Photo: Warner Bros.
The Prince of Gotham
If Gotham is in such need of dramatic examples to stir the good citizens of Gotham out of apathy, it's reasonable enough to think that Batman would like them all to don pointy-eared masks and patrol the streets, right? Perhaps allow Batman a night off?
As The Dark Knight revealed in the second scene, that route will sooner get you bound and gagged with the rest of Batman's victims than a solemn nod of thanks. Batman's crusade is his burden alone; other masked vigilantes in his city only operate with his consent and according to the same set of standards he's imposed upon himself. It's like a medieval serf picking up a sword and shield to patrol a knight's territory. It's insulting, and the serf is likely to get himself hurt. And when it comes to the business of crimefighting, ordinary Gothamites are indeed serfs in Batman's mind. The police, with a few honorable exceptions like Gordon, are little better.
Only a natural elite are allowed to rise from the ranks to join in Batman's inner circle as vigilantes. His "squire", Robin, must endure intense training to live up to Batman's strict no-killing code, and even then, Batman often keeps Robin away from the front lines. It's no surprise that the first Robin, Dick Grayson, was stifled by Batman's control and had to strike out on his own as Nightwing, even moving to a different city. Batman essentially rules Gotham as his own fiefdom, where there can only be one man at the head. Certain comic writers have taken Batman’s control of Gotham to extreme lengths. In the miniseries Kingdom Come, set twenty years after the present, the Caped Crusader is no longer fit to patrol the streets. His future self watches over the city with an army of robots in his likeness and a surveillance camera on each corner, all which he controls from his computer console in the Batcave. Excessive? Perhaps, but in Batman's mind, still preferable to allowing outsiders like Superman take his place as the protector of Gotham.
Batman critics are quick to accuse the Caped Crusader of elitism or of being a rich bully. The truth lies in the simple fact that as most of Batman's villains are agents of chaos, Batman is a symbol of order. His entire crusade is to dispel the chaos left in the wake of his parents' murder and ensure no Gothamite will have their loved ones taken away by a madman on the streets. In the traditional medieval mind where characters like Batman fit best, order is best given from monarchy: the rule of one. It sees a city or a country not as a disparate group of voices needing to reach a consensus, but rather as a human body. The people are the heart, which pump life throughout the nation. The police and Batman's vigilante allies are two arms, enforcing justice and order. But there can only be one head, and make no mistake, it's not the mayor. The mayor of Gotham changes every election cycle by the whim of the masses. He's prone to corruption (such as whenever Gotham elects the Penguin or a member of his family, the Cobblepots), mind control (Quincy Sharp in the game Arkham City), or assassination (in countless comic arcs). It's truly the Wayne family that provides a dynastic continuity of leadership in the city by day, and the sigil of the Bat illuminated across the night sky that strikes fear in the heart of criminals.
Blasters are so uncivilized
"I thought the movie was terrible, just an awful trainwreck of plot holes and stupidity. Also, Batman's idiotic unwillingness to use a handgun despite him being perfectly happy strapping heavy machine guns onto every vehicle he drives has killed more Gothamites than 9/11 did New Yorkers." --A neoconservative NRA member's review of The Dark Knight Rises
Batman's aversion to guns is one of the distinguishing marks of his character... but what could be a greater blasphemy to the American spirit? We have the minuteman, musket in hand, ready to fight for independence at a moment's notice; the cowboy winning the West with a revolver on each hip; the protagonist on every other movie poster brandishing a semi-automatic at the viewer. Even a director who personally advocates strict gun control is likely to lay down heavy gun violence in his film because it's the American way.
To be sure, the Bat's attitude toward guns has evolved with time. The original Batman strips did have Batman use a firearm on occasion. Soon after, comic censorship forbade heroes from carrying guns so they wouldn't usurp the place of police and stand above the law in the imaginations of 1950's children. The old Comics Code has long since bitten the dust, but Batman's disdain for the firearm has prevailed... and frankly, it makes sense. It's not solely because Bruce's parents were gunned down in Crime Alley. Other comic characters such as the Punisher have lost loved ones to gun violence, only to pick up even bigger guns and exact vengeance. But for a man as rich, powerful, and intelligent as Bruce Wayne, guns are truly beneath him.
In the Middle Ages, a knight's prowess was tested in close combat with lance, mace, and sword. Bows were most often used by commoners, but even those required extensive training to use effectively. It was the invention of the crossbow that drew ire from the knightly caste as an unsportsmanlike, unchivalrous weapon. The crossbow allowed any peasant to point, shoot, and pierce a knight's costly armor, negating decades of training and battlefield experience. The crossbow was so reviled that Pope Innocent II allegedly forbade its use on anyone but infidels. And of course, the introduction of the firearm to Europe signaled the end of the armored knight as the prince of the battlefield. A culture of training and martial discipline gave way to a new strategy: putting guns into as many peasants or mercenaries as you could find and have them point in the same direction.
It was the gun, "the great equalizer", that allowed a vagrant like Joe Chill to murder the most powerful couple in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne's parents, at the twitch of a finger. With such a traumatic moment shaping his life, Batman would rather learn 77 ways to incapacitate an enemy rather than take the commoner's route and draw a gun on them. Perhaps the best example is in the first episode of the series Batman Beyond, where an aged Batman suffers a heart attack while rescuing a kidnapped hostage. With his body failing, he scares off the last thug with a handgun. When the cops arrive, Batman drops the gun in horror and realizes that he's become too old and unworthy of wearing the cape and cowl, then seals the Batcave for decades until a worthy successor rises up to take his place.