Monday, December 17, 2012


Not too long ago, a man whose name I have deliberately forgotten wrote a book whose title I have also deliberately forgotten endorsing the concept that laws restricting gun sales and ownership actually promoted gun violence.  

This makes as much sense, of course, as suggesting one diet by having a fridge full of lemon meringue pies, or dealing with alcoholism by stacking cases of Jack Daniels in the drinker’s living room. It’s the kind of rationale the National Rifle Association as well as the powerful gun lobbies will happily espouse, and it is sheer crap.

Guns kill people. That’s what, for the most part, they’re designed to do. The idea is to send a fast-traveling projectile through someone else’s soft tissue with corresponding consequences. Yes, there are hunters, and yes, there are target shooters, and collectioners, and others who may have a legitimate reason to have guns, but they’re the minority. Unless we as a nation are at war at home and protecting ourselves from invading enemies, a lot more people are going to be injured by guns than will be protected by them.

It struck me during the latest outrage—yet another mass killing, this time mostly of children—that one of the appeals of firearms is that you don’t your hands dirty. They work from a distance. You will not be plastered by the victim’s blood and guts, and you can walk away with the crease in your jeans unsullied. That’s appealing, this idea of doing dirty work without getting soiled, and it goes a long way towards explaining why I have never seen a headline that read, Man Armed with Baseball Bat Kills 15 or Knife-wielding Youth Goes Berserk at Mall.

I don’t own a gun. If I did, it would be in a locked gun cabinet, and if my home were invaded, I would have to politely request that the offender allow me to put my pants on and get my guns from the locker, unfasten their trigger guards, and load them. Then we could get down to business. The point here is that gun safety is a handy oxymoron. If a weapon is to be used in an emergency, it has to be close at hand. If it is close at hand, it can be found and used by people whose mental capacities are doubtful at best—children, depressed teenagers, vengeful husbands.

Worldwide, seven out of the top 12 gun-related mass killings have occurred in the United States. Despite this, I fear that within days we will be back to business as usual. It’s merely mildly comforting to think that only a socially challenged miscreant would think of killing kindergarten children with a semi-automatic weapon, and, by definition, it is probably true.

The harsh reality is that our political system thankfully makes it impossible to chart the movement of would-be criminals, be they sane or not. But we can take away these people’s weapons, or render them unavailable. We can also enact legislation that makes any criminal activity involving repeating firearms worthy of a punishment so stringent that it will make anyone contemplating such a crime think twice. You want to knock over a 7/11 using your Glock? Think about spending the next 50 years in prison.

We can institute buybacks. We can insist that the same restrictions involving buying and driving an automobile apply to guns. If you want a weapon, learn how to safely own and operate it; be licensed; carry insurance so that if the weapon is stolen and used in a crime, some of the damages might be covered. Control the flow of ammunition, and make its purchasers identify themselves and sign a release guaranteeing that no crime will be committed with their purchase. If one is, punish the buyer who did not take the necessary steps to stop its theft or use.  Tax the hell out of firearms, and make sure the tax—like that on a car—is paid annually. Close gun shows where guns can be purchased with no other qualifications than cash on hand. Once a gun-related crime has been tried, destroy the weapons involved. Apply the three-strikes-you’re-out laws not to drug users but to gun wielders. Personally, if I have a choice between a pothead walking the streets or a guy with a gun, I’ll take the pothead any day.

Yesterday evening in his speech in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama called for ‘something to be done’ without specifying what that something may be. Let that something be gun control. As it stands, any measures taken will not see results for years to come. Let’s start now. It’s already almost too late,




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