Was it just me, or did anybody else find President Bush’s statement today about the Virginia Tech shootings to be odd? Basically, the statement mentions his grief, then concludes with the statement that President Bush supports the right to bear arms, but laws have to be followed. WTF? Why choose that moment to flack for the gun lobby? I have to believe most Americans’ would place the “blame” in this instance on the lunatic, not on the two guns he was carrying. Now, if we find out more about the situation, learn that this guy went off the deep end and had easy access to guns in a jurisdiction without a waiting period or something like that, that’s one thing. But you’d have to be a pretty hard-core gun control advocate to say these shootings could have been avoided if only we had stronger gun control.
I guess I have mixed feelings about gun control when you get right down to it. I certainly abhor the NRA, I find all that militia and Waco freak mindset to be frightening in the extreme, and I think guns are far too easy to obtain in this country. But I don’t think there’s much evidence that having more legally-obtained guns leads to more crime, or more gun deaths. At least that hasn’t been the case in Minnesota, which has had a concealed-carry law on the books for a few years now. It was a controversial measure at the time it was implemented; naturally the gun-control advocates said it would increase crime and injuries resulting from guns, while the gun-nut crowd argued it would reduce crime.
As it turned out, neither happened.
Generally speaking, I think it’s a bad idea to have a gun around. I can think of three instances in particular where I happened to be somewhere and someone pulled out a handgun to show off. My immediate reaction was repulsion; I simply don’t want to be around a gun if I don’t have to. (It didn’t help that one of the people involved was Caleb Feeler, a person I had a great time around but didn’t necessarily want to see holding a gun.) But I also had a secondary reaction, which is that I secretly think guns are interesting and wouldn’t mind shooting one in a controlled environment sometime. I’ve never fired a handgun; other than a stint at a Boyscout camp the only time I’ve ever fired a gun was when my friends Clinton, Charlie and I blasted our physics books with a 20-gauge shotgun at the end of our junior year of high school. But those books had it coming.
I can’t remember if I’ve written about this or not, but one night several years ago someone rather violently tried to gain entry into our house in the middle of the night. It was terrifying, until it became clear it was our next-door neighbor’s son, who turned 21 that night and was so drunk off his ass he thought he was trying to get into his own house. But for a brief moment, before I realized what was going on, I had to ponder what I was going to do if this person actually got through our door. I considered getting a bat (outside and unavailable), a large knife (I had NO desire to slice or stab anyone), or a large frying pan, before realizing what I really wanted was a gun.
But what if he had broken in, and then I offed my drunk-ass next-door neighbor, a kid I really liked? No, a gun is not for me. If I’m ever in a situation where somebody’s running amok, I guess I’ll head for the windows like those lucky kids today who got out.
But I have to believe there are people in Minnesota today who got their gun permit, carry their weapon regularly, and have never caused a problem for anyone who saw the carnage at VTech and wished they had been there to maybe stop some of what happened. I know, it’s a one-in-a-million chance that would ever come to pass, but still, that gun-toting fool is probably right: They might have been able to stop what happened.
Basically, I think the Democrats made a smart move to deemphasize gun control as a part of their platform. I don’t think it wins them any elections, and the truth is there are far more important issues they need to tackle. But even more than as a matter of political strategy, I’m not sure where I’m at on the gun control issue. Again, I hate the NRA (even though my wife’s a member), hate the gun lobby and everything they represent. I think they harm our country a great deal through their various activities, many of which extend beyond mere gun advocacy.
But when push comes to shoot, I don’t buy that having legal guns in the hands of trained owners makes us less safe as a society, and in some rare instances, I might be pretty damned glad to have someone around who has a gun and knows how to use it.
Just as long as it’s not me.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.