Before you settle into your preexisting bunker on the subject, I ask but one thing - be open to the questions that I would like to ask.
If you are willing to at least entertain a conversation about the issue of guns and gun control, this can be a productive experience.
What? Yes, I know, I have already lost 98% of those who may actually have clicked the link to read the blog. For those two or three of you who have decided to hang around, let me try to tackle this issue. I want to ask some questions. I want to kick around a few ideas. I want to know why it is that of all the topics in the United States that are usually regarded as Hot Button topics, this is the one that seems to be pushing up the daisies.
Why can't we talk about gun control?
Before we get to that point - a few bits of autobiography, at least those bits that are likely salient to the conversation.
I grew up in a family that owned guns. A good many of them. My Dad was a sportsman - he fished, he hunted. Because he hunted we had guns. Shotguns for game, rifles for deer hunting. We had a pellet gun for shooting at the squirrels that raided my Dad's beloved bird-feeders. Heck, I even had an CO2 pistol. My Dad was an outstanding hunter - very successful, enjoyed the experience greatly. I, on the other hand, was a total washout in the hunting business. That I was rather small for my age throughout middle school and high school meant that large guns and I really didn't get along all that well. The kick of a standard shotgun was not a fun experience. I enjoyed tramping through the corn fields during Pheasant season, but not so much the swift pivot and shooting that tends to make the pheasant hunt successful.
In sixth grade I, along with everyone else in my class, took the Hunter Safety class offered by the NRA (before they turned into a much different advocacy group than they were at that time), and did a decent job of the whole thing. As I said, I wasn't much of a hunter, but I certainly enjoyed the notion of it, and enjoyed learning how to properly shoot the firearms necessary to the task. After college and graduate school, I continued to own a very nice 12-guage shotgun, and when we lived out in North Dakota I made certain to gun train my black lab, even though I never actually went hunting.
I say all of this simply to note that I am comfortable around guns. They don't bother me. I am not against them. I think having guns for sport or as necessary for protection, as in Texas when living in rattlesnake country, seems to be a perfectly legitimate thing. Heck, I am even in favor of those who like to go shooting and all sorts of attendant activities. As long as you are a responsible type, who clearly understands that guns are a very specific kind of tool, then I have no problems with them.
Likewise, I understand the issues related to the Second Amendment, especially as related to the notion of why we incorporated that bit of wisdom into the Bill of Rights. All good and proper.
But I have concerns. Deep ones. Significant concerns about just what types of guns are really necessary in order to do the things that we say we want to do with guns. Thus, I have questions about what is necessary and about what is unnecessary. This is where the difficulties seem to start, because I tend to think that with all things there are limits, and this includes guns. The difficulty is that in today's discourse, this is already a step too far. It seems to me that the moment I say that there should be limits as to what someone can own, well, that is the moment that people start voicing deep concerns about me wanting to curtail their liberty, their freedom, and all of sudden rather boistrous people are ranting about vague conspiracies (or not so vague) to take all guns away.
You see, I don't want to take all the guns away. I want to talk about limits - and that is the last American Heresy. The moment I want to talk about limits is the moment the conversation absolutely grinds to a halt. I would bet that of the two people who actually have read this far, only one is left. The other has given up on me as some hopeless Marxist freak who wants to impose collectivist government interventionism on every last moment of their waking lives. Right? You think I am some socialist with communist impulses, simply because I have stated, in print, that I think that we should, at the very least, talk about limits.
In the light of the Aurora shooting, I have questions. If you are still around, let me ask this question - do we really need to have semi-automatic assault rifles available to anybody who can pass the bare minimum of a hurdle to buy one? Are they necessary in order to maintain the right to bear arms? Likewise, do we really need high-capacity magazines? Finally, if it is necessary that these types of weapons are available, do we have to make them so easy to acquire?
As if these questions weren't enough to have most people cast me into the outer darkness, I may as well go all the way with the things that bother me. I am wholly uncomfortable with folks carrying concealed weapons that haven't had exceptionally rigorous training. Why make it so easy? Yes, I do find the necessary requirements to be woefully lax. I needed more training to get my Hunter Safety certificate in sixth grade than some states require for a concealed carry permit.
The problem is that even raising these questions will automatically send some folks down the slippery slope - and I will be accused of wanting to take away your guns. No, I want to limit the kind of firepower you have at your disposal. I want to make certain that you are an expert with that very deadly weapon in your possession. I also want to make certain that you are have gone through the necessary permit process to own something that is exceptionally dangerous. I really don't see why this is seen as some kind of radical infringement on your rights. Own the gun, carry the gun, but there are limits and rules, I don't see this as problematic. Yet many do, and because of that, we will not be having any kind of constructive conversation about what happened in Aurora. Which is nearly criminal in its own right.
A young man purchased far more firepower than he needed, and he did so legally. He armed himself with the intent to cause great harm. We actually were somewhat lucky, in the grimmest sense of the idea, his assault weapon with the large magazine jammed. But that is cold comfort to the people who were shot, to the families of people who were killed.
Yes, yes, guns don't kill people, people kill people. But do we have to make it so easy? Do we have to essentially say that these massacres are the price we pay for 'freedom'? Is it absolutely necessary to argue that in order for the second amendment to be maintained that we must accept that these tragedies will happen?
The response? Well, if more people carried concealed weapons, the bad guys would be taken out before they could rain down destruction. Maybe. That might happen. But you have to hope for a great many things to go right - in the case of the Aurora theatre, that would have been most difficult - lots of smoke, miserable lighting, perpetrator in body armor and a helmet. Likewise, you have to hope that the deterrent factor would make the bad guys think twice - but I am never convinced that any deterrent will thwart someone willing to do great harm. Which leads me back to the idea of making certain that you make it very difficult for that person to do such catastrophic harm in the first place.
I don't have all the answers. Not at all, but it seems that we can't even ask the questions. The NRA and a great many others have created an environment in which any question raised about the appropriateness of wielding such weapons is automatically treated as unpatriotic. How can we possibly have a conversation in that environment?
We need to be able to discuss this as adults - but it won't happen with the NRA acting as if any questions are acts of treason. We need to talk about the place of firearms in our society. We need to talk about the idea of resonable limits. We need to talk about proper training and licensing. We need to talk about how to forestall the next tragedy.
But I doubt it will happen. Because gun control is the last American Heresy - and those that raise the issue will be shunned and castigated.
Then the next Aurora will happen. We will bury more innocents. And we still won't talk about it, because the ideal of gun rights is more important than anything else in this country - anything.