This has been a hotly contested amendment to the Bill of Rights [angelic chorus music] since I have been alive, and well before. Over the years, I hear people in a Mr. Mackey voice go, "Guns are bad, n'kay?" and make me think about why this amendment was written in the first place.
Few remember the reasons, or why the Antifederalists (opponents of giving much power to the federal government, kind of like the Republicans today) rejected them, resulting in the first Ten Amendments. However, since that debate still provides the basis for upholding our rights against federal assault, it remains as relevant today as it was back when the rights were written. Alexander Hamiltion thought a lot of these rights were implied by the original Constitution and that the Bill of Rights was redundant, but a man who opposed him (aptly named Brutus), said "Those who have governed have been found in all ages ever active to enlarge their power and abridge the public liberty. This has induced the people in all countries, where any sense of freedom remained, to fix barriers against the encroachment of their rulers." That means "Government tends to gain too much power over time, and thus, the people have had to fight to regain control."
You have to understand, this was a very new and abstract concern back then: self-governing. We take it for granted nowadays, which is why the government is gaining too much power, IMHO. Which is why I want the second amendment as a good backup in case it goes to far. I feel that by the time the government removes the ability to resist us overthrowing it, it's already too late.
"But what about gun deaths?" I hear people cry. I see statistics, and I don't know what to believe. I have seen numbers from 11,000 to 40,000 gun-related deaths per year quoted, and then they are always paired with England and Japan having something like only 30 - 100 deaths per year as a comparison. "Oh no," we say. "Guns are bad." Of course, statistics are a little warped. According to the Population Reference Bureau (PDF file), the US has a population of 287 million people. Japan has 127 million. The UK has a little over 60 million. So the per-death ratio starts to skew a little. Japan and the UK also don't have a significant poverty rate compared to the US, and both have WAY better education standards. Education = civility = less crime. Plus, it's true, since they ban guns, less deaths would happen by them. But does that mean murder rates also go down? Again, statistics vary. Pro-gun advocates say no. Antigun advocates say yes. Both have conflicting data. In fact, it seems hard to get any data standards at all on this (at least over the Internet). But all seem to point to one thing: more people get murdered in the US per 100,000 than any other country in Europe or Pacific Asia. And not all by guns. The problem is, the US is a violent country, which is a different problem altogether, and will be a topic for another entry at another time.
So, back to guns. Frankly, if there was a magic wand that would make all guns go away, and then be effectively banned from coming back all over the world, I'd be for it. To be honest, I don't think it would stop war and violence, but at least hand-to-hand combat would weed out some cowards. Not many, since we'd still have bombs, spears, arrows, and other projectiles. Then we'd also have to think about the increase of murder by poisoning. But besides that, there are two sayings pro-gun people say that I think are very true.
If we outlaw guns, then only outlaws will have guns. This is one of those self-referencing logic loops like saying "If I get rid of my money, I will no longer have money." But the double entendre many people miss here is that most criminals do not get guns legally. They are stolen or sold on the black market. Sure, probably some people buy guns legally and then murder someone. But a criminal who wants a gun will get one somehow. There are just too many all over the world.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people. A gun, by itself, lying unloaded in a drawer will probably never kill anyone. It takes someone loading bullets into a gun and then firing it at someone to kill them. I see antigun people citing accidental gun deaths a year to counteract this wisdom, but that's still a person who made a choice. Either they didn't watch what they were doing, or didn't get enough education to use the gun properly. I would think that better gun education is an issue there.
I have held several guns and fired them in my life. I have held a .38 snub nose, a .35 pistol, and a 12 guage shotgun. All of them were at a shooting range. There is something to be said about holding a gun. It is metal, so it is heavy and unbalanced in your hand. But the weight of a tool that could end a life of a living being was the heaviest weight of all in my opinion. A lot of emotions went through me as I fired these guns. Fear. Respect. Pain.
The guy who let me fire his .38 was a bit off-center, but he gave me some lessons I'll never forget. He loaded the gun, and pointed it straight at my head. He told me that if I ever saw this again, the look on the person's face would not be one who knows how to hold a gun. It would be the face of a coward; someone who was scared and unable to control their behavior. It would be the face of someone who feared me. It would be the face of an uneducated person who had made a lot of bad decisions. He told me that if this ever happens to me, to not look at the gun, because the gun would not hold the answers to my survival: the face of the holder would. The face would tell me if I had a chance or not to talk my way out of this situation. The face would tell me whether I could save my life by tossing a wallet on the ground and run, talk them down, beg for my life, pretend to faint, do nothing but listen, or possibly the only hope would be to rush them and point the gun at me before they fired. The gun holder had made his choice, and now the choice of my life was up to me alone. And his or her face would be my only clues. I'd never point a loaded gun at someone and give them this lecture, but he said it was how he was taught, and thus, remembered. And thus, I remembered. Because no matter how well you know the holder at the other end of the muzzle, there's a direct unbroken line of attention between you and the man holding the gun. That's why they call it the "business end."
When I held the gun, it was heavy. This bastard also did not tell me about kickback, so the first time I fired, I bruised my forehead. Besides the goose egg on my forehead, and in spite of the earphones I was wearing, the sound is what startled me the most. Whether you hate guns or not, if you have never fired one from your own hand need to understand how final a gun blast is. It's not Hollywood or TV. It's not a simple bang bang sort of thing like a capgun. The sound was so loud and deep, I can't imagine the sound without the ear protection. It had a roar with the thud, like the hammer of a Norse God making a decision against a mortal. The feel of the bullet leaving the chamber pulses into your hand. This is a weapon created to kill. The shock ripples down your arm and into your chest, and your heart skips a beat in response. A person who was struck by the projectile I fired would most likely die as the bullet thrust itself into their body and raped it with the shockwaves that shredded all the soft tissue in a cone of utter destruction from the impact site. You inhale slightly. All the victim's life experiences, their memories, their hopes, dreams, and fears would be erased from the physical world. They invested all their years of life to collect these experiences, and you would have just ended it. A whole life. A living being. Just like you. Your ears ring a little. I am sure those who have fired repeatedly don't notice anymore, but for me, it was an awesome experience that made me realize just how serious a gun really was. I have deep respect for the weapon, and deep anger towards those who would use it to take another life without thinking. A gun is final.
This is why I believe everyone should fire a gun (at a shooting range with a guide who is very knowledgeable about guns and gun safety) at least once, and think about their experiences. A few years later, I fired some guns again at a FanTek shootout event. One guy even brought a musket, although, he caused grief when his wad of black powder didn't fire properly, and a huge flaming clump landed only a few feet away from the muzzle (they had to stop everyone from shooting while the range owner angrily put it out with a pitcher full of water). I fired Bruce's .35, and Frank's 12 gauge shotgun at clay pigeons (it was an outdoor shooting range).
A shooting range is mega-ultra safe, too. People see them on TV and think you just go in and shoot, like a bowling alley. Not so. First of all, the shooting is done in a series of firing followed by breaks. You go in, sign up, show them your ID and UNLOADED gun. Then they explain the rules. You MUST have hearing protection and goggles of some sort. They make sure you have that. Then you wait. When the shooting is in "break mode," you are allowed in to the shooting range itself. There you pick an area (usually these areas are sectioned off with short walls that prevent you from seeing the person next to you and to protect you in case the gun fires in the wrong direction), and put your gun on the table with the chamber open and exposed (so they know it won't go off). You wait while the previous shooters are done picking up their targets and setting up new ones. You will probably also set up your target on the range at this time. The staff them makes sure no one is on the range, and rings an alert bell. You put on your goggles and ear protection. When the staff is satisfied it's all safe the alert goes off again, and you can load your gun and fire. When the alert sounds again, you open up the gun chamber and leave it on the table that way. The staff makes sure everyone is done, and then sounds another alert telling you all clear and you can go see your target and put in a new one. Repeat as often as you like. It is very rare that someone gets hurt on a shooting range. More people get hurt in bowling alleys, in all likelihood.
Do I own a gun? No. I would never own a gun unless I had training on how to use it when I needed it, which I would guess would be only when an intruder enters my house. But would I have the response time to grab my gun, load it (I'd never leave it loaded, what a dumbass thing that would be), and then fire it with accuracy? Probably not. If an intruder came in with a gun, he'd either shoot us while we were sleeping (then steal my gun, and then that would mean I bought a gun later used to kill an innocent), or probably not shoot at all. Most thieves in my area are the "smash and grab" kind; taking stuff they can carry away as quickly as possible from sliding glass doors left unlocked or open. I haven't heard of many armed home robberies in my state that would be worth thinking it was an epidemic I should protect my family against. I mean, houses get hit by lightning, and I don't have a lightning rod, either. Hell, I don't even have termite protection and that's something I should spend my money on. If burglars come in, one points gun at me, and demands my stuff, they can have it. I have insurance. And honestly, not much stuff worth taking. If I get attacked, I do have knives and swords by my bedside for that purpose, but honestly, picturing myself getting all Samurai Jack on some intruder is fairly laughable. If I am really scared, I'll get a big dog to supplement my two small ones, which while I have seen them attack, I doubt it will do much good against a foe who is not a cat. A gun in this chaos would just be too much.
As a last footnote, one of the deepest memories I have is how much my father hated guns. I was not allowed to play with them as a kid, and when I got a toy for my birthday when I was eight, he destroyed it. It was a plastic rifle that only shot sucker darts, but I loved it for the week I had it until my father found out. He found it in my hiding place, and broke it. I discovered it broken in his bathroom (his den had its own bathroom) when my mother had me go in there to look for something. We confronted him about it, and he became furious, claiming I was "parading it around" like it was some vast threat in the house. Years later, a friend casually mentioned that maybe my father was afraid I'd rise up against him or something. Yeah, and sucker dart him until he got circles in his forehead, I guess. But those words stuck for years, and as a final underlayment of what I had learned from him: tyrants don't want you to have symbols of freedom. I learned early on what the right to have guns meant, and cherish it as much as I cherish my knowledge on how to read.
So, what does all this mean? Having a gun is an American right. But like all rights, it comes with a responsibility. If we are not responsible, we'll lose that right. And I want to hold up my end of the bargain; even if I don't own a gun, I'll defend my friend's rights to have them as long as they own them responsibly.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000124.html