I've been thinking about this entry for a few days, and I've been thinking about the issue for some time now.
A little background. My Dad was a gun collector. He had a bunch of them. I mean...A LOT. I am grateful for this. He taught me how to shoot when I was in junior high school. But it wasn't just handing me a gun and telling me to point it and shoot; he taught me about gun safety, and he taught me a healthy respect for guns and for what they can do.
First and foremost? You never, ever point a gun at a person or at anything unless you intend to shoot it.
If picking up a gun to clean it or examine it, you first check to see if it's loaded. No exceptions.
If you want to keep a gun for personal protection, you'd better make damn sure that you are prepared to use it. If someone is harming you, or shows intent to harm you, it's not enough to point the gun at them and say in a trembling voice, "I have a gun." If you have that gun and you pull it on them, see the first point. Be prepared to shoot them. Know how to use the gun, know what it takes to pull the trigger, know how much it kicks, and know that if you shoot that person, you are going to be subjected to a mess on your wall and carpet that Spic 'n Span and Resolve isn't going to get out.
Does that sound harsh? It should. Guns are serious business, and they are not to be taken lightly.
I remember a few years ago, my Dad showed a young person in my family some of his guns. This young person's guardian was quite upset by this, said that she didn't want that to happen again. My Dad was doing what he did with me...teaching gun safety, teaching respect for guns. He showed this young person the type of rifle that he and his fellow soldiers carried in WWII, but the fact that this young person actually held a gun was somehow a horrible thing. I was amused when this guardian hooked up with someone who was also a gun owner. Suddenly everyone was pro-gun, pro-NRA, BANG BANG BANG! Heh heh. I guess circumstances change when you hook up! Fucking hypocrite. But I digress.
I know about guns. I know how to use them, and I know that I hope I never have to use one to harm another creature. (This is not a diatribe against hunters. There is no hunting at Nutwood, but I know that hunting keeps the deer population down, and serves as an important control in so many ecosystems that no longer have natural predators. I don't understand it, I don't participate, but I'm okay with responsible hunters. Just don't do it from a helicopter or in one of those bogus fenced-in compounds, okay? If you do that...fuck you.)
I appreciated my Dad teaching me how to use a gun and how to respect them. But I have grown increasingly disturbed by the "gun culture" in my country, in which assault rifles and extended clips are sold on a daily basis, hollow-point, armor-piercing ammunition is available, and guns can be bought at garage sales without any sort of background check whatsoever.
This is unacceptable to me. There is no reason for anyone to own an assault rifle or an extended clip unless they plan on killing a whole bunch of people in a really bloody, gory way. The images of people carrying such weapons to political rallies is chilling to me. This serves no purpose other than intimidation. I am also leery about obtaining a carry permit. In all my years of gun ownership, I never applied for a carry permit.
After Dad died, my sisters inherited some guns, and went to the shooting range. They invited me along, but I declined. I know how to use mine and don't really need to fire it. When one of my sisters told me that she was thinking about applying for a carry permit, I had some words of caution for her. I said, "If you carry it in your purse, do you think you can get to it in time? Do you really think you'll have the time to dig in your purse to get it out if someone assaults you? Do you know that it's more likely that someone assaulting you will get your gun away from you? Are you really prepared to shoot someone?" I don't know what she'll decide, but in our cowboy culture, these are questions that people often don't think about.
I participated in a discussion thread on a local station's Facebook page about this topic. The overwhelming majority said that gun laws should NOT be stricter. Here was one exchange I had (the other person's name is changed to protect the...whatever):
Me: We have very lenient gun laws, and there is no denying that our deaths per capita due to guns reflect that. Again, I am not anti-gun. But I think we've got a problem here with a certain cowboy mentality in which a robbery would be treated with a death sentence by some. Do you really want to murder someone because they want to steal your wallet? If someone were threatening to kill me or my loved ones, I wouldn't hesitate, personally. But for things? Why would anyone want to kill someone for robbing them? A response a bit out of proportion to the situation, wouldn't you say?
Keith: Beth, you are anti gun and a pacifist.Which is fine,but dont [sic] put words in peoples [sic] mouth [sic] about killing people over "things". Someday you might have to thank a "cowboy" for saving your life. I would certainly use a firearm to protect my things.I wouldnt [sic] allow the perp to go on to rob somebody else. Shooting somebody in defense of property or self isnt [sic] "murder".
Me: Keith, which part of "I'm not anti-gun" don't you understand? I am neither anti-gun, nor a pacifist. I stated both quite clearly, and stated that I would protect myself or my loved ones—or a stranger, if it came to that—if our lives were in danger. I know how to shoot, and I'm quite good at it, because my Dad taught me when I was in junior high. My point is that if we are willing to kill a person because of things rather than a threat to life, I think we've got a real problem in this country. It means that we value possessions more than a human life. Personally, I'd rather not head down that road.
On the same thread, someone wondered why anyone needs an assault rifle. The response was "It's all about freedom." DO YOU LOVE YER FREEDOMS???
I value my freedom as much as anyone, but I am very disturbed by this strange gun culture going on in this country. Check this CDC report on gun deaths as well as this International Journal of Epidemiology study on worldwide gun deaths. Our gun deaths due to homicide, suicide, and accidents are the highest of any civilized nation. This is indisputable.
I am not calling for a complete ban on guns here. Well, maybe...but I know that is not going to happen in my lifetime. But can we please stop thinking that we're all Dirty Harry and get our fingers off of the fucking trigger? Can we consider some reasonable gun laws that restrict weapons that are designed to kill the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time? I honestly don't know what is the cause of this hair-trigger, kill-em-all-and-let-god-sort-em-out-later mentality.
People have said that if there were more people at that Tucson Safeway that were carrying weapons, this never would have happened. I question that. If it were harder for people like Loughner to get high-capacity clips, he might not have been able to shoot as many people as he did; and do we really want a bunch of people packing at our local grocery store? That honestly doesn't make me feel safer. Even at a Safeway. Ha. The OK Corral shootout happened a long time ago. Do we really want to return to that sort of wild west mentality?
Gunshot wounds are ugly, messy, bloody, and horrible. A head shot would be even more horrible. We're talking brains on the wall, people. That is something that will stick with you for the rest of your life...maybe your family will see it, too, and they'll remember it. Is this something that you really want to do? Do you really understand the implications of what it means to shoot a person? Do you really want to do that just because they are stealing your shit, or trespassing on your property? Do you believe that theft justifies a death sentence? Are you prepared to be judge and jury and execute that person in your home? If someone steals your purse, are you willing to shoot them for it? Do you realize that if they steal your purse, they probably got your gun, too? So now you've put a gun in the hands of a criminal.
I feel that these are legitimate questions, ones that we all need to ask ourselves. The Second Amendment was written when muskets were in use. Not high-capacity assault weapons.
I don't think that anyone is in a hurry to seriously talk about gun control right now. But I think we should.