Saturday, December 16, 2017

Gun control starts in your own house

     The 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook slaughter caught me off guard Thursday. In recent years, I've pretty much stopped reacting to these ever-more-common tragedies. What's the point? Why bother? Nothing ever happens.
     But I was curious as to what I wrote in the wake of Sandy Hook, and came up with this. It stands up to the half decade test, and seems a concept seldom raised, and worth raising again. At least it's about something that can actually occur. 

     Enough, people are saying, again, this time in the wake of Friday's horrific school massacre in Connecticut.
     We have to DO something.
     Well yes, doing something would be nice. Though you have to pause a moment first to contemplate a belief system that requires 20 dead children before it snaps to attention.
     Give credit to advocates of gun rights. They know what they believe. They believed it Thursday. They believe it today.
     They put their money where their mouths are, their boots both on the ground and firmly on the necks of their representatives. They pull out their wallets and slap them on the table.
     Give them our grudging respect. No need of a slaughter to stir them to action. In fact, slaughter doesn't stir them at all, except to read aloud the script in their hand that says: "More guns."
     A few days before this happened, after the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals demanded that Illinois join the rest of the nation and craft a concealed carry law, I had an idea. My idea was: I gotta buy a gun. Not for protection - I live in Northbrook. I take Metra. The last time I felt myself physically threatened was . . . umm . . . never.
     But as a columnist, I thought it would be interesting to carry a gun around. As a stunt. Buy the gun, take the course, conceal and carry. See what happens.
     I floated this idea by my wife. Her eyes narrowed.
     "Not in my house," she said, severely. I explained what a sharp column it would be. Front-page stuff! It wouldn't be forever; I could sell the gun back. She didn't care a bleep what I had in mind: no gun. Period.
     Because guns are dangerous.
     To be honest, I felt thwarted. But I didn't push—we had months to figure this out. Then Friday happened. Twenty children shot down. As horrifying as it was, our fellow Americans buffed the horror to a hallucinatory sheen. The shootings are an Obama conspiracy to push gun control! This illustrates the urgent need to end gun-free zones! If only those teachers were armed . . .
     Shades of the offensive fantasy that — since I'm Jewish — gun nuts feel obligated to send to me, floating the notion that had only the Jews of Europe been armed before World War II then, golly, the Holocaust would never have happened.
     Pretty to think so.
     But the Polish Army was armed. The French Army was armed too. Didn't help them much. Guns have their uses, but if they were the magic totems of protection that gun advocates seem to believe they are, then we'd all live in a very, very safe country.
     And, obviously, we don't.
     There could have a been a police officers' convention at the Sandy Hook School and those kids would still be dead. Police officers, if you haven't noticed, are shot and killed too, despite their training, despite their guns.
     No, actually I think my wife nailed it, as she often does. "Not in my house." Is that not a manageable start? Before we talk about laws, before we fall to arguing over specifics, over magazine capacities and what makes an assault rifle, we need to address the panting American passion for weaponry and violence. Those zombies, you realize, are just a thin disguise to let you guiltlessly enjoy watching people shot.
      Until we address that, we'll do nothing — or, rather, continue doing nothing. The Connecticut killer got his guns from his mother, who owned them legally. And frankly I can't imagine a nation where any change could be embraced that might prevent that. There are many disturbed people. They all have mothers. If the blame rests anywhere — leaving forever open the question of whether insanity affects our right to hold this killer accountable — it has to lay with mom. She wasn't disturbed. She kept her guns — "for protection," natch — in such a manner that her troubled son could get hold of them. If she didn't know, who was supposed to know? If she couldn't stop him, how was the United States government supposed to stop him?
     I believe we have too many guns, yes. But I also believe that the National Rifle Association is a convenient bogeyman for lazy liberal consciences that need to see dozens of first-graders die before they rouse themselves, temporarily. Any one of a hundred Democratic plutocrats could match the NRA's spending tomorrow, and it wouldn't mean a thing. Not until we realize that most Americans don't want stricter gun laws — they want them to be more lax, or stay the same. We think all those Clint Eastwood movies are true, and we stockpile all these guns to keep us safe. Only they don't keep us safe. "Not in my house" — that's a start, a small but important step, and you don't need to hire lobbyists to make it work.
      —Originaly published in the Sun-Times, Dec. 17, 2012


  1. If you want to end gun violence in the USA, you need to check out what other countries are doing. I'm British and therefore well used to having US politicians waving a paw at us. So you guys end up with regulations on barrel shrouds (no analogy in UK law), regulations on pistol grips (ditto), magazine capacities (ditto), and adjustable stocks (you've guessed it).

    The UK system works better because it uses licensing rather than background checks. Whenever background checks have been adopted, they have failed (Hungerford, Dunblane) because no background check can ever include all of the relevant information. To pick a pertinent example, Thomas Hamilton was on the police computer a decent upstanding citizen, but was in reality a violent, psychopathic paedophile. The US needs to start picking out gun owners to interview, and find out what they are really like.

    To touch on The Holocaust, the Jews of Europe were deliberately targeted because there was enough of them around for people to be aware of them, but small enough in numbers to be easy to control and kill. In Germany, for example, Jews made up just 3% of the population. Even if each Jew in Germany had an AR-15 it wouldn't have helped.


  2. The Republicans have done something.

    They orchestrated a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the spectacularly wealthy. That solves everything.

    When the tax bill passes, the GOP leadership will sigh and smoke a cigarette. This is climax of what they have been working for since Nixon.

    Dead children? Almost 600 butchered in Las Vegas?


    Tax cut for the wealthy that will destroy the social safety net for children and the elderly? Something worth fighting for with all the might of a nation.

  3. I think that Edie's lesson has actually been learned, but unfortunately to little effect. I saw statistics recently that showed that even though there are many more guns now than just a few years ago, there are not many more gun owners. The people who own guns tend to acquire more; the sane among us only acquire a gun when necessary, i.e. when our employment requires us to carry a weapon. Nonetheless, I admit that the romance of the gunslinger infects us all. As a cabdriver, I was the victim of a holdup once during which the cops showed up. After my assailant exited the cab, throwing his gun down as he left, I reached down behind me to pick up the gun with the idea, stupid as it was, of putting the thing in my pocket. When I discovered it was a toy, I threw it back in disgust. I never sought to get a gun thereafter, even though I could have taken my father's 38 special when my brother died. I lived in a dangerous neighborhood, but all my acquaintances were drunks and thieves. A gun would have been a liability, not an asset. And now that I live in a safe neighborhood (more or less), my dreams of being the Lone Ranger or Hopalong Cassidy have faded completely away and even if I were forced to advertise my gunlessness, I wouldn't be impelled in the least to buy one.


    1. That's true, regarding the number of gun owners. The last stat I saw, where it used to be half of Americans, say, 50 years ago, now it's a third, though those owners tend to have many guns -- it's safer! And that group will, by definition, shrink, slowly, since those guns are a threat primarily to themselves and their families. It's a tragedy.

    2. In the time it took me to write this comment, it's become obsolete, based on the last two, but, of course, I'll post it, anyway! ; )

      I'm with you and Tony. I live in the city and take the El, but have never even considered getting a gun. Seems pretty obvious to me that the likelihood of me having my good-guy's gun on me and at-the-ready at the random moment when I might actually need it is not worth the danger/cost/trouble of owning it and constantly carrying it in the first place. But, granted, I'm a liberal snowflake...

      This is a fine, logical column, but the actual percentage of households owning guns is down 17% since 1994, according to this WaPo article from last year. "36 percent of U.S. adults either own a firearm personally, or live with someone who does." So, folks seem to be increasingly on-board with your rationale, but it doesn't seem to be lowering the number of random shooting events.

    3. Evidently, with every tragedy the gun owners buy more guns because they are told the govemt will confiscate the ones they have. In Britain they worry about crimes committed with knives. Kind of quaint. That drive by knifings are hard to conceive it sheds light on why the homicide rate there is a fifth of ours. On carrying a piece for self protection I learned long ago watching western movies that if the villain has the drop on you, usually the case, you don't have a chance.


    4. My household is one of those with multiple firearms, well over a dozen. My husband hunts many different types of game, and that requires many different rifles and shotguns. I have a gun my dad gave me. They are all safely stored, and our kids were taught never to touch them. Once old enough, our son started shooting skeet in the backyard, and this year got his deer license. There's no way a zero gun policy could happen here.

    5. Nikki--

      Nobody is suggesting a "zero gun policy." In fact, your comment is the first time I ever heard the term. Hunting, like being a police officer, is an entirely different matter, and not what is being discussed.

    6. I've never had any interest in hunting but I have plenty of friends who do. I've never felt uncomfortable in their homes because their guns are for sport. To me, a hunter with guns is the same as a fisherman with rods and reels. Now, a home with an arsenal for protection? Don't bother inviting me to your party.

    7. Just referencing Edie's "Not in my house."

  4. Sandy Hook was the absolute nadir in the gun debate. Even the whackos were dimly aware that normal people would not accept 20 dead little children as the price of free gun ownership, so what did they do? They declared the whole thing a "hoax" and started criminally harassing the parents. There is nothing to be done with such people except crush them politically.

  5. If I may interject, the NRA recently introduced a legal defense fund insurance product, in anticipation of higher accountability standards mentioned here. They continue to be one step ahead.
    I would advise not foucusing in particular guns, this is a sand trap meant to slow you down on regulation, i.e. commercial assault rifles are not functionally different from sport rifles.
    My suggestion is to broaden the aforentioned concealed carry laws. As an example, when I grew up, before you were allowed to hunt unsupervised, you had to take a gun safety class (which was required to purchase a hunting license) Typically, concealed carry permits require background checks, which would help narrow the pool of loonies.
    Lastly, what you really want is to expand the system for Class III firearm permits, which in addition to background checks includes security requirements, and requires a home interview from law enforcement.


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