The arguments for or against gun control are as useful as the arguments for or against abortion or legalizing marijuana or conservative vs. liberal or tax vs. spend or cats vs. dogs. You’re either for or against, and no one cares because their side of the argument is so galvanized that they’ll never change their minds.
Or maybe the avalanche of Facebook messages, the ones that sprouted up the day after Newtown, are doing more than providing a thoughtful chuckle or a stern nod. The best of the bunch: "One guy tries to use a shoe bomb and everyone at the airport has to take their shoes off. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change."
Funny. That one sat in my Facebook “news feed” right under the one that said, “They’re trying to take away our guns, don’t let them.” Less eloquent, less clever. Just as effective... or not.
The fact is, if a guy can walk into a grade school with an assault weapon and mow down 26 people, mostly children, and nothing happens as a result, then the gun laws will never change no matter the hue and cry that occurs afterward, just like after Columbine or Virginia Tech or after our very own Westroads massacre or after the murder of John Lennon. The anti-gun people gnashed their teeth and wrote their letters to their congressmen while the gun people went out and bought more ammo. And here we are again until the next time, but really, how much worse can the next time be?
A friend of mine owns an assault rifle. An AK-47 or something like that, a big, black, shiny machine-gun-looking thing that he bought at a gun show in Fremont. As far as I know it’s legal (not that it matters). He’s quite proud of it, along with his handgun and his rifles. He thinks it’s cool, though he complains that it costs him a dollar a round to shoot, and he says he usually shoots about 80 rounds when he heads to the country to blow up 2-liter Coke bottles.
He told me I should get one while I can because it’s only a matter of time before they become illegal. I just nod. I refuse to hold it. I’m afraid of guns.
In my heart, I’m not worried about my friend and his machine gun. I know he’ll keep it locked up and out of harm’s way. He is of sane mind. He is not a drunk. He has a stable family life. I know he’ll never use it on anyone, even if he had it in his hands while a burglar broke into his house.
My friend owning an AK-47 is no more or less dangerous than your drive to and from work every day. The next time you’re speeding down Dodge Street at 50 surrounded by cars speeding down Dodge Street at 50 think about the people driving next to you, in front of you, behind you. Are they tired or distracted or drunk or of sane mind? What’s stopping any one of them from oh-so-gently turning the steering wheel of their car and driving right into you? Nothing at all.
We live in dangerous times with dangerous things surrounding us every day. I promise you the next time you go to Westroads or Oakview Mall or Wal-Mart that someone in the crowd -- someone walking right past you or next to you or behind you -- is carrying a concealed loaded gun. He’ll never use it; he’ll never let anyone else use it, but there it is. And you’re going to be OK.
People who don’t own guns generally don’t want anyone else to own guns. The idea makes them feel safer. People who own guns don’t give a shit if anyone else owns a gun as long as they can keep theirs. Maybe they’d prefer that you didn’t own a gun, as the fire power would be in their favor.
I honestly don’t care if people own guns as long as they don’t shoot me or anyone I know with them. They’ll never ban guns in this country, no matter how much people want them to or how afraid gun owners are that they will.
So let the gun people have their guns -- any guns -- but just like with their cars, make them responsible for them. Make them register them. Make them prove they know how to use them. Make them prove they know how to properly secure them. And make them responsible for whatever happens to them.
It’s that last part -- the “responsible for whatever happens to them” part -- that the gun owners don’t like. Because it never seems to be anyone’s fault when a gun owner sells a gun to a whack-a-doo or when someone steals a law-abiding citizen’s legally owned gun and shoots themselves or someone else with it.
But it needs to be someone’s fault. Because if gun owners were liable for whatever happened with their guns, they’d try like hell to make sure that no one got hold of one of theirs -- not a robber, not their friends, not their kids, not some dumb-ass trying to buy one from them who isn’t as smart or sane or responsible as they are.
Seems like a good idea, but it’ll never happen. The gun owners I know don’t want the government to know who they are because they’re afraid someone will come and take their guns away from them.
People will always own guns. Get used to it. And the next time Newtown happens (and it will happen again), just close your eyes and tell yourself it’ll never happen to you, your family or someone you know. Unless, of course, it did.
Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.