I am a gun owner. I have hunted geese, duck, teal, quail, dove. I shoot skeet and trap. I have been to the target range with a handgun on many occasions. My father and I never went deer hunting because we lived in an area where the deer hunters put booze in their coffee at 5am to get fired up. Was once walking an irrigation ditch when quail got up on the other side and the guys over there fired over our heads. That was the last time I hunted with anyone other than my brother and father. I do not use lead shot because it is bad for the birds and bad for the environment.
I currently own some personal firearms – a revolver and a shotgun. The revolver was first my father’s and when he passed, I got it. Dad gave me the shotgun years ago for hunting and skeet. My brother has all the rest of my Dad’s armory.
For a time, all three of us were members of the NRA. First, I dropped out, then Dad. Even my brother is no longer a member but believe me, he is not worried about anyone taking his guns. I worry about those who might contemplate taking his guns. We all quit the NRA because they became unreasonable – first it was their resistance to outlawing lead shot and that was stupid enough to get me to quit. Good thing, too because then the NRA objected to banning armor piercing ammunition for personal use and now, they, of course, object to “outlawing” assault weapons.
The NRA, relative to the above distinctions and definitions, is in a word – clueless. They use the word “outlawed”, which in the reality of most proposed legislation means “banned from future commercial sale”. And, of course, they conveniently forget to mention that automatic assault weapons, i.e., machine guns, have been truly outlawed since the 1930s. Further, there are, and will continue to be, myriad “semi-automatic weapons” available to consumers. The mechanical apparatus is too widely deployed in pistols, rifles, and shotguns to ever be “outlawed”.
My brother, who owns several assault weapons and would prefer to never give them up, is, however, fully aware of what has happened here. Assault weapons now have a reputation, much like pit bulls do. The stupid few, the tiny minority who are committed to terrorizing their “enemies” have screwed it up for the responsible-many. As low-impact as an assault weapon ban may be at a practical level, it should be a wake-up call to all responsible gun owners.
The NRA used to represent sportsmen’s rights, hold firearms training, and teach hunter safety. Now, of course, they are consumed with misinterpreting the Second Amendment, getting Republican hard-liners elected, and spending members’ money on themselves. The NRA has declared bankruptcy and is in court for malfeasance. Could not happen to a nicer group of folks.
Deaths by gun (suicide and homicide) now rival deaths by auto accident in the United States. On the rise since at least 1999, deaths by gun now approach 35,000 per year. The trend in auto deaths is down, the trend in gun deaths is up. If those trends continue, gun deaths will soon outpace auto deaths.
Then there are the enablers in Congress pandering to the conspiracy theorists who insist that the liberals want to take away their guns. Nothing of the sort is true. More regulation, yes. Preventing gun ownership, no. This paranoia led to passage of the Dickey Amendment in 1996 whereby “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The law was clarified in 2018, allowing the CDC to research gun violence but not advocate for any gun control measures. That is the equivalent of researching COVID but not allowing the CDC to recommend vaccination. Second, the infamous “slippery slope” argument that any gun control is just the beginning of the effort to ban all guns is demonstrably false. The first gun control legislation, the National Firearms Act, was passed in 1934. In the ensuring 87 years, we have yet to ban virtually any guns for personal use apart from military hardware like automatic weapons (machine guns) grenades, bazookas, mortars, howitzers, and nuclear weapons.
The truth is that outlawing or banning the sale of certain types of firearms not already banned is a tough proposition. Moreover, it is also a political loser. However, requiring registration, training, and effective background checks will undoubtedly help. So will making the ownership of unregistered weapons illegal. And, even if symbolic, banning high-capacity magazines and “cop-killer” bullets is probably a good idea.
Then, why? Guns are used for “protection” in less than 1% of interpersonal crimes (Pew Charitable Trust) and did not reduce the risk of injury to the victims according to a study of crime victims.
Why then the need for armor piercing ammunition and assault weapons? Because outside of the sporting element (which I support and enjoy and does not ever require armor piercing bullets or assault weapons or large capacity magazines unless hunting dragons or dinosaurs), the “protection” element really is not about protecting against rapists, burglars, or crazies or protecting property. It is about protecting against “them.”
“Them” being the other. The people you are irrationally afraid of or the people you hate. That could be the government (think Ruby Ridge and Waco); Black and Brown people (who will shortly be a majority in this country and thus threaten white supremacists); Jews and Catholics for the Christian “identity” fanatics (think KKK and the Lord’s Resistance Army or the Christian militias) or simply the radical anti-abortionists or anti-LBGTQ rights folks or the PETA people, or the radical environmentalists or the Islamophobic, or anyone other out-of-control fanatic that believes it is acceptable to kill another human being for the cause.
It is about unreasonable fear. Fear of being over regulated, or fear of becoming a minority (because, after all, think about how the majority has treated those in the minority up to now), or fear of not being right, or fear of anything other than biblical originalism. Funny enough, it does not seem to be due to the fear of someone shooting up massage parlors or FedEx facilities or Post Offices or shopping malls. Only Jews in synagogues, African Americans in churches, and Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs (and perhaps the Baha’i) in mosques and temples need to be afraid when they worship. I wonder why that is. What could possibly be the common theme? Oh, right, some of those folks are not noticeably white while others are considered “not quite white” by some people.
If we really are serious about gun control, then we must get serious about hate. Because at the heart of it, hate and politics that leverage fear and hate are what prevent reasonable actions to control the availability of arms to the public. The Republicans, supported by the NRA, have made gun control an issue of hysteria. The NRA’s big lie is that Democrats want to make all guns illegal. Not true, but a hellishly effective lie to create support. Institutional hate that was just below the surface is now out in the open; it has always been present for the personal, that is , the mentally unbalanced, those whose anger is out of control, rabid racists, and the like.
The only way to fix our gun problem is to fix our hate problem. If we fix our hate problem, we can probably enact reasonable registration, training, background check, and equipment issues that help curtail both the institutional and personal issues that lead to mass shootings and individual killing. But to fix the hate problem, we need political parties to stop using hate (and fear of the other) to garner votes. And we need the populace to be resistant to “the big lie.”
See, I am a freaking optimist after all.