Sunday, June 19, 2016
Just this once: the case for guns
One of the grimmest aspects of the Orlando slaughter is that it is just the bloodiest and most recent of many acts of armed terrorism. Those arguing that now is the moment for reform should realize that odds are with the opposite. After past rampages, gun laws were liberalized, not tightened.
Despite this trend toward profusion, not restriction, gun owners and gun stores like to complain about how the media is set against them. The truth is, it's the facts that are against them, not that many care. Gun supporters barely need try to make their case. This story ran in 2013, during the last spate of public attention over the profusion of guns in this country. I guess it's easier to bitch about being mistreated than to try to defend the undefendable.
The mainstream media gets blasted for ignoring the truth by those who think they have a monopoly on it. But should the media come knocking to hear their version of that truth, well, that's no good either...
With guns and ammo flying out of stores, supposedly, sparked by talk of gun control in Washington and Springfield — bound to go nowhere but good for sales nonetheless — I figured that rather than opine more myself, I would talk to those who have something different to say on this topic, maybe something about the vital need to protect our cherished 2nd Amendment rights, even after the unpleasant incident in Newtown. You'd think, with all this negative publicity, gun advocates would be hot to tell their side of the story.
You'd think wrong.
"We're not really big on talking to the media," said a guy at Maxon Shooters Supplies in Des Plaines, which I called first because I have been there, twice, firing guns, which you'd think would earn me points, as a regular customer. "Business is brisk," he said, "like everywhere else."
"No comment ..." said a clerk at Jack's Gun Shop in Riverdale.
"No, we're not doing any comment at this time," said a lady at Midwest Guns in Lyons.
I didn't want to let her off that easily.
"What time will you comment?" I asked.
"It's our right..." she said, defensively.
"...not to talk to the media? Of course it is." I cooed. "But why not? Are you ashamed?"
"Have a good day," she said. Click.
When all else fails, go for the big dog - GAT Guns Firearms Superstore ("If We Don't Have it, We Can Get It") in East Dundee, 3,000 guns on display in what will, when they're done expanding, be a 30,000-square-foot showroom. They seem to be the eye of the storm. "SOME AR'S" - assault rifles - "ARE OUT OF STOCK" its website warns, offering a ray of hope with a reassuring, "WE ARE TAKING ORDERS." I bet.
Owner Greg Tropino came on the line.
Laughter. "Exactly. It is very, very brisk."
"Is there a specific reason?" I wondered.
"Are you serious?" he said. "Are you not aware what's going on in Springfield? They're worried people are going to take away..." He was skittish talking to a reporter. "I've been in gun industry since 1968," Tropino continued. "I have been burned by more reporters..." But I worked my charm, and he did not hang up but explained that the problem is not guns, but mental illness.
"When Quinn took office there were 11 mental institutions — he's closed four," he said. "The key factor in so many of these shootings is mental health." I asked him what one thing he wished people understood about this issue and he mentioned a story in the Sun-Times, where a father burned his children with gasoline. "That's what I wish people understand, if somebody's going to do something bad, they're going to do something bad, if they have to go to the corner store and buy five gallons of gas. There are evil people out there and we have to take care of these people. That's my one thing. My heart aches when I think about those kids getting killed ... but banning something is not going to solve anything. You can't wave a magic wand and it's all better. We've got to do something about mental health."
In that regard, I agree with him. It would be ironic if mental health services, the first baby to go out the window when times are tight, found an unexpected ally in gun fans. To reward Greg for talking, I'll make the quick, one-paragraph case for guns. Ready?
Given there are some 270 million guns in the United States — nearly one for every person — if they were the source of extreme peril that gun control types suggest, we'd all be dead. Not only is owning a gun a hobby— hunting, shooting, collecting — but guns give countless Americans a sense of security. Perhaps false but real to them — that they're ready to face whatever zombie apocalypse, social breakdown or bad guy coming through the window that they all dread. Yes, people are killed by guns but most are suicides who, arguably, might find other means. And the number of gun deaths is far below deaths from other tolerated habits, such as cigarettes, which harm far more than guns do. Sure, getting rid of guns would save lives but so would setting the speed limit at 40 mph.
I don't quite buy that, and here's why: machine guns are illegal. Silencers too. Yet the gun folk still have lots of ordnance to stockpile and adore. As much as they claim it's a slippery slope, and though unrelated events like President Barack Obama's election make them load up more, there's zero chance of true reform. Guns are partly about fearing our government, yet to many they are also a sacred icon of our country, like apple pie, mom and baseball. But like baseball, occasionally the rules can be tweaked and still the game goes on.
— Originally published in the Sun-Times, Jan. 6, 2013