You can say what you will about Marion Zimmer Bradley, but right now, I’m having a hard time disagreeing with her on the use of ranged weapons — to wit, don’t.
Her fictional world, Darkover (the same Darkover that spawned the Oath of the Renunciates by which I live my life) eventually found itself in need of the Compact, which according to this site was a treaty banning every weapon you could effectively use from beyond arm’s reach of your opponent. Basically, unless you have the meatiest arms in creation and can wield a forty-foot pike, you are in just as much danger as whoever you’re maiming.
I think we’ve forgotten what that feels like, to be in danger when we put others there.
I think we’re so used to being untouchable when we decide to cause harm that it’s warped us into something only quasi-human. We shouldn’t feel safe when we’re shooting to kill. We shouldn’t let ourselves kill from so far away that the person (the people) (even the Enemy) stops having a face. Faces mean stories. Stories make us relate to each other. Relating to each other makes us more reluctant to get rid of each other. It’s a massive win.
If your beef with another person is so important that you must attempt to kill that person, do it from where you can still see the whites of her eyes. Stand that close and see whether violence still sounds like fun. Do it in a way that forces you to feel the physical impact of your weapon. Listen to the blade of your knife slicing into human flesh. Feel the way it gives under your baseball bat or your fist. Get blood on your hands. On your shirt. On your face. Taste it. Smell it. Still hot to trot?
You can still trap and cleanly kill during hunting season with a net and knife. Might even put some of the sport back into it, if you’re into that. You can still defend yourself with a crowbar. I slept with one under my pillow in Alfred. If it sounds like work, you’re right. Doing harm to another creature should sound like work. It should be work. It should be hard.
It’s hard for the person you’re hurting, after all. Or her family if she dies as a result.
So yes, at the end of a long, bloody year, I’m very much in favor of the Compact. (And of education instead of gangs. And of a denser safety net for those of us who find ourselves falling, falling, falling into the abyss.) I look around and wonder — what have we become? Do you ever wonder the same?