Let’s not deny it’s our right to own them. And let’s not pretend they’re for anything other than taking life.
I first learned to shoot a gun when I was about ten years old. My father, a Marine and a Vietnam War veteran, took me up to the rolling mountains near the New York-Pennsylvania border to practice. Before, during, and after the lesson, he seriously and eloquently explained why: He and many others had fought for the American way of life, including the right to bear arms. As I was about to embark on adolescence and transition into manhood, it was time, he said, I learned how to be an American.
I remember the recoil of the 9mm pistol hurting my little boy hands; I much preferred the .22 rifle, resting comfortably in my tiny shoulder and making a hissing pop each time I gently squeezed the trigger. The initial experience was not exhilarating, and it wasn’t awesomely powerful.
This is likely why gun fetishists—not enthusiasts, fetishists—disturb me greatly.
Up there near Bloomsburg, Pa., 20 years ago, my dad taught me that violence was a last resort: There was nothing fun about it, and it wasn’t something to be joked about. Violence and death are scary, disturbing things. Good guys prevent it, bad guys spread it, and it’s up to responsible Americans to keep the bad guys in check, he’d say.
As my father had hoped, it was disturbing to me. I received his transmission loud and clear: Guns aren’t cool and they aren’t just a hobby. They’re a tool with one primary purpose: to kill or maim another living thing.
“If you point a gun at someone,” my dad solemnly told me, “you’ve indicated you’re willing to kill them. So, unless you are ready to end someone’s life, do not point a gun at them, ever.” He taught me this in addition to a lot of other standard gun safety protocols: No matter what, if someone gives you a gun, drop the magazine and check the chamber, for instance. “It doesn’t matter if they say it’s not loaded,” he explained, “It is your responsibility to check for yourself.”
Above all else, he said, respect the awesome power contained in these little machines. They are for killing and, by extension, preventing killing by threatening killing.
Freedoms are worthless unless they’re regularly, and sometimes provocatively, exercised. One of the strongest freedoms that exists in the United States is the right to bear arms. Guaranteed under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the right to bear arms has expanded from just the “well-regulated militia” in the original text to include private handgun ownership, too.
Interestingly enough, I heard nothing about “liberal activist judges” when the Supreme Court expanded Second Amendment rights last decade; I guess we only complain about “judicial fiats” when they work against conservative sensibilities. Anyway, gun rights have always been here and have recently expanded and been reasserted. More to the point: Contrary to the sentiments of my liberal friends against gun rights, the Second Amendment is as American as apple pie or Judge Judy. Short of a constitutional amendment, there’s literally nothing anyone can do to infringe on private gun ownership.
Nor should they, either.
It’s my right to own a Glock. If you disagree with this, fine: Amend the Constitution. If you don’t think you can do that, then maybe you should figure out ways to mitigate gun deaths like, you know, magazine limits or actual enforcement of gun laws and rigorous background checks.
On the other side of the debate, organizations like the NRA previously focused on gun safety but are now apparently one big gun industry advertorial, scream about rights being curtailed disingenuously. This irritates the fuck out of most responsibly-armed Americans, who, by and large, and this should say something, despise the NRA.
The U.S. government has no power whatsoever to take away your guns outside of a total collapse of the U.S. system or constitutional amendment. Anyone today who believes that the “gubment” is about to confiscate their guns by disregarding the Constitution is being ignorant—willfully or otherwise—to the way laws are made. Sorry, Tea Partiers: If you’re determined to see yourselves as Patrick Henry, you really need to stop acting like Elmer Fudd. Because guess what: Those who tell you the government can or will take away your guns are liars with lies coming out of their lying mouths. They’re ignoring the gun rights expansion under Washington DC v. Heller, decided last decade by those “activist judges” on the Roberts Court.
Those who aren’t lunatics or felons have a right to own guns. Curiously, some people think even lunatics and felons should own guns. To those people, I say: You’re likely a lunatic or a felon. And, the Supreme Court has ruled prior to Heller that the government does in fact have a right to curtail access to guns with background checks, limits on frequency of purchase, and other similar measures.
Outside of these measures, though? Nope.
It is no coincidence that the right of American citizens to own guns comes immediately following the First Amendment. While gun ownership is certainly not more important than speech or assembly, it’s obviously important enough to emphasize even before the right to a fair trial.
Then again, the founders weren’t exactly ready to think about spree shootings with old time-y muskets.
And they weren’t necessarily prepared for an entire generation of people who fetishize, instead of fear, violence.
These are the facts: Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths. In states with “stand your ground” laws like the one George Zimmerman hid behind like the little racist pussy he is, gun deaths and injuries increase. Where there is more access to guns, and where guns are sold-prolifically, there is more pain, death, and misery.
These things are not matters of opinion. They are not in dispute. They are facts.
The question before us is how much American pain, misery, and death are we willing to tolerate so that Elmer Fudd can feel better about, I don’t know, not being able to sexually please his wife. Where is the line between personal freedom and public safety? This is the debate we must have. This is the discussion we must have.
The NRA and like-minded shills don’t speak for me, and polls show they don’t speak for the silent majority of responsible gun owners who feel no need to openly carry an AK-47 into Chipotle. Rational, compassionate, empathetic, freedom-loving Americans are not threatened by trigger locks, magazine limits or background checks. We are not threatened by sensible gun measures, and we so desperately want an end to this carnage we see every day with each new tragedy befalling the nation.
Until some people, and I mean gun rights fetishists, calm the fuck down, we’re going to keep screaming at each other and losing sight of the facts. And we’re going to endure more pain, death, and misery as a result.
Don’t let them confuse the debate. It’s about fucking time the adults had an adult discussion and let the cartoonish, gun-toting morons sit at the kiddy table while we sort this shit out.
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4