America And Her Guns
Copyright © by Len Holman, 7/27/12
The horrible, stunning, sickening shooting in Colorado has focused national attention on gun control. Again. We, as a nation, periodically go through the angst of trying to decide if—and how—we should DO something about guns. Should we ban automatic weapons? If not, should we arm deer with them to even the playing field? Should we ban large magazines which hold enough rounds to arm an insurgent battalion? Should we allow anyone tall enough to reach up to the table to walk into a gun show and stroll out with an assault rifle? How should we manage the mountain of weaponry in this country? Even those pesky waiting periods have been assaulted as an attack on our 2nd Amendment rights. Our politicians will not confront this issue on any meaningful level—nor do they need to. No one but commentators and do-gooders will even touch this question. We are now all a “well-regulated militia” and we carry our symbols of the “don’t tread on me” sentiment with assertive, pugnacious pride.
There have been some incidents, to be sure: The Virginia Tech massacre, the Ft. Hood shooting, Columbine, Gabrielle Giffords, George Zimmerman—but these are to be expected in a country with an estimated three million guns rattling around. Someone is bound to go off half-cocked and blow his neighbor away, but if everyone had a gun, wouldn’t crime just, well, disappear? If I’m a rapist or purse-snatcher and knew that blue-haired old lady tottering down the boulevard was packing, wouldn’t I be prone to go get a job instead—or a blow-up doll? Yesterday, I heard a man in line at the market telling his friend that the U.N. had secret plans—in collusion with our President—to take away our weapons. He was irate. He is not alone in his insistent belief that Americans will be deprived of their ability to fight off terrorists invading Joshua Tree National Park or those black helicopters flying low over the mall.
But it isn’t silly to be concerned. After all, guns tamed the West; guns tamed the Mexican army; guns made King George re-think his plans for a big colony over the water. Without guns, America would be Switzerland. Without guns, Hitler might have won the war. Without guns, rabbits would be turning home gardens to stubble. Guns are as essential to American culture as atomic energy is to Japanese culture. We have always had guns and I, for one, feel safer knowing that I have an option—if I ever get enough cash together—to buy a gun and defend myself, my home, my family, my pride, and the American Way of Life. It would be very hard—inconceivable, really—to imagine an America without her guns. We have our armed forces, of course, but if someone in the “Ten Items or Less” line at Von’s market cuts in front of me with a basket filled with a hundred cans of cat food, can I put in a call to a nearby Special Forces unit and wait? How long will it take for them to show up? By that time, the guy will have loaded his Beamer and driven away—unpunished and smugly triumphant. No, I would need to punish the miscreant immediately, to teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget.
That’s just one reason why I need to carry a gun. It is said, repeatedly and trivially, that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Maybe that old saw should be amended to read, “guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people,” and this is a large part of our American exceptionalism which is a staple of the Tea Party and assorted non-thinkers in the public sphere. We are certainly among the very best at doing just that. It’s enough to make an American proud. We kill, not only each other, but people all over the world—in wars we don’t bother to declare, in operations we don’t bother to advertise, in ways we don’t bother to be constitutionally correct about. We are the predators of the world and I’m sure we can continue doing this for quite some time. Strict laws can’t really keep some nut job from killing the local bodega owner for a croissant and a latte, and no amount of whining about it all will infringe on our patriotic right to bear arms—even when we can’t bear our fellow citizens. The only way to stop Americans from buying and using guns is to heavily police an already heavily-policed country—to the point of a tyranny so onerous as to constitute what women in Saudi Arabia endure. This policing would, certainly, beget a backlash of black market gun buying and an angry mob-like presence of citizens everywhere there is authority to challenge.
To separate Americans from their guns, to even separate the possibility of the IDEA of gun ownership from Americans is to invite a drone to hover voyeuristically in every backyard and the demise of what’s left of American democracy. We need our guns and we need politicians to keep their hands off our privilege to buy them and shoot them and clean and oil them, and carry them in our purses and pockets and glove boxes. We are just a few short years from the Wild West and in geologic time, that’s just a few minutes ago. Maybe some day, we’ll see what guns are about and we’ll see that three million guns are a few too many. But not right now. Charlton Heston for President!
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