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Wanted: Common sense on guns

by bdietrich on December 14, 2012

Which are you more afraid of?

That the American government, U.N. black helicopters, or some other right-wing boogeymen will impose tyranny if civilians aren’t armed to the teeth with assault rifles?

Or that some lunatic with 50-bullet clips allowed under our crazy gun laws will invade a shopping mall, school, or movie theater, when you are unlucky enough to visit, and open fire? Or settle a domestic dispute with an assault weapon?

The first is paranoid fantasy. The second is everyday reality.

It’s time not just to reconsider an assault weapons ban, but to take a look at clarifying the purpose of the Second Amendment by modifying it. There are just too many crazies, with too many guns.

I say this as a one-time gun owner, former hunter, and author of books that feature a good deal of military violence. I enjoy war movies, action heroes, and military history as much as the next guy.

But the modern fad of taking as many people with you before extinguishing your own life is out of control – in part because lobbying groups like the NRA have hijacked common sense about guns into “principled” extremism. The more they insist on absolutism, the worse it gets.

Here’s a list of recent mall shootings alone: http://news.msn.com/us/tragic-shootings-at-shopping-malls-worldwide.

Merry Christmas.

I’m sure I have many readers who are avid defenders of the right to bear arms. I understand where the fascination with guns comes from, and my hero Ethan Gage has used guns to the point of helping forge his own longrifle in The Rosetta Key.

But we can hunt and collect and story tell without piling up handguns and assault rifles designed only to illegally take the life of other innocent human beings.

This blog was prompted, of course, by today’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and the recent shooting at Clackamas Mall in Oregon. But my feelings about this date back at least to Columbine High, and I get more disquieted - make that horrified – by each senseless shooting.

I’ve yet to see the avid pistol packers put an end to these gun lunatics with an Old West shootout. Instead we have gun technology that encourages the insane to shoot, and shoot, and shoot, until they run out of ammunition or the gun jams.

We are cursed with a craven Congress unable to negotiate fiscal policy, let alone reign in the gun lobby. Putting sensible limits on our violent culture seems like an almost impossible goal. (Being sensible about anything seems impossible these days when every politician avoids real responsibility by asserting “my way or the highway” on “principle.” I call it the Grover Norquist Syndrome.)

But the right to keep and bear arms needs a national debate to clarify it. Proposals to modify the Second Amendment might prompt ideas that could reach some kind of sensible compromise on guns. A citizen militia like the National Guard? Yes. Weapons designed for hunting and target shooting? Fine. Military assault rifles, even when modified to not fire at full automatic? No. Cheap handguns with endless clips? I long for flintlocks that took half a minute to a minute to load for each shot.

The more guns we buy, the more gun violence, prompting more gun purchases out of fear, allowing easier access for the crazy or enraged, in a downward spiral. We don’t live in Dodge City. We do live in a crowded society where the mentally ill and angry have easy access to the wrong kind of weapons, and too many businesses make money off them.

Dodge City, in fact, was better. Wyatt Earp tamed it by forcing cowboys to check their guns at the city limits.

Now, the first thing you see when crossing a bridge to the island where I live is a telescope store with a big sign announcing, “Guns!” It wasn’t there a few years ago.

I, for one, don’t want to be a gun nut’s next victim.

I’m not expert enough to propose a rewording of the Second Amendment. But its current interpretation is a national disaster and a tragedy waiting to happen, again, and again, and again. We’ve tried the NRA way. Now let’s try common sense.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Lyons December 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Here in Arizona signs are sprouting on store fronts forbidding guns inside. People are packing in gyms, pizza parlors, supermarkets, you name it. And gun stores, with windows barred and circled with traffic barricades are as plentiful as churches in Phoenix. Insane.


Dennis Holder December 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm

In Texas, one can purchase guns and liquor in the same store. A truly deadly mix. Thank you Mr. Dietrich for the wise words in your blog today, Dec 14, 2012. I also have guns but shotguns and a carbine rifle don’t compare to the assault weapons of today. Cheap pistols and assault weapons have only one objective.
It is time for our politicians to listen to the public and not the IRA. How can he IRA justify guns to the 20 parents who lost their children today? I will end my comment the same as Mr. Lyons; Insane.


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