I’m angry. I wrote this a week ago, in the aftermath of the latest US gun massacre, and decided to sit on it to see how I’d feel. But I haven’t changed my mind.
I’m so damn tired of the fools mouthing the slogan “When you make guns illegal, only the criminals will have them.” As if the 270 million existing civilian guns in the US will just evaporate. As if there is any remotely serious proposal to eliminate or ban all guns. As if the empty argument that because more gun control won’t stop all massacres means that it’s useless to try to stop any.
Let’s get real. For many people, gun ownership is a religion. They worship guns. They are irrrational about their religion; they take totally unrestricted gun ownership as their faith. But here in the world in which we actually live, it has been clear for many years that the gun religion is not good for our people or our country. Just as the rest of us don’t allow any other particular religion to rule us all, there is no good reason the gun religionists should rule us all.
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the core scripture of the gun fundamentalists, was, in my view, a good thing for its time. But we don’t live, as did the Founders, in the world of single-shot muzzle-loaded muskets. “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” Circumstances and technology have changed. It’s foolish to live as if that change never happened, and it’s foolish to read the founding documents of America in such a narrow fashion that it requires the unnecessary maiming and deaths of thousands of its citizens per year.
Laws like the expired Federal assault weapons ban were not a slippery slope leading to total gun confiscation; we know this because the law was in effect for a decade and it didn’t happen. We could enact such laws again, and if they make it difficult or impossible for one more madman to easily gather the tools to murder dozens of people, it will be worth it. Other common-sense laws could be put into place (all of these proposals are being blocked by the NRA):
- Criminal background checks for all gun buyers, no matter where they purchase their firearm *
- Making sure buyers aren’t on terror watch lists
- If you show you’re an idiot who can’t properly handle having a gun, society takes them away from you
- Registration, mandatory training, and testing in states that allow concealed carry, and bans on ownership by people convicted of violent misdemeanors or domestic violence
- Reasonable limits on purchasing guns and ammo in a short time
See? Nothing that most people would find onerous or especially difficult to live with. Except the gun worshippers.
People (mostly right-wingers) who think their guns are the only thing standing between them and their “tyrannical” government are delusional. They are living in a fantasy world where they have imagined themselves as part Nathan Hale, part George Patton, part Batman. But all of those historical and fictional figures had something in common that the self-styled militia of today do not share: the desire and call-to-duty to serve a greater community beyond themselves and their immediate families. Yet we, the clearer-thinking citizens, have allowed delusional gun maximalists free rein to indulge their paranoid fantasies, and as a result, it’s amazingly easy to assemble an arsenal in most of the US. We could stop that. I have no illusions that our politicians will do so; they are in the thrall of the gun religionists, who care so much about this issue that they will pay any price to impose their will on their fellow citizens, and to do it in the name of freedom. Last week, an idiot Republican from Wisconsin who bought himself a Senate seat equated 100-round magazines with freedom. That’s gun fundamentalism up close and personal.
It may surprise you to know that I am not anti-gun. I own three myself, purchased at a time when I thought I needed them for personal safety, and when I lived in a place where it was easy to go to shooting ranges. Learning to shoot and shooting was an interesting entertainment. The friend who taught me to shoot also taught me the level of seriousness required of a responsible gun owner. Because I came to it in my late twenties, I was never tempted to become a gun fanatic; guns never had that much importance in my life.
I have, however, become mostly anti-religion. Like many other people, I find religion to be more a negative than a benefit. And some religions, like the gun religion, are actively dangerous. I hope one day my country will back away from allowing the adherents of that faith to control the rest of us.
Edited July 31, 2012 to add:
* A commenter rightly pointed out I was not specific enough here, because guns purchased through licensed gun dealers already require a background check. I’ve edited the point to clarify my meaning, which is that all gun purchases, including casual sales between individuals and at gun shows, should be subject to the check.