — people who could genuinely be hurt by stricter gun laws — it also tells no lies about the devastation, and havoc guns can wreak. The introduction of Lewis Wilson this season covered both the terrible impact pro-gun stances can have and why people would be pushed to side with these stances.

Lewis Wilson is introduced as a veteran dealing with feeling abandoned by the society he’s been re-introduced to after war. Wilson goes from a young man grappling with anger issues and PTSD to a domestic terrorist. In his distrust of the government and his consuming beliefs that his rights were being taken away, Wilson starts taking lives.

Just Another Mass Shooting In America

Wilson didn’t descend to this point all on his own, and THE PUNISHER is very clear about that. Wilson was taken advantage of — his paranoia and anger are exploited by O’Connor, a vocally pro-gun man. O’Connor seems to represent the general tilt of pro-gun politics. He is what people might typically imagine when they imagine your run-of-the-mill NRA member.

gun control
No snark — I genuinely feel bad for the kid.

The Manipulation of Gun Control

What makes O’Connor dangerous (and what eventually leads to Wilson’s fall into despair, terrorism, and, ultimately, suicide) is not his singular ideas, but his ability to sell them. O’Connor sees Wilson and sees his PTSD, his instability, and loneliness as opportunities. O’Connor’s pushing of Wilson to see things his way and reveal as a liar, selling fake promises, are what lead to Wilson’s downfall.

The thing about Lewis Wilson is, while he is vulnerable and in need of help, he is a white man. No one is trying to take away his rights. He is the easiest convinced that guns are his personal right by another — explicitly bigoted — white man.

Wilson is a way for THE PUNISHER to examine how pro-gun sentiments grab people who don’t need gun rights. Why “pro-gun” has become associated with the entitlement of white men or inherent violence, to the point that it sweeps away the history of black people fighting for guns to protect their own livelihoods, the desire of women to defend against abusers or rapists, and even the need of poor people to have the capability to hunt.

Gun Control: Messy?

While THE PUNISHER’s narrative in regards to gun control has been called “incoherent,” I would instead say that it’s messy. Not in the sense of being poorly done — instead, I think that THE PUNISHER strives to be messy on purpose. It wants to tackle these issues by tearing into the confusing parts of human life and current society. In order to properly address gun control, the difficult parts of the debate must be examined.

This is a show that presents us with a protagonist who has done horrible things. We’re made fully aware that Frank Castle committed war crimes. Castle is haunted by who he is. He’s regularly shown taking it out on other people, especially those close to him. Castle is far from a protagonist whose opinions we can trust. This is true of almost every other character in THE PUNISHER as well.

The writing in THE PUNISHER is complicated and delights in making the audience question things for themselves. It makes the audience question whether government corruption and war crimes are symptomatic of a cruel system or caused by a small number of evil individuals within the ranks. It makes us question who benefits from gun control. And, to question whether it’s who we’ve been led to believe or not.

THE PUNISHER has opened up some of the more difficult questions of gun control. What happens and who suffers both when guns are allowed, and when guns are taken away. I can only hope the conversation not only continues but is deepened and expanded on in season two.

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14 Comments

  1. Brain is good for you

    December 16, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    Are you high? You literally just advocated for assault if you disagree with someone’s politics as *self-defense*. You also advocate for more gun control while lamenting that the Left wants to disarm “oppressed people”. How do you reconcile your insanity?

    Reply

  2. Rich..

    December 16, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    The government has no constitutional authority to make ANY laws dictating who may and who may not carry arms; or under what circumstances people may and may not carry arms across State borders! Arms control of the people is not an enumerated power!

    video on arms, here it is:

    State concealed carry laws which require a “permit” is an idea crafted in the pits of h ell. The real purpose is to register gun owners! People think it is so cool to have a permit for concealed carry – they don’t understand that it is like the free sample of heroin.

    Reply

  3. Rich..

    December 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    IT IS NOT COMPLICATED

    SHALL NOT INFRINGE

    Reply

  4. Rich..

    December 16, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    DSM expansion – the perfect weapon. Didn’t one of the 2 “Doctors” who wrote the DSM 5 blow the whistle that they were unethically pressured and threatened by the feds to “expand” the criteria and definition of “mental illness”. Nobody wants to talk about that though. Why would there be pressure put on the them to “expand” those illnesses to include virtually everyone unless it was to turn it into a pseudo-scientific political weapon? They knew what they were doing.

    Reply

  5. Rich..

    December 16, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    There are over 370 “mental disorders” listed in the latest version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) The list includes “Tobacco Addiction Disorder” among other equally mundane and ridiculous so-called “mental illnesses.”

    If the DSM is the standard by which Obama wishes to remove our rights to own guns, then I’d guess 90% of the American people could probably be classified with a mental disorder of one kind or another.

    BEWARE, BEWARE

    Reply

  6. Nathan

    December 16, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    my dude did you even read this article

    Reply

  7. Morgan Slade

    December 16, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    To all the friends in the comments section, this one is for you 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MkRuV0aCcI

    Reply

  8. burgerboy

    December 16, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Oh you’re shidding??? You’re shidding and farding??????

    Reply

  9. Quintessential Phorto

    December 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Since it is a given that gun control (not “gun safety”) advocates’ goal is the literal elimination of the fundamental liberty of private citizens to bear arms, there is no ‘discussion’ to be had.

    Shut them down every time they open their anti-American ‘progressive’ mouths.

    Reply

  10. Michael Brown

    December 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    What a fun mashup of gun control fact and fiction! Although there are some funny factual errors rooted in the author’s leftist ideology, it’s really good to see an anti-gun writer admitting that this is a very complex issue. It’s a nice change from mindless slogans like “End Gun Violence Now!” Wish I could sit down with the author and discuss in more depth.

    Reply

  11. BOFA

    December 16, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Don’t you see how being anti-gun rights is support for bigoted fire arms laws? Incarceration rates are higher for minorities and the incarcerated are those that are prohibited, whether they were imprisoned for murder or just plain writing too many hot checks. The previously incarcerated are often elderly an have to live in lower income neighborhoods which often lead to further victimization.

    Reply

  12. Jack Burton

    December 16, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    Wait… did you just say it was perfectly justified to “punch someone” if you disagreed with their political views?

    Reply

  13. it's just Boris

    December 16, 2017 at 10:18 am

    If you (the author of the article) are pro-gun control, then aren’t you being a hypocrite by watching it? Serious question – how do you justify supporting a show that centralizes something you oppose?

    Reply

  14. Nathan

    December 15, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    this is a refreshing view to the way the punisher handled gun control and its pointed out things i hadnt noticed before

    Reply

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