Put an array of guns in front of me and I would probably not be able to identify a single one by name. So I should admit up front that I am no expert on guns beyond their basic function. But although I cannot say that I could answer any gun questions on Jeopardy, I know enough to discuss the controversial topic.
In a recent discussion with a friend, I came up against a strong wall of passion—he was appalled that I am not a supporter of the National Rifle Association. He felt very passionate about his belief that the government should not put any impediments on owning any guns, and he said he thinks we need a group like the NRA to protect our right to own guns.
"If I want to own an AK-47, then I should be able to,” said my friend. "There is such a thrill to hold something that can spray off a hundred rounds in a couple seconds, and the government doesn’t have the right to take that away from me.”
I said, "Where do you draw the line? I’m sure there’s a lot of thrill in holding a bazooka. The bottom line is that it is unwise to own these kinds of weapons. The single purpose in the design of semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons is to kill other humans.”
"Well,” he said, "you can go out to a firing range and shoot. Many people get enjoyment out of that.”
I concede. And it’s true that banning guns will likely only remove the weapons from the hands of law-abiding citizens, and the crooks will never flinch if anyone cracked down on ownership.
I own a 30-30 Winchester, so I would be a hypocrite to say that guns should be banned. They shouldn’t. Why I don’t support the NRA is because that organization’s propaganda makes the issue too emotional and paranoid; the NRA would have us believe our government wants to ban all guns when I don’t know of any serious such discussion.
Using the Second Amendment to the Constitution to defend the right to bear arms is not so logically convincing as it used to be. When the second amendment was ratified in 1791, a gun was much different than it now is. In early America, a group of people carrying muskets was an imposing group in that regular citizens could fight equally well as soldiers, and they could defend their land against soldiers convincingly. Today’s local resident with any group of weapons he chooses is not going to defend himself effectively against any group of modern soldiers backed with technology. A modern militia might terrorize a small population or momentarily annoy the army, but it would never win any real battle.
That Americans own guns today to protect themselves against government is a joke. Personal defense, yes; public defense, no. Remember when the U.S. attacked Iraq and its army that was loaded with high-power weapons? Handguns and rifles are no match for hi-tech, disciplined, strategic warfare.
The disturbing issue is the screwy nature of American laws and culture. If the true purpose of guns is self-defense, then no one should ever be punished for killing someone in self-defense. I doubt I would feel remorse in shooting someone who attacked me or my loved ones. Yet it’s not uncommon to hear of people thrown in prison for such self-defense.
There is also the issue to consider, as one friend said to me, of the fact that owning and carrying a gun does not guarantee safety. Just because a person has a gun on them does not mean they are invincible, and the most effective use of a gun comes only in the hands of someone trained in self-defense. I may carry a gun for self-defense, but if someone jumps me and catches me off-guard, the gun might prove useless because I never get a chance to use it; also, if I am a nervous type, I might pull my gun prematurely, forcing the assailant to use his gun that he may not have intended to use.
The fact that almost anyone can go out and get a weapon that lets off hundreds of rounds of bullets in a few moments is frightening, though. I’m glad that soldiers have those weapons to use as their tools in enforcing their objectives, provided those objectives are in the cause of general freedom. I’m not so glad to think of those same weapons in the hands of a disturbed or angry citizen that can walk down the street and unload at rush hour.
A gun is a tool. It’s a tool, ultimately, of power. It gives a person the ability to overpower an oppressor, but it also gives a person the power to oppress. Having that power just for the thrill of it is a terribly adolescent reason to defend the right to own guns. The responsible person sees a gun as a tool to be respected.