Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Start of a Vital Conversation

Good for you, Mr. President! You are doing the right thing. No, not all of these recommendations will become policies and laws, but yes, the fight over them will clearly expose the difference between those of us who are responsible gun owners and the raving lunatics that have become the mouthpieces for the pro-gun lobbies. As a life-long gun owner and former member of the NRA, I share your righteous indignation.

I have spent a lot of time with responsible gun owners in my life. I've known a few who owned civilian versions of AKs, FN-FALs, etc. None of them NEEDED those weapons for self-defense. They owned them because they could, period. But I've always questioned why such weapons were on the civilian market. If you want to defend your home, buy a good shotgun and the appropriate home defense ammo. If you want to shoot coyotes, buy the appropriate sporting rifle for coyotes. No, these guns sell because they are, in many cases, just so much machismo in hand.

I've seen it happen over and over and over. You start thinking, you know, I don't really feel safe, and so you start thinking about a firearm. Maybe you buy a handgun, and you practice a bit, and you start feeling safer, but what you also start doing is talking to other gun owners, reading publications about guns, obsessing about stopping power, firepower, etc., etc. Next thing you know, you've talked yourself into the false belief that you MUST HAVE an FN-FAL! Trust me...I've been there.

All of these things USED to be on the fringe of gun-owning discourse. Sure, a few WWII vets in our area came home with weapons, but they were usually trophies, not things to keep loaded for protection. When my father talked about guns, he talked about the right gun for rabbit hunting, which was a 20 guage, in his opinion...too much power, not enough rabbit left to cook. Maybe he kept a shotgun somewhere just for home defense, with a few shells up high so we couldn't get to them. Occasionally he talked about something that might be a collector's item. That was the norm among the people I knew. I was well-taught not to mess with his weapons, btw, until I was old enough to learn to clean them. Eventually, I was allowed to load and fire weapons on my own, and I confess to having a taste for it.

My father owned shotguns for rabbit and bird hunting, .22 rifles for plinking and squirrels and such, and he had a .35 Marlin for hunting white tails in NC and SC...that's all he needed. Some of his buddies were still hunting with .30-30s, and there are plenty of dead deer to testify to their effectiveness. Not until he started going out west to hunt elk (which he never bagged...I'm pretty sure he just loved the road trip, scenery, etc., and so he went when his friends asked) did he buy a more powerful rifle, a Remington .30.06 auto-loader. He also had his service revolver, which was always loaded. That's it. He always said that if somebody attacked him that could take six rounds of .357 and keep coming, then it was time to I still live by that code.

As I began to get interested in firearms, and particularly the technical details of reloading ammo for my Dad, I discovered the growing body of literature that was obsessed with aspects of gun ownership my father hadn't really warned me about. For him, in most cases, brandishing a gun only makes a given situation worse. That's a career law enforcement officer talking. Yes, he has always loved guns. Yes, he has from time to time owned weapons that would be banned under the President's recommendations. But he owned them, as have I, because he COULD own them, not because he NEEDED them nor because he thought they were essential to survival!

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am haunted by events from my adolescence. Thus it should be no surprise that, in my 20s, I became convinced that I would only be safe if I carried a 15-shot 9mm around. Really? What was I thinking? As I began to understand myself and deal with my past, I began to realize I had been suckered in by those living in an alternate vision of that remains at odds with my 53 years' experience of living in this country. I had embraced a FALSE sense of security through that 9mm, not one grounded in a realistic appraisal of who I am, what I have to fear, and what I likely do not have to fear.

Look, if you think owning an AR-15 is essential to your survival in the United States, then you and I apparently live in a different country! My father carried a sidearm for decades in and around what is generally considered a rough city, and he NEVER fired a round in self-defense. Yes, obviously the presence of a badge and a .357 S&W on the hip is a deterrent, but still, that says something about the relative non-violence of everyday life in this country. So I have to ask just what it is that we are supposed to be so afraid of that we think we need high-capacity "black" or "tactical" weapons? Sadly, the Zombie Apocalypse seems to be one of the more reasonable responses.

The point of this is not a rant, but a question. If the average citizen does not NEED these high-capacity weapons, why are they sold? The answer is not because the Second Amendment guarantees corporations the right to profit by selling "black" patently does not guarantee them that right, though they shamelessly hide behind the Second Amendment. It also does not guarantee the right to keep a massive stockpile of weapons and ammo just in case there IS a Zombie Apocalypse. Personally, I have a sword and a bowie knife for that...the ammo always runs out.

The answer is because, in my lifetime, the manufacture and sale of "black" weapons has become a giant moneymaker for these corporations, trickling down to the online gun sellers, gun shops, etc. In order to maximize profits, these corporations have propped up the most radical element of gun owners, the most radical Libertarians, would-be militiamen, etc., etc., etc., in order to combat our efforts to have reasonable gun control measures in place in this country. As a result, we have more guns than people in the United States, more gun stores than Starbucks coffee shops, and, unlike the turbulent 1960s, for example, way too many guns on the market built for the express purpose of inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of targets in the minimum amount of time.

I've been following the gun market since the shooting at Sandy Hook, and I can tell you that high-capacity weapons have been flying off the shelves, as has ammunition! I just learned today that a pro-gun group down in North Carolina has already raffled off one high-cap assault rifle and is getting ready to raffle off another. Bidding has gone nuts all over the Internet on gun auctions featuring high-cap rifles. Why? So you can say you have one? What the hell for? So you can fight the next American Revolution? You REALLY think your life here is that bad? Wow. I started writing this as a reasoned response, but as this day has unfolded, I have become sick to my stomach over what I am seeing and hearing in this country, so I added to it.

In any event, the challenge I put before you is to answer this question and act on your answer: Do you think the economic impact of the manufacture, distribution, sale, and ownership of high-capacity weapons and certain classes of ammunition such as those delineated by the President is WORTH the price we are paying as a society for the ubiquitousness of these weapons? Is it worth 20 dead schoolchildren, just to begin tallying the cost? I think not, personally, and so I am calling out those who do. In what way is private ownership of high capacity rifles benefiting this country? In what way is this promoting the general welfare?

The President's proposals do not  violate your Second Amendment rights, let us be very clear. Nobody is coming after your shotguns and hunting rifles and revolvers. Some pistols...ones on which restrictions should never have been lifted in the first place...need to go. And for the record, you are protected by a well-ordered's called the National Guard. You are also protected by a more expansive local, state, and federal law enforcement web than the founders could have ever visualized. I believe in the Constitution and will defend it, always. But believe this: we are coming after your hand-held weapons of mass destruction! They are not necessary for the common defense of this country, and they have got to go. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, to reiterate, and everything to do with our collective sanity and well-being as a nation. We have lost our way. It's time we had a talk...a very serious one...about gun control. I hope the coming debate will see others from gun-owning families and traditions come to this conclusion.

The mad dogs who run the gun lobbies will try their best to convince you that this is the beginning of the end of America. They are full of excrement. They have had their say for many decades. It is time to consider the possibility that maybe, JUST MAYBE, the proliferation of firearms, especially those with high-capacity magazines, in this country IS A MAJOR PART OF THE PROBLEM OF GUN VIOLENCE!!! The gun lobbies and their corporate backers have sown the wind, and we have reaped the whirlwind, and I am tired of crying over dead kids!


Catfish Tales said...

Great article, Michael.

altar ego said...

I was raised on pacifism, and in spite of coming to comfortable terms with the views of the gun-users that now populate my adult family, guns aren't part of my consciousness. I doubt they ever will be.

In our present climate of violence I just can't comprehend the visceral rage being expressed by so many about "you can't take my guns!" I'm afraid that rational conversation isn't possible, because so much irrational hoo-ha rules the day. When I read thoughtful articles on the subject (and there have been several) I am astounded that not a single comment has offered, "thanks for pointing this out, I hadn't thought of it this way," or words to that effect. Instead a flurry of arguments fill the comments section, and reading them just makes me weep. I become weary of feeling that I am alone in listening to and trying to understand the point of view of others when there is no reciprocity. I don't need someone to attempt to persuade me to think differently, nor am I trying to change their mind. I just want to know that someone who holds a different view can at least comprehend how I think or feel, a courtesy I extend to everyone.

I suspect God is doubled over in distress and pain through it all.

I'm working on a different take on this topic for my blog, so check it out later, but in the meantime, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Karen said...

Like, like, like!

I, too, have been around firearms all of my life. I actually used to be a good shot, but the only things I've ever aimed at we're tin cans on fences. I don't own a gun, nor do I have one in my house. Nor do I want one in my house.

I am sickened by what we have become...

Nance said...

I do not come from a gun culture, and therefore, I do not understand it. I don't hunt, and I don't understand (or judge) those who do.

I guess I don't even understand the logic of keeping a gun in the house for protection if one also keeps the ammunition locked away separate from the gun.

One thing I do understand is that the mantra of the NRA that "Guns don't kill people; people kill people" is patently idiotic. Take the gun out of the situation, and in most cases, there would be no death. Guns exist to kill, period.

Your post is well-written and sound. But guns are a topic like religion, abortion, and the death penalty. No one ever changes his/her mind by talking more. And the far ends of the spectrum get ever more dug in.

I applaud the president for standing up and saying, "This is not who we are." Because even if it is, it shouldn't be.

NCmountainwoman said...

Well said, blogger buddy, well said. I drive past a Buck and Bass shop on the way to town. I've never seen so much activity there as I am seeing now.

Janet QueenofSeaford said...

Well said. I can here by way of my friend NCmountainwoman. I live in SC, newly transplanted. There is no need for weapons (as you call them) of mass destruction.

Lowandslow said...

Excellentn presentation. As a gun owner I'm a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment, but I don't see that as guaranteeing us all the right to have enough firepower to start a small scale war.

The only area where we disagree is when you say, "we are coming after your hand-held weapons of mass destruction!" I just don't realistically see that happening. WHO is coming after them? With as many guns as we both agree are out there right now, I honestly believe many people would be willing to follow through on that "cold dead hands" threat. I just don't think the genie will ever go back in the lamp, no matter how much we want it to.


Carolina Linthead said...

I confess that was a bit of flowery Aaron Sorkin rhetoric about a potential gun round-up. That really can't be done...not in this country. There are too many people who are already too paranoid about such an attempt. It was wishful thinking, at least for likely actions in our lifetime. Who knows what the long-term future is? As I told my students today, it is up to them to decide what kind of America they want to live in, and what rules and regulations they support. But no, as far as current proliferation, the genie can't go back in the lamp. Thanks, S...we are in agreement.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

of course - here in the uk most people don't own guns and there are rigourous laws around getting one, storing one etc

I think the problem you have there is that because guns are so prevalently owned - how do you get them out of society again?

And as Commissioner Gordon says in Batman Begins - what about escalation - you buy an automatic, they buy an automatic, you buy a vest they buy armor piercing rounds

The law here is also very shaky around exactly what you can and cant do to protect yourself, even in your own home - so i can't imagine a UK where members of the NRA go into coffee shops with their guns just because the shop doesnt expressly forbid it

Carolina Linthead said...

Thank you for your response, Don't Feed the Pixies. In the US, we have a heck of a mess! A great many states and communities have what is called the Castle doctrine. Your home is your castle, and you can defend it with lethal force if it is invaded. Beyond that, there is "stand your ground" in some states, which allows private citizens to use firearms in self-defense in life-threatening situations. Add to that easy access to high-power, high capacity firearms and easily obtainable conceal-carry permits for all manner of handguns, and, well, you have the Wild West, except with a heck of a lot more firepower :-(

Brenda said...

My Dad always left guns in our kitchen growing shoot rabbits, etc. None of us kids ever touched them. I just don't understand what the real problem is with our country today. Why are young people, who must have an undiagnosed mental illness, or no conscious at all...getting these weapons and wanting to go somewhere and shoot every one there? I am so baffled by all of this. Things just are so different that when I was growing up in the 50's. I just don't understand it.