Gun lovers can sure be passionate. We might have used the word fanatical – but that word has negative connotations. Is it possible to be passionate about guns and not be fanatical? Yes. Is it possible to be passionate about anything and not be fanatical? Yes. I wrote a post last week titled The Phenomenon of Modern Guns. That post instigated a healthy debate by gun lovers – and leads directly to this diatribe of values examination.
Some of the comments on the last post were understanding of my concern – if not in agreement. Some tried to be polite by suggesting that I am just a ‘scared old geezer.’ But most of the comments came from fanatical gun lovers who are scared to death of life; people who only feel secure when in possession of their assault rifles. This ‘old geezer’ is scared of a mentality that uses guns to feel power and control. I am not at all afraid of the folks who enjoy participating in shooting competitions. I have participated in those events myself. While I was never more than a seasonal shooter – some of the folks win all of the competitions because they thoroughly enjoy the sport – and to be clear – shooting competition is great sport. So what is the problem?
Personal Background of the Author:
After retiring from a career in information systems and finance, I took a job that required I teach life skills to parolees at a State Prison. In three years I worked with about 1,200 convicted felons, out on parole with the stipulation that they complete my class. My experience led me to believe that most convicted felons are regular folks, convicted of non violent crimes – like failure to pay child support, fraud with bad checks, and possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia. Some, perhaps 5%, were serious criminals who should never have been on parole. In those three years I learned to recognize the difference between a prison tattoo and one applied by a licensed artisan. Most of my ‘clients’ were humbled by their life experience and wanted to learn how to live life without legal troubles. In my opinion we could probably reduce our prison population by about 70% and the world would be no less safe.
I learned to recognize the folks who were interested in changing their life and those who attended class merely to satisfy their parole stipulation. Those hardened folks, hardened by an unfair world, would come to class late, strut their stuff, sit in the back, slouch in their chairs, not participate, and occasionally grumble about the bullshit of the instructor. My view was that they were desperate to show that I could not control them. I was authorized to discharge anyone who did not cooperate – and discharge meant they would immediately return to prison to finish their sentence. Over time I developed an interactive style, leading directly to the class discussing how they might approach life differently – I became the moderator of the discussions. The hard cases would listen and talk with their peers – but they wanted nothing to do with me – a representative of the system that had wronged them. No student was ever discharged from my class. And most of the ‘hard’ folks left with thank you’s to me for not making the problem worse by unneeded exercise of power.
One evening in class a cell phone rang. (Cell phones were not allowed in the building). The student raised his hand and said to me, “Hold on a minute.” Then he answered his cell phone and explained to the caller that he was in class and could not talk. He thought he was being polite by raising his hand before answering the phone. I said nothing because his peers dressed him down for his inconsideration. There are people in this world who have never been taught basic manners and politeness. There are people in this world who have no idea what it means to follow simple rules. They are not bad or wicked or evil – they just do not know how to behave in civilized society.
In a nutshell, here is the way the system works. A person commits a crime and is caught. The commission of a crime is a disregard for the rules – the punishment is being placed in an environment with very strict rules. The attempt to gain control of life is punished by loss of control.
Which leads us to the problem:
The problem is one of power and control. You folks out there who are passionate about shooting as sport are correct – it is not about the guns. Assault rifles and Pit Bulls get a bad rap because of their owners. The Dog Whisperer on National Geographic Television says Pit Bulls are good dogs, but they require discipline by their owner. That is true with modern weapons of individual destruction.
We watch the news and are offended by reports of another mass murder at a school or a nursing home or a place of business. Invariably the shooter is a person who has lost some control of their life and are desperate to be back in control, and they love their guns. The fanatical gun owner lives a life around his guns. He fantasizes about the day a burglar comes into his home. He has worked out all of the scenarios, which window or door the burglar uses for entry – the clear shot with his AK-47 that brings justice to the neighborhood. The praise from his neighbors for protecting all of them. On his drive home from the shooting range he fantasizes about passing a grocery store or bank that is being robbed – but the Lone Ranger is there with his handy assault rifle to rescue the day. Does the hero wear a mask, ride a silver horse, and have a minority person as a subordinate side kick? Are his bullets solid silver, or just silver jacketed?
Pit Bulls and gun owners are very similar – give them a hard life and they will strike out at anything around them.
When I went to the local shooting range last summer, as reported in the previous post, I saw people with that obvious prison strut and prison tattoos. They were well armed. Some of these folks may not have been to prison – but they have purchased their ticket. They were not people who participate in organized shooting competitions. Their guns cost more than the car they drove to the range. I watched a bare chested man shoot off six rounds from his semi-automatic pistol – he flinched at every bang. Then he turned to his friends and strutted back to the bench, proud of his meager achievement.
Most cities in America have passed ordinances specifically identifying and regulating the ownership of Pit Bulls. Why? They must not have called the Dog Whisperer. Legislators know that they cannot legislate every conceivable treatment of dogs by owners – but they can identify dangerous dogs. The responsible Pit Bull owner suffers because of the wackos who abuse the dogs. That is the same with guns – like it or not. As a civilized society we will not tolerate anything that represents a threat to our civility. And that is the way it should be.
We are fortunate to live in America. A person cannot be arrested for fantasizing. A person cannot be arrested for what he or she might do – only for what they have done. The debate about guns in America only began about forty years ago. For two hundred years the people in this country got along fine by simply acknowledging the 2nd Amendment. Then the weapons became much more advanced – much more dangerous.
Critics of this writer suggested that my deer rifles were invented for military purposes. They argue that the new assault rifles are no different than my 1935 Remington bolt action .30-06. Pit Bull owners argue that their dogs are no more dangerous than any other breed. The difference between the Pit Bull argument and the ‘bearing of arms’ argument is in the advancement of technology. The Pit Bull defense actually makes more sense. It is not a stretch to argue that hand grenades are merely a form of arms to be used in home protection. I have always lived in a two story house – with the bedrooms on the second floor. It would be very easy to toss a hand grenade down the stairs to welcome unsuspecting burglars. Is that a reasonable argument? Does ‘bearing arms’ only apply to projectiles from steel barrels? If so, then perhaps all homes should be outfitted with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). This argument is no less absurd than the argument for civilian possession of assault weapons. The 2nd Amendment does not specifically reference particular ‘arms.’
The problem is one of advancing technology. What about ‘smart bullets’ that know to penetrate body armor before exploding? Should every invention of military assault be available to the general public? What are the limits of ‘the right to bear arms?’ Will I return to the shooting range after another twenty year sabbatical to find people shooting their laser guns and photon rays?
When you fanatics write comments on this post, be sure to include your daily fantasies of heroism. These stories might be very entertaining.