With the Omaha mall massacre last week, the issue of guns and gun control has come up. I got into a minor disagreement with folks over at one liberal site, and terms such as “gun nuts,” “turn everywhere in America into Tombstone,” and “shootouts” were tossed around.
There is always an argument about how to best prevent massacres like that one and the Virginia Tech shootings. One side says it’s because the guns are too prevalent, and we need to control them more; the other side says that the gun restrictions only disarm the law-abiding people and create safe hunting grounds for the criminals.
The arguments by the first side often escalate to hysteria. We’re warned about shootouts in the streets, the violence in other parts of the world where a lot of people are armed, and allusions to the Old West are frequent.
That last one irritates me. I’ve done a little reading on the subject, and it’s my understanding that the whole image of gunfights and showdowns and cowboys and outlaws is largely a myth. A few heavily-publicized incidents and outlaws go a long way, especially when Hollywood gets into the act. The idea that Hollywood would pervert actual history to make money is nothing new — they’ve been making big bucks out of the “Wild West” for decades.
The argument that we’ve seen overseas the affect of a readily-armed populace is a tougher one to refute, but I don’t think it’s as valid as its proponents say. They don’t take into account the nature of American society; I think that we can handle it.
One thing that has never really been tried since the Old West has been the idea that the 2nd Amendment (one of the worst-written laws I’ve ever seen; I’ve seen three different interpretations of just what it means, and semantically all are equally valid) does recognize the right of the individual to keep and bear arms, and allow people to decide for themselves how they wish to help ensure their own safety.
I think it’s about time we gave that a try. We can change our minds after the fact, but acounts of people at the scene of massacres like this one (unverified, but plausible) in Omaha or the story of Suzanna Hupp, who saw her parents gunned down in the Luby’s massacre in Killeen, Texas in 1991. She was infuriated that she had left her gun locked in her vehicle, in compliance with the law, and could not even try to stop the killer from murdering 23 people.
It boils down to a simple question: do we trust our fellow citizens to not kill us?
We do that already. Every time I venture out unarmed, I am gambling that no one will decide to kill me. Every time I walk down the street, I am taking as an article of faith that no one driving will choose to run me down. Every time I drive, I am trusting that no one will try to ram me or run me off the road or suddenly decide that they’d rather drive on the wrong side of the street or choose to go the “wrong” way on the highway.
In the long run, Americans tend to do the right thing, tend to make the right choices. We make mistakes, but we have quite possibly the greatest self-correcting form of government the world has ever seen. We can literally rewrite the laws almost at whim, with absolutely nothing being sacrosanct and immutable. Even the Constitution, the highest law in the land, has been amended 17 times since it was first passed.
Personally, I don’t own a gun. I never have. And if my little idea were to come to pass, I probably wouldn’t. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
But I have known several people who did own guns, and they never bothered me. When I lived in Manchester, I lived in a rather scummy neighborhood. The guy in the next apartment owned several guns, and I never once felt the least bit threatened by his guns. In fact, I felt a bit safer, knowing that in an emergency he was only a door away.
And I have a couple of blog-buddies who are quite fond of their firearms. I’ve never met either of them in person, but I would not feel threatened in the least were I to encounter Rob or Bruce — even knowing they’d probably be armed.
It all boils down to a few liberal buzzwords — “choice” and “empowerment.” I am calling for people to have the CHOICE on whether or not they want to carry the means of their own protection, to EMPOWER them to stand up against the criminals and terrorists and nutcases if they so choose.
Because as we’ve seen, in both the Virginia Tech and the Omaha Mall massacres, the laws didn’t do a hell of a lot of good. Both shooters were legally forbidden from possessing guns, and both massacres took place in “gun-free zones.”
Laws stop people who respect the law. They don’t stop people who are bound and determined to break them. A fleeing bank robber will not stop for a red light, an arsonist will transport gasoline in an unsafe, illegal fashion, and someone determined to kill a bunch of people before ending his own life won’t see a “GUN FREE ZONE” sign and decide he ought to go somewhere else. In fact, in each case the criminal won’t even think twice about the lesser crime, because it simply makes getting away with the bigger one easier.
Come on, folks. Don’t we TRUST our fellow Americans, as a whole? Don’t we want to EMPOWER them and give them the CHOICE of how they wish to protect themselves?