Tue10212014

’It’s the guns, stupid’: No Shoes, Please

“It’s the economy, stupid,” was the famous phrase leftover from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. I’m amending that to “It’s the guns, stupid,” because that’s the current hot topic: gun violence and gun control.

I don’t own a gun myself, and really don’t think much of hunting animals for sport, so I’m inclined toward the violence begets violence side of the argument. But I can understand the desire to protect self and property, and the attraction to being in the wild and shooting a living creature. Not exactly my cup of tea, but different strokes for different folks.

What I don’t understand is stockpiling weapons for use against the government in the event of a despotic megalomaniac turning our American democracy into a fascist, dystopian hellscape in which those who can’t defend themselves with a boatload of hardware are doomed to fall under the thumb of Sharia Law. I think as long as we support solid investigative journalism, have easy access to information (a good education, or even a good Wi-Fi connection) and promote opportunities for upward mobility, self-expression and personal fulfillment, the chances of the United States turning into Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany are pretty slim.

Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t pay attention to how the government infringes on individual rights and liberties. But a citizens watch group, organized boycotts and demonstrations, or even letters to your congressional representative might be a more proactive way of keeping Big Brother in check. Collecting guns and ammo and waiting for the black helicopters to arrive at your doorstep are the least effective measures, because by the time you implement the tools, the situation is already out of control.

I believe these people who amass guns for personal, paranoid use and, more importantly, those who actually sell the weapons have controlled the gun debate – or lack thereof – thus far. Sure, I want to pay some attention to mental health services and violence in popular culture when it comes to analyzing criminal acts like the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

But for me, it’s principally about the guns and how easy it is to obtain them, stupid. None of us needs a semiautomatic assault weapon or 30-round clips unless we happen to be patrolling certain neighborhoods in Afghanistan.

And it’s not unreasonable to ascertain the mental health of prospective gun owners. Heck, I was required to submit to a DMV background check to drive for school field trips and a criminal background check to coach middle school volleyball. It was a nuisance, but it didn’t make me want to shoot anybody for insisting.

I don’t want to arm more “good” people to protect us from the “bad” ones. I don’t believe in frontier or vigilante justice. I do want fewer guns in fewer hands, but that doesn’t mean I disavow Second Amendment rights. I just think that threatening violence as a way to end violence is like fighting fire with fire, and I’d rather go with either water or oxygen deprivation. The goals, after all, are peace and safety. So why not attain them peacefully and safely?

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