I don’t know anyone who believes that the government should take away hunting rifles, target pistols, or other similar non-offensive guns from legitimate, licensed owners. There is a long tradition of hunting and recreational shooting, including trap shooting, which is recognized in this country and even included in Olympic events. So the paranoia about stripping Uncle John of his treasured shotgun which he uses to hunt is unwarranted.
However, there is a legitimate concern in America about the extensive manufacture, sale, theft, and use of guns which are designed exclusively to kill people. As one who knows nothing about guns, it would be difficult and inappropriate for me to begin to identify the different handguns and rifles that distinguish themselves as offensive and intended to shoot people. But we all know that they exist, and recent history shows us that they are not all locked up in some safe cabinet. They are in the hands, pockets and cars of people who mean to do harm to other people, or are ready to “defend themselves” against someone they believe is out to harm them.
It is naive of someone like me to think that defense is not a legitimate concern. Violent crime exists and communities seem to be struggling with how to curb it. But there are more than one answers to the issue, and arming the public to “shoot back” when they believe they are in danger is one with which many people struggle. I am one of them.
Rather than make this a generic “anti-gun” posting, I want to focus on one aspect of this debate which I believe is capable of being dealt with immediately, and which I believe can begin to diminish the gun violence we are experiencing in this country. I am talking about guns which I know as “machine guns.” They are big, powerful, deadly, and intended for military use. However, in the past few decades they have been available to purchasers with fairly liberal access and are now owned and used by citizens for any number of purposes. I am not aware of them being used for hunting.
These automatic weapons are equipped to fire many cartridges in rapid succession and can spray an area without stopping in a matter of seconds. They are far more sophisticated than the machine guns we saw in the Prohibition era movies. The bullets they shoot are designed to do massive damage when they hit a person’s body. Their victims are, to some degree, indiscriminate in the hands of inexperienced shooters.
Many Americans have been exposed to such weapons as a result of their military experience and have an affinity for their power, their effectiveness, and their wide range of capabilities. That experience carries over into civilian life, with many of those owning such weapons being veterans. But the ownership of such weapons if far wider than the veteran community. Criminals have easy access to such weaponry and the black market in guns is rampant. Some states have minimal gun control laws making it simple to purchase them. They are everywhere.
I have never had anyone explain to me the reason why civilians need such weapons, except to kill other people. Police departments are not immune from the horror of their use, thus making the enforcement of law a sham in some instances. The recent experiences of mass shootings (the latest being this morning in New York City) have given rise to a growing sensation fear and anxiety about weapons.
I believe it would do no harm to hunters and sport shooters to ban the ownership, sale, and use of “machine guns” in the United States by civilians. When I broached this subject with a gun owner at one point recently he told me that if he wanted to have a tank in his back yard “he had the Second Amendment right to do it.” I don’t believe that is what the 2nd Amendment says or implies. It is time to make a decision about the ownership of these killing devices which takes them off the streets and out of the hands of civilians, criminal and otherwise. Not to do so is to let ignorance and paranoia determine our law.
Photo Credit: Tippman