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Miller: Gun crazy

by Alex Miller

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

On my first visit to Summit County in 1976, I shot a gun for the first time. It was a muzzle-loader, and with it I drilled a Budweiser can stuck on a tree branch from about 50 yards away.

Turned out I was a pretty good shot, and that Christmas my Dad got me my own rifle – also a muzzle loader. Not a gun fan, my dad figured such a weapon didn’t pose the kind of threat other modern guns did. As a New York City firefighter, Dad had seen his share of what guns were capable of in the rough neighborhoods his station protected. Later, living in NYC myself in the late 1980s when murders – mostly from gun violence – were topping 2,500 per year, I came to view guns in a different light. I’d since sold my own gun, and though I hadn’t sworn them off completely, I found I simply had little interest in them anymore. Nor did I ever feel owning a handgun would make me any safer in what was quite literally one of the most dangerous cities in America.

Looking at the text of the Second Amendment above and thinking back to my own experience handling a weapon somewhat similar to the ones the Founders had in mind when they wrote that phrase “bear arms,” I don’t understand how folks use this as a rationalization for owning automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Or for preventing any laws whatsoever restricting gun ownership from ever being enacted (while dismantling those already in place). Or for refusing to even discuss reducing the firepower of the population at large. It’s all about “freedom,” they say, but many of us also appreciate greatly the freedom to assemble without fear of being mowed down by a heavily armed lunatic.

In 1787 terms, the ability of the lone loon to fire 31 shots in rapid succession would have necessitated having 31 pre-loaded muskets at the ready – or, perhaps, some kind of similarly minded lunatic militia. That’s not too practical for the determined homicidal maniac, which is why in the past most murders and assassinations had commensurately smaller death tolls. Today, in Arizona and many other states, you can pick up said militia down at the local Walmart along with your eggs and milk and stick it in your pocket.

Really, is the ability to be so easily and heavily armed necessary for hunting, target shooting or personal protection? Of course not – unless we’re talking about a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion, in which case all bets are off.

Guns have one essential purpose: to put holes in things; often people. It can be argued that putting holes in deer or elk for meat is reasonable; that equipping cops and soldiers with the ability to administer holes is reasonable; and that allowing people to put holes in targets for recreation is reasonable. But the ability to deliver holes represents an awesome power – the power to kill, quickly and impersonally. Saying such power should hardly be regulated at all – the NRA’s basic stance – is ridiculous and irresponsible. Even the most ardent gun-control advocates aren’t saying normal, law-abiding citizens can’t have weapons for whatever reason. The point is simply that criminals, the mentally ill and others deemed by society not to be trusted shouldn’t be allowed to have them. And for those who can, the weapons need not be assault-worthy; they should only be powerful enough for reasonable uses such as listed above.

But the gun rhetoric isn’t based on logical arguments such as this. It’s that “freedom” thing again, and the paranoid fear that one regulation will lead to another and another – “government takeover” and what have you. Given the power of the NRA, the adoption of “Second Amendment rights” by the right as a bizarre rallying cry and the conflation of gun ownership with patriotism, I don’t expect much to change. I don’t think the killings in Arizona will change a thing – not from this Congress. Simply put: the voices opposed to more gun regulation are louder and more strident than those in favor. If you want any proof of this, simply look at this column online, where all manner of hyperventilating rhetoric will be on display telling me just how very wrong I am and how guns are absolutely essential to the happiness and, yes, freedom, of the person writing.

All I’m saying is have your guns, but please don’t take them everywhere. Don’t own pocket cannons or machine guns (or their equivalent). And just take one more look at that jailhouse mugshot of Jared Lee Loughner and ask yourself: Is this really the kind of guy we need to be loading for bear in advance of his next trip to the shopping mall?

Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at amiller@summitdaily.com or (970) 668-4618.


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