Thinking Pragmatically

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In light of the recent rise in world terrorism and mass shootings in the United States, it’s almost impossible not to think about gun control and the resulting swirling controversy. Everyone has a strong opinion, and the two sides seem to be as divided as ever. On one side are the folks who want all civilian firearms destroyed and banned forever, and on the other are those who will only relinquish their guns when they are pried from their cold, dead hands. Personally, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

I’m not a gun nut and don’t have a bunker in my basement stockpiled for the apocalypse, but I have been shooting since the age of six or seven and am fairly familiar with firearms. Not counting the sticks we used as kids to play war in the woods, my first ‘gun’ was a chrome-plated Mattel Shootin’ Shell Snub-nose .38 toy revolver that shot caps and plastic bullets. That was followed shortly by a Daisy Defender air rifle (BB gun) that our father bought to teach my brother and I how to shoot safely, and then membership in a gun club where we spent a winter shooting .22 target rifles to earn awards for marksmanship. Since then I have continued to shoot, doing some small game hunting and plinking targets for fun with both handguns and rifles. I know there are quite a few people like this out there.

Though there has been that rare occasion when I was glad there was a gun nearby, I’ve typically felt very safe in this country, and the guns I’ve owned have always been unloaded and locked up when not in use. … Fast forward to today’s insanity.  Watching the nearly continuous media frenzy of the latest terrorist attack or mass shooting of the week, there is always one thought that runs through my mind:  I have to believe that every victim of those attacks wished there were people present who could have immediately returned fire.

I don’t know what the answer is, but completely disarming the general population will not help.  Though I fully agree with common sense gun laws, including banning assault rifles, requiring full background checks, and instituting waiting periods, there is much truth to the old adage that when you outlaw guns, only the outlaws will have guns. Criminals and terrorists don’t give a damn about the law, and they will always be able to obtain or manufacture weapons.  We shouldn’t make it even easier for them to do harm.

This country has a grassroots history of fighting back when we get smacked, and that is a large part of our culture. It’s one of the primary ways we have maintained our free and open society.  Now I certainly don’t want every citizen in America walking around with a sidearm, but the evil people committing these atrocities are choosing schools, social service centers, gun-free zones on military bases, and places of worship where there is little chance of resistance. They want to kill a lot of people before they themselves are ‘martyred’ by  the police, or they expect to get away before the armed authorities arrive, which almost always takes too long. What we need are near-term solutions that make it highly likely these sick individuals will be stopped within seconds of starting their violence.