I like to play with guns, so I have a number of them. Sometimes I use them for their real purpose, which is to kill. That’s why it tends to put me in a sour mood when the battle over gun rights is characterized as a struggle between gun-control advocates and gun owners. You see, I’m both.
Moreover, I am unalterably persuaded that most gun owners are like me. We’d like to see some reasonable restraints on the possession and use of firearms – a lot more controls than we have now. But we don’t say so. We don’t go into the gun shop, where young ladies behind the counters have pink semiautomatic pistols strapped to their hips, and say that’s unnecessary and distasteful, not to say crazy. We don’t go to the deer camp, where the president’s picture is pasted in the outhouse hole, and say that’s unpatriotic and disrespectful. Also crazy.
We put up with all the looniness because we are drowned out by the minions of the extremist National Rifle Association and assume when we’re in the company of two of them, then everybody else in the place agrees with those guys.
They don’t! Most gun owners have no trouble with the instant background check, or with extending it to all gun sales. Most abhor the sale of high-capacity magazines. Most think that stockpiling ammunition for eventual use against the federal government is very close to treason – and crazy. Most of us really like guns, but would prefer that the NRA, which was once a good and valuable organization, would just go away. I’m not just imagining this. Polls show that most gun owners strongly support reasonable controls.
A lot of gun owners join the NRA against their better judgment and somewhat unwillingly. Why? Because the NRA offers deals to hunting camps and shooting ranges which will require their members to join. It inflates the NRA’s treasury and artificially inflates its membership numbers, which it then uses to terrorize politicians.
I’ve enjoyed hunting for a lot of years, partly because I like the taste of some wild game, but mostly because I just love the outdoors and the considerable challenges of the sport. I should say sports, because there is a world of difference between duck hunting on public land and sitting in a deer stand on a private preserve. Like a lot of hunters, when I give it up, it’ll probably be because I’m tired of the killing part. Some people actually like that part. Those people, I think, would be well advised not to do it.
It saddens me that the number of hunters declines every year. Perhaps surprisingly to a good many people, the percentage of people owning guns is also declining. But the number of guns is high – very high, with about one gun per person in the United States. A great many of these, obviously, are not hunting weapons, so what are they for?
Oh, I know, there’s target competition. When that’s skeet, trap or sporting clays, it’s just fine. When it’s handgun competition involving human silhouettes, I have a problem with it. In fact, I have something of a problem with handguns. I wouldn’t care if they were all melted down, every last, stinking one. They have only one real purpose, and it is not to kill animals. Some people hunt with them, yes, but I find it an unethical thing to do. A gut-shot deer or hog is a spectacle of tragedy, in my book. If you’re going to hunt, I think you owe it to the animals to kill them as quickly and painlessly as possible. You reduce the chances of doing that with a handgun, with which it’s hard to hit a barn from the inside.
Assault weapons? They’re for the military. That people use them for hunting is immaterial. They are not the best weapons for hunting anything at all. Their barrels are too short. It is true that they’re just semiautomatic rifles. Well, I live in Pennsylvania, where it is illegal to hunt with semiautos, because they’re more dangerous than other firearms and you don’t need them. Fine by me.
Then again, assault rifles are not “just” semiautomatic. They’re ugly. Used to be, when I walked into a gun shop, it was all walnut and blued metal and the happy aroma of Hoppe’s No. 9 cleaning solvent. Now it’s Pachymar grips and black composite stocks and heavy, stainless sniper barrels. Yuck.
Congress is gutless, and practically every state legislature is, too, when it comes to guns and the gun lobby. If I have a hero in Congress, it’s the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Comrade Bernie, though, has a perfect record from the NRA’s point of view. That means he has opposed universal background checks and supported cop-killing, Teflon-coated ammunition, all in the name of the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment was adopted at the urging of Patrick Henry, James Madison and George Mason, who wanted to make sure the slave owners of Virginia were sufficiently armed to put down revolts. Its most ardent supporters nowadays are people who think they may need to commit treason.
I’m not one of those people. Most gun owners, still, are not those people. Just wanted to make this clear. If we could make it clear to Congress, maybe we could get some sensible legislation.