After Newtown, after the Aurora theater shooting and other gun-related mass killings, the NRA bombarded Congress with threats of political consequences if they dared pass gun-control legislation. This space has been devoted to favoring gun control of some sort, in the form of more extensive background checks and the like. Not exactly bleeding-heart liberal stuff, in my view, but something that always makes some in the anti-control crowd angry.
After one such call, a friend in law enforcement said, understanding the painful irony, “You know, I’ve been reading some of the online comments, and I’m serious about this – I think you’d be smart to carry a weapon.”
Now this guy is pretty thoughtful, which let’s acknowledge that many gun owners are. It’s unfortunate, in fact, that the control-versus-anti-control argument often winds up with those who favor control assuming those who are against it are a bunch of ignorant rednecks who are “gun nuts,” and the anti-control people looking at the pro-control crowd as New York liberals who want to comb through gun-owners’ living rooms and confiscate everything including Great-Great-Grandpappy’s muzzle-loader.
Neither of those assumptions is right, and neither is fair. But the standoff that results from those stereotypes is killing us, or some of us, literally.
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I explained to my friend that there were a number of reasons that made it not a good idea for me to carry a weapon. One, I’ve owned a couple of shotguns that just gathered dust. Two, I’ve read too many stories about gun owners who bought one for protection and wound up having terrible accidents and having their own guns used on them in robberies. And there’s the matter of grandchildren going through all of Pops’ stuff as if his house was the site of a permanent scavenger hunt.
But I completely understand why some women friends who live alone have guns and concealed carry permits. Or why another friend likes to hunt and locks his weapons in a couple of cabinets at his house. I even get the gun collector who devotes an entire room to his arsenal, not because he’s a “nut” but because he just likes the way they look, the architecture of firearms.
Guns aren’t evil, and gun owners aren’t evil by definition.
But people who dare to suggest that maybe the per-capita gun ownership in this country shows a need to tighten up regulation – to make the system of background checks for all gun purchases, rifles and shotguns and pistols included, absolutely foolproof, and to ban semi-automatic weapons and the gizmos that turn them automatic – those people aren’t evil, either, and aren’t all liberals who want to end gun ownership.
Oh, I don’t buy that the Second Amendment was intended to condone the kind of high-technology firearms available today, the ones intended for war that wind up in private hands. The late Sen. Barry Goldwater, Mr. Conservative, once said of assault weapons that they “have no place in anybody’s arsenal. If any SOB can’t hit a deer with one shot, then he ought to quit shooting.” (That, by the way, is the fifth time his quote has appeared here.)
But he certainly wasn’t in favor of taking guns away from people.
If there is a way, a permitting process, a background check system, a simplifying and strengthening of laws, that would offer at least a chance that the next Stephen Paddock can’t get in a hotel room with 10 guns set to fire hundreds and hundreds of bullets in seconds, that will lessen the chance that another Adam Lanza won’t go on a rampage in an elementary school, then America needs to start working on it, and now. There are thinking people who differ on gun control who could do something if they could somehow get together. If those efforts continue to fail, or are never even attempted, it is only a matter of time until another shooting catastrophe again attacks innocent people – and the American conscience.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org