“A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he laid down and he died.” — Gregory Lake
I was perusing the aisles at HEB minding my own business. I came upon the periodicals aisle and stopped. Occasionally, I like to buy something. Sometimes it is a preview of the baseball season in the winter or a preview of the football season in the summer. I took a step back and took note of something I’ve noticed before, but never really cataloged in my brain.
There were eight separate magazines about guns and ammo. That was more than the sports magazines I had come to look at. It was more than the fashion magazines that stereotypically litter those aisles. It was certainly more than the cooking and food magazines even though we were at a grocery store. It was more than the home improvement and generic Texas culture magazines as well. In fact, it was more than any other single genre of magazine.
We were visiting with some people the other day. I will withhold other information to protect the innocent, One of them we will call Arnold. Arnold works in a technical field in information technology. He fits the profile of a stereotypical person working in that field. He was openly bragging about constructing his own AR-15 and going to the shooting range and shooting with his work friends.
Suffice it to say, based on his description of his performances, it was clear he had not gone through any formal training in how to use and take care of his weapons. I’m guessing he had not actually fired the AR-15 and there was no way of knowing whether it was operational. Still, it was a jarring moment in an otherwise pleasant conversation.
At this point, an intrepid reader would be wondering what these two anecdotes have to do with each other. The answer is pretty simple. My feelings on guns haven’t changed since I was a kid. We’ve never had them and probably never will. I rarely ever put my foot down on any issue, but this is one of the few where I do.
However, it is always been difficult to capture my feelings in simple phrases. Conservatives love to do that and it works for them. The NRA has some convinced that we need a good guy with a gun to counteract a bad guy with the gun. Westerns have been built on this concept. So people in our parents generation have this concept imbedded into their DNA. People in our generation have numerous action movies telling us the same thing.
All of these images and all of these slogans are forgetting one thing. They are forgetting the idiot with the gun. For our purposes here, Arnold is the typical idiot. He described connecting with exactly zero of the targets when he went to the range. This was somehow a source of pride.
Thus we come full circle to the periodicals at HEB. He wasn’t shooting guns because he wants to be a sportsman. He wasn’t shooting guns to better protect his home and family. He wasn’t shooting guns to practice for a hunting trip. He was shooting guns to belong to the crowd. He wanted to be cool. He wanted to be considered manly. Building that AR-15 was his ticket to respect amongst his peers. It makes you wonder where he would get that idea from.
The NRA and gun lobby have jumped the shark. They used to be a respectable organization that promoted gun safety while they also promoted the second amendment. Rank and file members still favor background checks and licenses based on public opinion polling. Yet, leadership has gotten in bed with the manufacturers. Manufacturers have created both the supply and the demand by pumping up this gun culture so that they can cast a wider net.
People that debate politics with me often consider me a radical on this issue. However, I can now boil it down to its lowest common denominator. I’m not afraid of a bad guy with a gun. I live in the suburbs. There are fewer of those people around and most bad people still have to have a reason to use that gun. I usually don’t give them one.
The people that worry me are the idiots with guns. They don’t know how to use them, protect themselves and their families from them, and they’ve seen one too many Charles Bronson films to have a handle on when it is appropriate to whip that sucker out. If we are all lucky they will only shoot off their big toe. The alternative is much worse.
Gun control is not about preventing law abiding citizens from their right to own a gun. It is about making sure they aren’t going to be an idiot. That means getting training in hos use and care for the gun. That means thinking long and hard about what we actually need to protect our homes, shoot at the range, or hunt on the weekends.
I know a lot of people who own guns. Some of them are responsible with their guns. They lock them up when they aren’t in use and they could easily pass a safety class if asked. Funny, but those people don’t conceal carry or open carry. The ones that do are the Arnolds of the world. Those are the ones that scare me and yet those are the ones those magazines at HEB are targeting.