Giving The Constitution a brisk makeover, the Supreme Court recently intensified political and cultural warfare over gun control and abortion. A newly pregnant woman suddenly has to make a critical selection from a dramatically reduced set of options; and disappointment bedevils anyone who still won’t concede that in America common folks may carry guns.
Gun control as a laughing and crying matter
Are you thankful that there were no pistol-packing moms and dads in that Uvalde schoolhouse corridor when platoons of armed police did nothing – nothing! – as children were being killed slowly, shot by shot, just a few feet away?
There was only one shooter trapped with no way to escape. There were adorable hostage children lively and eager for a rescue. There were hungry media, anxious parents, and plenty of police with Constitutionally and Statutorily legal guns — and the cops had probably been warned against using excessive force in the daylight. But there was a flaw in the staging of the episode.
Gun control policies — put in place long after The Constitution was written — ensured that the police would be the only rescuers involved who had guns, but those policies did not require the police to do anything at all.
So those dozens of police all did what they were allowed to do: exactly nothing. The police listened while the children died.
Instead of a glorious rescue the crime scene eventually appeared to be a crowd of heavily armed policemen protecting one loony guy with a gun from citizen interference with his crude mass murder plan.
If it has a stomach, The Constitution probably has not yet finished throwing up.
Imagine Saving Private Ryan winning the Academy Award for its graphic portrayal of thousands of American soldiers hunkered down at water’s edge and waiting for someone else to take the first step onto the beach.
“After you,” they politely say to each other.
“Oh no, after you,” they graciously reply.
It is that easy to make comedy about the Uvalde cops, because their behavior was utterly nonsensical — when at the same time it was a flagrant and heartless betrayal of trust.
Yet most of the cops can still wear their police badges and therefore they are still considered by my old friends on The Left to be the primary go-to lawful guardians of civilian safety.
Here is the ranked list of people that I want to help save kids and put down their killer if I am in a Uvalde school corridor when the kids are being killed:
• I will bravely go first with a loaded gun, of course; then after I am immediately shot dead by the hysterically laughing bad guy…
• All the moms and dads with loaded guns will go next
Even a shock like Uvalde might not open closed minds.
My old friends on The Left will tell us again that America is overloaded with guns, and that everyday possession of guns should be limited to well-trained and trusted guardians such as our local police.
My new friends on The Right will wonder where I have been hiding all these years, because only now do I ask questions out loud that my old friends on The Left don’t know how to answer.
My old and new friends on The Left and on The Right have been growling at each other about gun policies for a long time. I finally concluded that…
There is a basic disconnect between the gun-control crowd
and the gun-loving crowd
and it is caused by a single critical difference in their attitudes
• The Left wants the police to protect everyone.
• The Right also wants all of us to protect ourselves and each other.
For many reasons, the main fact – that many civilian Americans have the right to own and carry guns – has been affirmed even by the Supreme Court. But I have not found a plain uncluttered description of which civilians possess that basic gun right, and which guns are included, so I will provide to you this plain and useful guide:
Practically every non-criminal and non-crazy adult American
has the right to carry with him or her at nearly all places and times
the type of gun that might be wielded by a criminal aggressor
or an even better gun than that
if available at gun shops or dealers online… or elsewhere
Simply put: most Americans may lawfully carry the worst gun that a criminal adversary could obtain, or even imagine. Our default policy should be that Americans are OK to carry guns that will make criminals absolutely terrified to frighten Americans.
You say that’s outrageous?
No, it’s just scary as hell. So are hurricanes and cancer. Deal with them all.
I can hear liberal gun-haters screaming. I am tuned to their screams, because all my adult life I have been mainly a liberal. But unlike many other liberals, I have also been a gun-lover. In fact, I credit my love of guns, and my ability to use them, for every kind of success I have ever achieved in life.
I learned how to shoot a gun before I ever touched one. As a boy, from books, I learned how to form a “sight picture” while aiming. As a college student on a rifle team, I won competitions and awards for consistently hitting, from 50 feet away, target ten-spots not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence.
In the Army at basic training I qualified as an “expert” by knocking down, with one shot each, every target that flipped up briefly at every distance and direction, and I had ammunition left over. I fell in love with the M-16, and could not miss with it.
In Vietnam, serving as an Army-schooled Vietnamese interpreter, I carried every day a 45-caliber pistol, or an M-16 rifle, or a grenade launcher, or some combination. Mostly it was just the pistol — to scare off the cowboys who might risk jumping on my jeep to steal my sunglasses. In a real fight involving enemy pedestrians, no one in my vehicle would have time to grab a gun.
Long after Vietnam I paid my own way as an unarmed civilian journalist to embed for several weeks with Army soldiers going on missions in Iraq.
Despite a rich personal history of loving guns, living with guns, and shooting them so well: while I was inside the wars at Vietnam and then Iraq…I don’t recall ever firing a shot; not even for practice.
At home, I shot competitively and very well. I was a captain of a team that won a state championship. If I said more you would scold me for bragging. Eventually my skills deteriorated as my work and family displaced most shooting in my life. And recently a highway accident gave me a traumatic brain injury that permanently canceled my ability to shoot in worthwhile competitions.
Today I have no firearm; but I do have a narrow target lane in my garage, where I occasionally shoot a compressed-air pellet pistol. I can’t shoot those pellets at a championship level, but I can probably still beat you and everyone you know.
Why have I burdened folks with a boring examination of my life with guns? Because folks need to be familiar with a viewpoint on guns that the Left won’t talk about or recognize.
Guns taught me – and millions of others – the value of core-principles: focused education and learning, preparation, practice, setting goals, self control even to the heartbeat level, determination, and team spirit.
Guns taught me, among other things, that confidence under pressure is a talent that can be learned. As a competition target shooter I taught myself how to banish nervous jitters and gently squeeze off disciplined shots at impossibly small targets. I learned composure methods and concentration skills that I called on in later years at jury trials and arguments to appellate courts. From shooting I even learned how to one day squelch my terrors, do improbable things, and at poolside save my drowning son’s life from a deadly spinal injury. That is not an exaggeration. As I worked on my unconscious son, I reminded myself about how to stay calm exactly as I did on the firing range.
So. At pressure-packed moments of my life I called on exactly the same skills I learned from shooting guns. Without question guns have been effective and reliable friends. My guns have always earned my love of them.
If you share the privilege and responsibility to handle guns, you know that they can be terrifically inspirational, as well as a deadly threat.
So… If The Left wants someone to croak about how guns are only bad, find some fool who thinks all guns should be outlawed so only outlaws can have them. Don’t try to enlist me, the gun lover who doesn’t actually own any guns right now.
Closing the loose-language divide
By a type of logic that defies comprehension, when an innocent victim kills a criminal in self-defense, that win for the good guys is added to the “incidents of gun violence” that “gun control” is intended to reduce. By that logic, if in any year every gun thug were to be outgunned by every targeted homicide victim, those “hooray for our side!” gun-death statistics that we should celebrate would be misused to prove the need for more gun control — that would make it harder for law-abiding good guys to have guns.
The only way to exit our political gun quagmire is to do essentially what the Supreme Court said we must do: accept the presence of guns as a historical fact and a popular feature of a complicated and risk-rich society.
We have always learned how to live meaningful lives despite every variety of hardship and risk.
Cancer is a widespread and powerful risk to human lives. Cancer is unpopular and scary. Yet no fool running for president will promise to outlaw unlicensed cancer. We reluctantly learn how to deal with cancer while minimizing its impact.
Although winter sports can be hazardous to athletes and spectators, no one insists that only police and licensed players should be allowed to use hockey sticks or racing skis.
Look inside the garages in your neighborhood. You could kill yourself just by walking in the dark and tripping over something deadly. Your neighbor might show you how to pulverize an elephant with some of the stuff he has.
I was once evaluated for the likelihood that I might use a gun to kill myself. When the evaluating professional told me that I had passed the gun test and she was ready to issue her favorable report, I asked her why she had not asked me anything about my kitchen knives. She laughed and so should you.
You can buy lovely shop tools that could enable you to kill somebody who is locked for safety inside a German Panther tank.
A hungry 15-year-old with a baseball bat could easily kill you to get cash for a fried chicken sandwich.
Do you know where your fearsome Nike 7-iron is today?
Many of mankind’s possibly hazardous tools and trinkets have multiple uses in hunting, warfare, farming, home-building, travel, cooking, sports and partying. Modern society presents us with thousands of possibly life-ending risks and causes, some of which are lots of fun.
If you swing your 7-iron poorly the round white projectile it spits out might strike and kill your golfing pal. Nike will keep selling its unlicensed 7-irons lawfully, and you might keep using yours as well… although a lesson might be good. Just saying…
A motor vehicle poorly driven can crash your car and hurt you so much you nearly die; and another motor vehicle can rush you to the hospital, where good medical practice can save you and bad medical practice can kill you. Every person in every part of that story requires a license to lawfully do what he or she is doing; but at no point in the story does actually having the license – or not – affect the outcome.
Discussions of “gun violence” treat the issue as if it were a unique form of violence. It is not and never has been. Like many of the weapons-grade implements in our lives, guns can be used and misused. But unlike regarding many of the dangerous objects in our lives, gun control advocates want to prohibit many people from relying on guns even for protection from other people who have weapons.
If you try to kill me with a sword, may I defend myself by hitting you with an unlicensed empty pistol?
You could spend a lifetime coming up with ludicrous examples of what people may and may not do with every object there is.
We could never lawfully use any tool of any kind if tools were outlawed because somebody somewhere could misuse them.
In the zeal of The Left to bemoan “gun deaths” they intentionally give insufficient credit for the bad things that guns prevent. Do their experts accurately catalog things that – praise be! – didn’t happen? Do you remember seeing an accurate and inclusive accounting of all the good protective deeds that were done by guns? How about the number of times a criminal, alerted to possible defensive guns on board, got too scared to attack someone?
Let’s be bold. We must even have the right to send a gun-waving adolescent to the grave if he poses a threat. You remember him from earlier in this piece. He threatened you with a baseball bat. He wanted to steal your money to buy a fried chicken sandwich. You didn’t know that was his reason for that robbery. You don’t know his reason this time either. Your mind is acutely focused not on the sandwich and not on the money, but on the gun that he is waving in your face.
Does the Democratic style of gun control – don’t carry one – require you to stake your life on the punk’s possibly benign intentions or his self-control? Does their view of gun control demand that you leave your right to survive in a locked box at home?
But what if, when the punk attacks, you have a gun in its well designed concealed-carry holster… or even better, in your hand? Only in the movies do two people with guns get an arms-length drop on each other and have a chat about what to do next.
If the punk brandishes a gun, and you have a gun and the chance to shoot first, you could take it, and The Constitution would let you do it. That is your right, which gun over-control would take away. If the punk has a gun and you do not have a gun, realistically you have no rights at all.
That loud screeching you are hearing now is again coming from the gun-control crowd, who will say that preventing adolescent malnutrition is one of the reasons to keep guns out of the hands of hateful people like me – who want to carry guns so they can shoot whenever chicken-hungry children bother them with guns to avoid starvation.
The gun-hating crowd will also argue that fried chicken skins are unhealthy and should be outlawed; but that discussion will have to wait for another think-piece, that I will write if you will sponsor me.
Guns are now as much a reality of modern living as they were when Davy Crockett used them.
But remember: Davy Crockett lived for a while in an un-enlightened Texas community with smoking-gun air pollution, which is why the neighboring Mexicans had to chastise Davy and his friends.
Guns are neither perfectly safe nor perfectly effective. There is no guaranty that any form of protection will always stop a criminal with a gun, a knife, or a corkscrew. Come to think of it, I have mislaid the disturbing report on corkscrew homicides.
Both pro-gun and anti-gun political power-seekers trying to win your vote will promise you a better, safer, more rewarding life, and deliver angrier ads that keep you dissatisfied with the life you have.
Whether or not they promise, no Republican or Democratic candidate will give every American adult at least one loving and trustworthy spouse.
Gun control advocates include every gun suicide as evidence that there must be gun control to reduce total gun deaths. So you may not have a gun to save your life because someone else might use a gun to end that person’s own life.
Are you beginning to see a pattern forming in this discussion? Hit the pattern with a brick and break it. Writers like me can always imagine tiny scraps of rationale to support an argument that they never really formulate until the last page. Yet… so far these scraps seem to be pretty good!
Guns are not threats in a sea of safety
Guns are dangerous objects in a sea of threats
We live in an imperfect world and a society filled with all sorts of risks that we have always had to cope with, in one form or another, since before we came together and decided to have a country. We had private use and ownership of guns even before the country existed; and the country started to exist because of the use of guns by people who already owned and used them.
The country was nearly torn apart by Americans who owned and used guns, and cemented back together by Americans who also owned and used them. And the whole civilized world was rescued by Americans who privately owned and used guns in this country before they shipped out for service in countries overseas.
Because Republicans are smart and creative in their issue-picking-and-defining, The Left’s traditionally brainy gun control arguments have competed with The Right’s more visceral approaches. The distressing and off-putting disputes have obliterated the opportunity for some worthwhile Democratic and bipartisan policies to succeed.
This long think-piece has been, I hope, entertaining as well as persuasive. But I have to admit, with some sadness and regret, that everything of value so far can be summed up with this:
If it’s midnight and a punk with a gun threatens to kill you,
to whom would you appeal for a rescue:
– a cop in a patrol car that might drive by if you can wait a little longer; or
– a Democrat with statistics about gun-related injuries and deaths; or
– a Republican packing a gun that’s way scarier than the gun that Davy Crockett used
You were born into a world with guns and the world is going to stay that way or get worse. The guns you think are horrible now will no longer be marketed when better guns are available. Wait til you see the stuff they sell next year, when guns fire bolts of lightning instead of bullets.
That day’s discussion of guns will actually be fun, as we read the scholarship of Justice Clarence Thomas, who finds nuances in American Revolutionary rhetoric that confirm our Founders’ heartily supportive attitude toward eyeglass guns that emit invisibly lethal magno-electro shock waves.
So here is what we should do now. When we finally agree to make peace with guns in general, we should also promise to protect each other from the misuse of guns. We have the right and power to help and protect each other and we must never surrender that right and power to some force – call them police or any other tag you like – that pretends to exclusively own the market on protecting us, while demanding immunity from liability for messing up.
What about that recent butchery of Uvalde school children while the police did nothing? Next time let the cops watch as the pistol-packing moms and dads show the cops how to try. If the parents have no guns, they will use their fingernails.
I think this piece is long enough. Let me sum up:
Guns are not going away. Neither is that dreamy Democratic boy who knocked up your daughter. Or that Alabama Republican lawyer’s daughter who flummoxed your son.
We should keep emphatically reminding each other — often and as loudly as we can — about the miracles that hard-headed Americans have achieved when they worked together, bled together, laughed together, and died together…with or without guns.
Somehow American gun lovers and American gun haters have to live and let live with their current differences intact. Americans have done this sort of thing before, better than most. The jealous world has all of America in its cross-hairs, including both you and the idiot across the street.
When you find yourself in a foxhole — and we all do every day — don’t be quick to shoot at the closest and easiest target you see. Everyone in the foxhole needs to be your friend.
Republican voters should invite Democratic voters to fun days at outdoor shooting ranges. Bring plenty of herbal tea and bandages. Change the faces on the targets so they don’t all look like Hilary Clinton. If you invite me, and I can approve the type of gun we both use, don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.