On Guns and Sensibility…

I have been mulling this issue over for months now. Every time I have tried to sit down to write anything, there it has been – hanging over me like a dark cloud. Whenever a subject came to me that I wanted write about, there it was – leaning over my shoulder like some dark specter, demanding it get the attention it deserves. So I haven’t written much of anything, waiting for the specter to go away. Every time some happy subject came to mind, there it would be – glaring at me. Demanding that I address this issue before I moved on to anything else. It has not gone away. It will not leave me alone. And so I have finally resigned myself to the task at hand. It’s time I talked about gun control.

Where I am coming from…

First let me clearly define where I am coming from. I was not “born and raised in the country” and my parents were NOT your classic red-necks. In fact quite to the contrary, I was born in the city (THE city in fact – New York, NY – the town so nice, they named it twice). I was raised for the most part by my mother, who was about as liberal, anti-gun, pro fuzzy kittens and trees as you could get. Phil Donahue was her God. Leo Buscaglia her Patron Saint.

And I myself certainly did not fall far from that particular tree. In high school and college (during the Reagan years) I was a very liberal, anti-government, pro free-love, hippy. And I loved every minute of it.

It was not until I got married the first time and had children that my feelings began to change. By then I had (in a cosmic stroke of irony) gone to work for the Government, and I began to understand the idea of wanting to protect my family from harm as best as I could. In general my feelings towards firearms softened, and it was around that time that I bought my first handgun – a cheap .45 1911 knockoff.

Over the years my initial interest grew into a genuine love affair as I became a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, and gun-owner rights in general. There was even a brief period when I was a card-carrying member of the NRA, but I’ll get back to them in a moment. Now some 25 years later, I own a total of three handguns: a .45, a .357, and a 9mm, and one AR-15 rifle. I own about a dozen 30-round magazines, and keep about 1,000 rounds of ammunition on hand. I also possess a valid Concealed Carry permit, and do so fairly often.  I possess these weapons because I enjoy shooting them, because I want to be able to protect my family should the need arise. And because the inner-prepper in me wants to be prepared for anything, because well – you just never know.

Now mind you, I had not become a mindless Conservative either. I like to think that my political ideology settled down comfortably somewhere just slightly left of center. I believe that I (like most of the country) thinks those on the far fringes of the Right and the Left are well, frankly just crazy. For the most part anyway. It has been those of us in the Middle that have been the voice of reason over the years. The ones who were capable of having intelligent discussions about our differences and were able to come to consensus. That is, until Sandy Hook.

Of course Sandy Hook was an absolutely unspeakable tragedy. Words could never express the true horror that occurred that morning in mid-December, and I am sure there is not one person on either side of the gun debate who was not struck to the heart upon hearing the news. But at the same time, I have been quite honestly shocked at the venomous posture that the Liberal Left has taken in regards to gun control since that tragic event.

Sandy Hook has served to so polarize this nation that it seems calm and reasonable discussion of the subject is not even possible. It seems of late that any comment I make on Facebook that even hints of supporting gun-owner rights is immediately attacked by my more liberal leaning friends. It is as if they have “finally had enough” and they have decided they are just going to get rid of all the guns everywhere. So there.

Now I know the NRA has not helped matters any (See? I told you I would get back to them). As I mentioned, I was once an actual member of the NRA. It was back in the early 90’s however that we parted ways. Right around the time of the incident in Waco, Texas. After that tragedy, Wayne Lapierre came out and called the slain ATF agents “Jack-booted thugs who deserved what they got”. I was shocked. I saw them instead as cops – policemen with wives and children. Policemen who had been gunned down, and who deserved better than to be spoken of that way. Me and the NRA parted company after that.

And lately, the comments of Mr. Lapierre and others at the NRA have done more to polarize this discussion and hurt the cause of gun-rights advocates than anything the Left has come up with. Frankly, I wish he would stop helping.

What I believe…

  • I do happen to believe in and support the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. I am a little skeptical of the interpretation of it from the Right. I think that bit about “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” pretty clearly is intended to mean that if we needed the citizenry to help defend the country, they should all have their own guns to do so. I disagree with the far-right, and their claim that this clause was “always intended to protect US from the Government”.
  • I believe that gun-bans by and large do not work. Since nobody in government has the balls to stand up and say that “all guns everywhere should be taken away”, any ban being discussed would only limit or prohibit the sale of new assault rifles and large capacity magazines. It would do nothing about – or even address at all – the fact that there are literally tens of millions of these guns and these magazines out there already. No ban legislation being discussed would address that issue. To stop the sale of new assault weapons and then say you have made anybody safer, is the same as saying you solved the obesity problem by outlawing spoons.
  • I do strongly support tighter controls on exactly WHO can purchase a firearm – of any kind. It is ridiculous that we cannot seem to clamp down on the mentally unstable, or the drug abusers, or the PFA violators. I absolutely agree that while guns should remain legal and available, that should also mean that we are a lot more careful about who we let have access to them. By this token, the mother of the teenager who pulled the trigger that day at Sandy Hook should have and would have gone to prison for not properly securing her weapons. But then again, she’s dead.
  • I also believe that the Liberal Left is using Sandy Hook and their cry for tighter gun laws as a salve for their rage. They do not know who else to lash out at. The shooter is dead. His mother (who allowed him access to the weapons) is dead. So now instead, they are going to scream from the rooftops that “enough is enough” without any thought about whether this would actually accomplish anything.
  • I believe it is a good idea to place an armed policeman in every single school in this country. To keep our children safe, we have declared school zones to be “gun free” zones, and have placed prominent signage proclaiming the same. You might as well tell every crazy out there that a school is a good place to kill a lot of innocent people, and nobody will be shooting back. Wrong approach.

The fact is that a ban on the sale of new assault weapons would do nothing to stop or slow down the sale of the millions upon millions of “assault” type rifles that are bought and sold in this country every day. Or the high-capacity magazines for that matter. And while we’re on it, the Left cannot even seem to agree on what they mean by “assault rifle”. They have a picture in their minds. An image of this evil black rifle, and they believe that if they make it illegal, nobody will ever be shot with one again.

Of course they don’t want to talk about the fact that the last time they tried this, it did not work. There is a reason the last gun-ban was repealed after 10 years. It didn’t work. It did nothing to stop violent shootings. Remember that Columbine occurred right in the middle of the last ban. And the Virginia Tech shootings were accomplished with no assault rifle at all – just two legal handguns.

And banning “high-capacity” magazines is another joke. As if this would save any lives either. The time it takes to drop an empty magazine from a rifle and slap in a new one is about 1.5 seconds. If anyone thinks making a psychopath take that extra 1.5 seconds to reload is going to save any lives, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m selling…

The bottom line is that banning “assault weapons” or “high-capacity magazines” is not going to save one single life. It is not going to prevent one crazy bent on homicide from committing his horrific act, or prevent one psycho from killing for no reason. What it will do is prevent law-abiding tax-payers like myself from purchasing these guns, and that will accomplish exactly nothing.

So what now?

So now what do we do? First off, I would like to see the Far Right stop refusing to even discuss some new controls. Obviously, something has to change. The more the Far Right keeps insisting there is no problem, and that they are completely protected by the Constitution, and there is nothing anyone can do about it, the more they will face a growing opposition.

But the Left needs to let up a bit too. I have been surprised at the venom in their attack. As if every gun-owner is now the enemy. It seems that anyone who continues to stand up for gun-owners’ rights is vilified and grouped in with the far-right, Lapierrer’s of this world. If we don’t stop the attacks on both sides, we will never get to a place where we can have an intelligent discussion.

Obviously something needs to change, but both sides need to give a little. Let’s start with much tighter controls on the sale of all guns – not only “over-the-counter” sales, but gun-show sales and private sales alike. Somehow we have to make an effort to make sure that a mentally un-stable person is not able to purchase any kind of gun. Let’s also put a cop in every school. This is something that isn’t that alien a notion here in Maine, with most schools having a particular police officer assigned to the school. This officer makes a point of spending significant time at the school so the kids come to know and trust him or her. Why not just make that a permanent gig?

At the end of the day, I am not sure there is a “one final solution” to this whole debate. It seems most of my conservative friends are digging in, tightening their grip on their guns, and preparing for battle. My liberal friends are seeing this as a chance to finally outlaw all guns everywhere. Somehow we have to be able to come together in the middle. We have to be able to see that some change is needed, but a radical re-defining of our constitutional rights is overkill.

I for one am a gun-rights enthusiast who is willing to discuss the matter. How about you?

11 thoughts on “On Guns and Sensibility…

  1. RoxxyB

    Very well said my friend. I also think taking a weapons safety course before you can purchase a gun should be on the table as well. We have to take a hunters safety course to hunt, it should be similar to buy a gun. Get the professionals to teach proper care, safety, storage and the use of a firearm.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Rox – and I have to say this is one of those bargaining chips that I would be willing to concede myself. I remember taking my hunter safety course years (and years!) ago. I’m not sure about requiring a course just to purchase a gun, but can get behind requiring some training before you openly carry, or carry concealed. Hard to argue the point when you have to take a course to drive a car.

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  2. Pete Johnson

    John- I agree with most of your points. However, do gun owners need 30 round clips or military assault semi auto rifles? It seems these are needed by those that feel the need to go on the offensive; not defend their homes or love ones. My 12 gauge pump shotgun and 357 revolver will do the job. -Pete

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    1. Pete, I think the real question then becomes, “why do I need to justify that”? The 2nd Amendment does gaurantee the my right to keep and bear arms. Not “only if I can prove I need this particular one”. This gets back to the actual “taking away” or making illegal guns that are currently available. The guns themselves – “military assault semi-auto rifles” or ortherwise, are not the problem. Don’t make me justify why I chose to purchase an AR-15 (it happens to be a sweet gun that is fun to shoot and is infinitely customizable), instead make DAMN sure that only sane, sober, law-abiding citizens can buy one.

      To put this in another context I know we both can relate to Pete, what if it was decided that motorcycle deaths would be reduced if we limited the size of their engines. A new law was passed that said they could only sell motorcycles with 500cc’s or less. The question could be posed “but why do you need any more power than that”? Would you want to justify your personal choice to ride a big comfortable 2000cc touring bike if you wanted to? Is it really any of their business?

      Making a law-abiding tax payer justify why he or she “needs” any particular gun or magazine is the same thing. Keep them out of the wrong hands instead.

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  3. Well said John, I agree and disagree. I do think that ANYTHING that is done needs to first be shown to #1 be a problem and #2 that the “FIX” actually is. For instance, Roxxy B says weapons safety courses should be law. Well, the FACT is that gun accidents, are for all intents and purposes, nonexistent as far as being statistically significant, so why demand safety courses when that is not a problem? Same with Pete’s suggestion that somehow we should permit ownership of something based on wether or not a “need” can be demonstrated. Assault rifles are again, just like firearm accidents, not a statistical significance. No issue exists, why do something about it when it is not a problem? We waste so much time and political capital trying to make ideological headway instead of focusing on the actual problem.

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  4. Liam

    Well, you knew I’d show up here eventually. I have read your blog and taken a minute to reflect on what you have written and I have one thing to say…

    Well done.

    I think we have let the vocal minority (on both sides) rule the roost for far too long. It seems to me that there are far more reasoned and rational people than nut jobs out there, but that they are (pardon the pun) gun-shy about jumping into the fray. We need to move away from those spewing rhetoric so that we can finally have intelligent conversations about what to do regarding this issue, as well as many others, without the vitriol and enmity.

    Even though you and I may lean slightly towards different directions we are really not that far apart on our feelings about guns and “gun control”. I hope that some day the rational citizens if this Country stand up and be counted so that we may finally get something done in a positive manner.

    Thanks for sharing.

    -L

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  5. Ben

    Very well written and thought out JB. I’ve been reading from others with “clear minds, and middle-ground ideals” as well and am encouraged by their ideas. One thought I had, and one I’m not positive would work without lots of $$ is that a “permit” of sorts could be issued to citizens after training and verification of their mental health. This would be much like a driver’s license. With one of these permits, the standard “quick background check” would still be used for new firearm purchases, but private sales would require the seller to verify and record who they sell to. There would be ways around it of course. Nothing is ever easy and there are a lot of grey areas. For one, I am uncomfortable with the idea of all gun sales being registered in a database somewhere…. but that might be my childish paranoid side coming out.

    I’ve actually disconnected from the far left / right discussions as it’s honestly not worth the frustration. But we should not, can not let the issue slide. Times change, people change, situations change. We either change with them or get left behind.

    -BB

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  6. John,
    Good job, mate! I agree with Liam that the vocal minority on both sides has had far too much coverage on this subject. You and I are very very close on this one.
    Maybe not what you’d expect from an ultra-liberal like me, eh?
    Hope you’re well, and all the best to you and yours.
    Mathew

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