Monday, May 26, 2014

The Silent Sane Majority

Today, we're gonna do something that never happens in American media - talk honestly about guns. I don't mean in some "What the Government doesn't want you to know!" way but in a simple acknowledgment of reality - that reality being guns are as American as drive-thru. The socialist Big Government hippies coming to confiscate your boomsticks is as much a fantasy of resentful reactionaries as trickle down economics.

In fact, that sort of paranoia does not even go hand in hand with gun ownership. Despite the joint NRA-GOP noise machine, many American gun owners are perfectly sane and thus welcoming of strict gun regulation because they respect the life-ending power of guns. I grew up in a pretty left-leaning family in northern Virginia and even my mom knows the kick of a .357 magnum. I know registered Democrats who own guns and, as I'm not invested in any imaginary culture war, I can admit this is more the rule than the exception.

To illustrate this, let's look at my friend Joe. Being a proper Virginian, he's converted his downstairs closet into a weapons locker for - at last count - two semiautomatic pistols, a .38 revolver, a Mossberg shotgun, and a H&K G3 battle rifle. That last one is a military grade weapon firing .308 rounds, the civilian equivalent of the NATO 7.62mm, and while it fires in semi auto can easily be converted to full auto. Joe loves it and as any hobbyest has blown way too much money pimping it out with rails, reflex sights, and other needless modifications.

Completely legal in Virginia.
Not for home defense. Joe is adamant about that because, as a National Guardsman, he understands ballistics. That .308 round, if fired at a home invader, will penetrate said invader and the wall and travel across the street into a neighbor's house where it will likely end in a baby's head. Joe, as a responsible gun owner, wants to avoid shooting neighbor babies at all costs and that means the G3 is exclusively for the range.

And it's fun at the range! That's one use of guns that never ever makes it into the official debate. Sending rounds down range is a kick and it's why many gun owners, like Joe, own more than a simple shotgun or Glock for home defense. In fact defense is probably last on the list of what a gun owner actually does with his or her weapons. Number one, if you're not a twit, is cleaning them regularly and storing them securely. Like Joe with his home weapons locker.

That's what really makes Joe worth mentioning here - he's a gun owner who fully appreciates the responsibility of exercising his Second Amendment rights safely. Again, the G3 isn't for home defense and an easy way to get a rant out of Joe is mention how the loudest gun nuts are claiming that's what the AR-15 is for. At his most conciliatory, he says, "Okay, you can own an assault rifle but you have to go through six weeks of training like I did so you know how use it properly!"

Because guns, whatever cultural baggage we attach to them, are instruments of death. Responsible gun ownership demands we never forget this fact. Responsible gun owners, like Joe, recoil at the sort of heavily armed free for all preached by the NRA faithful because they understand shit happens. And when shit happens with an instrument explicitly intended for ending life...

We're never gonna be rid of guns in this country but we damn sure need to be smarter about them. A good way to start is for this silent majority of sane gun owners to stop being silent, to make their voices heard - "I'm a gun owner and darn it, I want more gun control! I want smart gun control! I want to keep guns out of the hands of idiots who just want a big boomstick to compensate for all their inadequacies without understanding and appreciating the grave responsibility that comes with possessing a firearm!"

Like this asshole.

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