“When a person has a gun, sometimes their mind clicks that this thing…will win arguments and straighten people out.” – Bill Cosby
This will be one of my more disjointed posts. Post-Newtown, so many ill-conceived and disingenuous ideas about guns are flying around, it’s hard to know where to begin. Both sides need to get a grip. I’ve already said my piece on the Second Amendment, so I won’t rehash it here. But there’s more to say.
I’ll start with the extreme anti-gun side of the debate.
Look at the numbers. Hear this: there are 270 million civilian-owned guns in the United States, easily exceeding the adult population. You could ban them tomorrow, but you will never, ever come remotely near to getting them all off the streets, out of dresser drawers and glove compartments and mattresses and everywhere else people stash them. No doubt millions of guns are in criminals’ hands, and the police can’t be everywhere, all the time. We must face the reality we have, not the one we wish we had. So if people want to take reasonable steps for self-defense, I’m not about to deny them that right.
It is what it is. The Second Amendment is maddeningly ambiguous, but you will never make it prohibit private gun ownership or confine it to hunters. Barring a political earthquake beyond your wildest imagination, this amendment isn’t going away. Deal with it.
Now, to the other end of the gun-rights spectrum.
Look at the numbers. Yes, those same numbers above. Can anyone seriously argue that there aren’t enough guns legally in circulation to arm every “good guy” who wants one? Would it really be so wrong to turn off the spigot for certain classes of weapons, and add some flow restrictors for others? And look at some other numbers. 851 unintentional gun deaths in 2011, and nearly 12,000 suicides by gun. How many suicidal people would act on the impulse without the gun-based expectation of instantaneous lights out? Meanwhile, successful uses of guns in self-defense are an elusive number. Not begrudging those people who succeeded, but on the other hand, how many petty criminals effectively draw a death sentence for burglary? Forgive me if I speak heresy, but maybe sometimes we need to let our stuff go.
Which is it? That last point leads to another. The rules of gun safety espoused by the NRA and others are pretty clear. Guns should be locked up and unloaded when not in use. So, if you’re depending on your gun when an intruder threatens, how are you going to retrieve, load and use it if it’s properly stored? Or are those safety rules window dressing to keep the NRA looking responsible? You’re going to lock up that weapon, Mr. Gunowner, right (wink, wink)?
Armed teachers in schools? I’ll just leave this here.
Bill Cosby and George Zimmerman. The next time I encounter the saying, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” I hope I’m reading it in print. I don’t want to damage my TV or computer. Last year when the Trayvon Martin case was monopolizing the headlines, Bill Cosby gave an interview to CNN’s Candy Crowley, and you might expect he talked about race. He talked about guns. Cosby is a wise man. He carried a gun for a time, and he described the effect it had on him. To summarize and paraphrase, in certain hands, a gun subtly becomes an answer in search of a problem. I suspect it did the night George Zimmerman met Trayvon Martin. Would he have left his car without that Kel-Tec PF-9 in his waistband? I doubt it. And a kid who was surely flawed, but didn’t deserve to die, would still be alive.
There are certainly many ways to kill people, but I don’t think most of us come home with a set of new cutlery or a new baseball bat and think that we’ve got a little edge against the bad guys. Guns are different. We need to treat them as such and face the realities of life in 21st century America: a place where some people need to be ready to defend themselves and their families, but also a place where just maybe enough is enough.