Under the Gun
I’ve had a host of diverse, sometimes-conflicting thoughts about guns swirling around in my brain for some time but the recent shootings in Colorado & Wisconsin have kicked that into overdrive:
- My late Father-In-Law learned to shoot a rifle (a simple .22 that he kept all of his life) as a child and used that rifle to hunt for small animals and birds. He knew how to clean and make the most of what he killed. It was often the only means with which his very poor rural family could add meat to their dinner plates. His rifle was, in a very literal sense, a necessary survival tool. But the time when guns were commonly needed and used as tools is long since gone. Guns now only serve to kill or destroy things.
- There’s such rampant careless, neglectful gun ownership now that very few Americans really have to fear criminals. No, instead we have more to fear from our law-abiding neighbors. You know, the ones who have an unsecured, loaded .45 on their nightstand. Kids who take guns to school or playgrounds didn’t score those in a seedy back alley deal with some shady lowlife; children get guns right out of their parents’ bedroom or den!
- Yes, I know of highly-skilled marksmen, for whom shooting handguns is a serious sport and their skill & accuracy are things of great pride. But by and large, I don’t believe most handgun owners fall into that category. Instead, I suspect that the vast majority of handgun owners would cite the need for possessing those weapons as “self-protection.”
- If we’ve learned nothing else from the George Zimmerman case this year, it’s that while we may applaud the idea of “Dirty Harry” style vigilantism where some swift, finite—and preferably painful—street justice is doled out, our society doesn’t have the stomach for it. Sure, Zimmerman may still be alive because he took action and shot Trayvon Martin, but the event has undoubtedly destroyed his life and those of his entire family permanently. I wonder how many concealed carry zealots who fantasize about putting a hole in some would-be burglar are even remotely prepared for—or have ever even truly considered—the incalculable emotional, financial, and legal toll that their handguns could cost them and their families?
- I believe there’s a strong case to be made that outlawing handguns would ultimately make us more safe, not less because of the lack of ease in concealing and spontaneously wielding a rifle. Wouldn’t the basic form factor—the size & shape of a rifle versus a handgun—make random, unplanned violence and/or accidental shootings (by legal gun owners) much less likely? Maybe it’s time that handguns be restricted to only military, police, or other civic groups charged with protecting their communities or country…
- What does it say about our society when we don’t bat an eye at the prospect of restrictions on the sale of over-the-counter children’s cough medicines yet people march in the streets at the very mention of gun control?
- 2nd Amendment supporters usually go berserk over the notion of limiting what they can possess, yet hardware such as sawed-off shotguns, fully-automatic firearms, rocket launchers, bazookas, and countless other “dangerous weapons” are already illegal to own. Why do they bristle so about new gun controls yet at the same time, calmly accept and willfully comply with those other restrictions?
- Gun-rights groups argue that handgun prohibition would prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, but I have to wonder what percentage of handgun owners have ever—even once—fired their firearms for the sake of protecting themselves or their families. Perhaps it’s more the idea of self-protection rather than any actual need for said, that drives gun supporters. But wouldn’t the far greater accuracy that most rifles provide or the greater sheer destructive force of a shotgun make either of these a far better choice for self-protection? If you’re going to claim to own a gun for protection, why wouldn’t you opt for the most effective tool for that task?
- If we cannot tolerate the idea of placing any limits on guns themselves, why not at least place strong restrictions on the sales of large quantities of ammunition, large capacity magazines, and tactical assault gear to civilians?
- And finally, I read a quote from Austin American-Statesman this past weekend that really summed up how short-sighted gun control opponents are being: “While [control] measures might not prevent the next Aurora, they would make it hard for the shooter to [...] kill so many people in such a short period of time. The alternative—to continue to shrug off America’s outsize gun violence as an inevitable risk in a free society—is helplessness.”
What’s your take on this? Do you believe outlawing handguns could reduce senseless gun-related violence? Is there some compelling reason why citizens should be able to purchase tactical gear like body armor? Is it possible to put in place some limits without voiding our 2nd Amendment right?