Posts Tagged ‘Gun Safety’

The gun rights movement and its lunatic fringe

June 9, 2014

I am not a gun person, but I don’t consider myself an enemy of  gun owners or gun rights advocates.

I’m philosophically in accord with much of what the gun rights movement says, while not in sympathy with some of its manifestations, including people in public places who carry around deadly weapons as if they were fashion accessories.

I believe that:

  • Self-protection is a fundamental human right.
  • The Constitution gives Americans an individual right to keep and bear arms.
  • Firearms have useful and legitimate purposes.
  • Ownership of firearms by responsible, law-abiding people is not a social problem.
  • Down through history and across many cultures, denial of the right to own weapons is a defining mark of a subjugated people.  (The other is denial of the right to testify in court).
  • Guns are an icon of American culture, just as swords are an icon of Japanese culture.

A lot of gun-related legislation seems to me to be “security theater”—aimed at making people feel safer even though it doesn’t actually make them safer.

Here in New York state, where I live, the SAFE law requires a background check on the private sale of a firearm to someone not a close relative.   Which means that if someone in rural New York sells a hunting rifle to a neighbor down the road he’s known most of his life, he has to go through the rigamarole of a background check.  That is a big nuisance and adds little, that I can see, to public safety.

I haven’t followed the Open Carry movement in Texas, but it does seem to me illogical that if you can carry a concealed handgun and you can openly carry a firearm much more deadly than a handgun, you can’t openly carry a pistol in a holster.

open-carry-txWhat I don’t understand is why gun rights advocates insist on bringing the deadliest and scariest-looking military-type weapons into public places where they have no useful purpose.

If I saw one of these guys come into my favorite diner while I was eating lunch, my reaction would be to wonder whether I was about to witness a holdup, or the next psycho gun massacre.   The person might say he was making a political point, and the gun is actually unloaded.   How am I supposed to know that?

Besides, one of the main things my father taught me about guns is that the most dangerous gun is the one you assume is not loaded.   Guns have a way of going off when you don’t expect them to.   That’s why they should be treated with respect, as you would treat any other potentially hazardous machine.

I’m well aware that gun deaths are declining.  So are deaths in motor vehicle accidents.  The latter fact does not reduce my responsibility, as a motorist, to drive with care.

Gun ownership in the United States is declining.   I don’t see how the gun rights cause is advanced by its supporters behaving in a way that alienates the public.

There is a lunatic fringe to the gun rights movement.   I am certain it does not represent the majority of gun owners, and I hope that it does not represent the gun rights movement as a whole.  Its effect on public opinion is not to make people more favorable to gun rights.

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A gun is not a toy

June 6, 2014

benjaminmarauderairrifleOne of my father’s most frequent admonitions was, “A gun is not a toy.”

Like almost everybody else in our small town, he owned and used a hunting rifle.   One thing he impressed on me was that the muzzle of a firearm should never be pointed at a living thing that I didn’t intend to kill.  That applied whether I thought the gun was loaded or not.

I am not a gun person, but my brother is.  During my last visit to my brother, we spent an enjoyable morning together shooting at targets on his favorite firing range.  Everybody was highly conscious of gun safety, and monitored me closely to make sure that I, as a novice shooter, did not make some safety mistake.

Guns are useful for many things.  They are useful for self-protection, for protection of livestock from predators, for the pleasures of hunting and target shooting and, sometimes in the case of poor rural families, for putting meat on the table.

But a gun is a tool, not a toy.  A gun should be treated with the same care and respect as any other dangerous machinery.  Too many people forget this, including the people who walk around in crowded places with loaded firearms, just to make the point they have a right to do so.