Another thought on the above. Another criterion for the ‘gun culture’ grouping is what argument you choose to use for justifying your weapons. I totally get the self-defense argument. I get the hunting and sporting argument. I even get the historical argument of defending the homeland. What I don’t get are those who use the justification that their weapons are a hedge to defend against an oppressive government. It is alarming because there is almost perfect congruence between those who espouse this argument and those who hate the current President. They don’t look at the President as someone they disagree with but someone illegitimate who is hell-bent on destroying America and who must be stopped…at the ballot box (which failed) or quite possibly through other means. Their personal politics and language mirrors the talking points of the worst fringe nonsense (‘takers’, ‘parasites’, ‘welfare babies’, take your pick).
Also as a side note, in my observations those that seem to most vociferous in the defense of assault weapons often seem to fall in this category. Not long ago, I got to talk to an FBI domestic terrorism expert in Kansas and he said that the number terrorist problem in the U.S. is not Islamic fundamentalism which they actually have a very good handle on, it is the ‘sovereign citizens’ movement. I tend to agree. I know people who hate the current government and who talk about ‘resistance’ but what they fail to understand is their public position doesn’t sound reasoned and principled to us moderates, it sounds like extremism.
One thing that has been proposed and I do support is 100% background checks, registration, and waiting periods of ALL firearms purchases to include gun show sales and private sales between individuals. Gun rights folks like to tout that background checks have worked, stopping many individuals from getting weapons who shouldn’t. Therefore, I get absolutely incredulous when I hear the same people say that gun-shows and private sales shouldn’t be covered. I have seen that the private sales account for 40% of the total gun purchases in this country and you are saying that shouldn’t be regulated?
Let’s have a sanity check for a second. If I know that I cannot walk into a dealer and get a weapon because I would fail the background check, where could I get a weapon? I could steal one and many do, or I could buy the gun from the 40% shadow economy that is off market and evidence seems to suggest that this is how a lot of people do it. In this day of automation and connectivity, online background checking/registration at a police station, city hall, county clerk office, is doable. Opposition to this doesn’t pass the sanity check and the few lines of argument that I have seen against it seem to delve back into the oppressive government/fringe territory. How do you ensure those with convictions don’t get weapons? How do you prevent those with mental health issues from getting them if you don’t regulate? Over the short term, it wouldn’t have a great effect but over a long enough timeline (15-30 years), it would likely be a pretty dramatic change as illegal weapons are recovered and the culture of sales changes in the country?
I don’t pretend background checks or national registration will solve the mass shooting problem – I don’t and those on the left who believe so are deluding themselves. But I do believe it is an idea whose time has come. Setting aside the fringe conspiracy gun confiscation argument which I think is hogwash; I think we ought to have accountability of such items. We do it for cars – and yes, automobiles are not a constitutional right but okay, what about the right to vote? We require everyone to register to vote and that is a constitutional right – there is a large political battle being fought over that very matter now. If you believe everyone should be registered to vote complete with all the hoops many States are erecting now to ensure there is no voter fraud, I would say it logically follows that you can do the same and register and track all guns.
I think I should conclude this essay now. I grew up in the 80s and 90s thinking that if ever there was going to be an issue which divided and destroyed this nation, it was probably going to be abortion. Tempers were high and I saw no room for compromise on the issue. I now believe I was mistaken – we still have vehement debates on abortion but for the most part, the country has pretty much come down on the side of Abortion rights and most young people support continued access.
As an older and wiser man, I believe guns are the issue which could potentially lead to a fatal rupture. Despite the fact that gun owners can be found across the entirety of the political spectrum, it is increasingly become a ‘right-wing’ thing to do to own and maintain weapons. As that part of the political spectrum becomes increasingly aggrieved, I wonder if at some point in the future that is going to lead to bad things? I certainly don’t think the current debate and the corresponding animosity is healthy. The rhetoric on both sides really needs to calm down for the good of the Republic.
As for me, I believe that guns are a major part of the American identity and I have few issues with them. BUT, if we are going to have guns in our lives and America has pretty much made that decision, then we have to accept certain facts. We are going to have a higher level of gun violence than other western democracies – more guns means more gun deaths be it homicide or suicide.
We are going to have to accept all the good that guns do – the man who defends his fellow man from bad people, the former rape victim who needs to own a gun to be able to deal with the world, the almost disaster which was averted by the ‘one good guy with a gun’. We will have to also own the bad – the kid who shoots his sibling with the family weapon, the four year old girl who dies in the road rage incident, the racist who goes a shoots up a Church. We need to be honest about the guns in our midst and all of the positives and negatives, and perhaps all sides can be a bit more compassionate about the horror these objects can bring and celebrate the good that they can do.
This article was originally published in October of 2016. It is a personal opinion of the author, a U.S. Army officer, and is not an official position of the Army or the U.S. government.