I did not grow up with guns, never took a gun training course, and have no interest in tromping around looking for some deer or goose that I can shoot and eat.
Nonetheless, I now live in a state where people give their kids guns for their birthdays. Before the oil boom in western North Dakota, in this state most people farmed or raised cattle. Every farm or ranch had a gun handy to kill a skunk in the hen house or a coyote in the calf barn.
Needless to say, the National Rifle Association has a large following out here, even though the NRA makes very sure not to differentiate between a gun to kill a skunk and a gun to take out kids in school.
So it’s rare in this country to find a voice of reason rise above the din of the NRA hype.
When I saw Tony Bender’s “Land of the Free and Whole Lot of Stupid” in my local paper, I knew I’d like to pass it on to all those places bloggers like to lob their comments. Tony Bender writes a column, “That’s Life,” as editor of the Ashley Tribune and Wishek Star. While some North Dakota newspapers have picked up Tony’s column, there isn’t any place online to read the latest columns.
O.K. O.K. This is a blog about the problems with health care today. A stretch? Maybe. But besides being a state with a lot of locally owned guns, North Dakota has a high suicide rate. Any connection?
So without any further ado…
Land of the Free and Whole Lot of Stupid (6-22-14)
I picked up a few Subway sandwiches when I was out of town the other day, and surprisingly, I did not need a firearm to do it. I could have pulled an Uzi out of the trunk just to let them know I mean business—and that I revere the 2nd Amendment—but a piece of paper with Andrew Jackson’s picture on it seemed to accomplish the same thing without forcing mothers to dive under the tables with their kids, praying and begging for mercy.
Even without a gun to impress him with the seriousness of this act of commerce, the kid behind the counter got everything right, however I am sure that I would have been well within my rights to strafe the place had I found one banana pepper in my sandwich. After all, this is still America, land of the free and a whole lot of stupid.
Like many of my readers, I grew up in a time when my friends drove to school with rifles hanging in the gun rack of their pickup. Today, if a kid draws a picture of something resembling a gun in art class, a SWAT team will be out, the streets will be cordoned off and helicopters will be in the air. Americans on both sides of the issue have lost all sense of proportion. There seems to be an overreaction to just about everything.
The day after yet another school shooting—this time in Oregon—the minions of the gun rights lobby were already out in the media, on the airwaves and internet blogs, tastelessly cheerleading for more guns and attacking a grieving father who quite understandably never wanted to see a gun again. One has to wonder if we have lost all sense of decency and respect.
The gun owners I know don’t brandish AK-47’s at the coffee shop or take a Bushmaster to Target—as appropriate as it might seem. They consider firearms tools—necessary on a farm or ranch to take down coyotes and skunks, a means to harvest deer and fowl. They don’t strut around like clowns at Olive Garden with semi-automatics looped over their shoulders just in case someone tries to cut off the breadstick supply. I fail to see how any of this behavior stands to gain any public support for gun advocates.
We have become so desensitized to mass murder in America that the NRA has said in so many words that “it’s just a risk we’re willing to take.” Because, what’s a few dozen dead kids as long as I get to keep my guns without a precautionary psychological profile that any policeman would have to take. We don’t want to discriminate against psychopaths. Because, you know—freedom.
We all know that if we pass gun laws, we will have to ban butter knives, too. So goes the logic. The solution? Put armed soldiers in every school. Give teachers guns. Well, that might improve discipline, but I guarantee the next school shooting will be perpetrated by an English teacher who snaps after seeing one too many misuses of the synonyms “there” and “their”.
Or we could all move to Georgia, which recently passed a law allowing guns in government buildings, bars and churches—because as Jesus says, “Shoot to kill.” Word of advice: If you go into a bar in Atlanta, don’t ask for a shooter. We might be more impressed if the Georgia legislature had the stones to allow guns in the capital building.
Common sense suggests that any instrument specifically constructed to cause death ought have oversight. We license cars and drivers, truckers and pilots. We make sure that they can pass basic tests and background checks. A psychological profile is not a bar too high for gun ownership. A reasonable limit on firepower is not out of line, either, but I’m drawing the line at surface to air missiles. Call me liberal.
Beyond that, any other restrictions ought to remain in the hands of the states and municipalities. In the Dakotas, where responsible gun ownership is the norm, we can legislate appropriately. If we want open carry at the DMV, it could get interesting. If they want to take a crack at banning guns altogether in Chicago, let’s see how it goes. One size does not fit all.
Hunters and sportsmen and those who are armed for personal defense—with few exceptions—are not the problem. Gang members doing drive-by shootings are.
Both sides of the issue need to rein in the hyperventilating, hyperbole and paranoia. An all-out ban is not going to fly, nor is any legislation stop these kind of tragedies completely. And walking around at Taco Johns with a rifle is only going to affirm views that things are out of control. It didn’t go over big in Leith, ND, either.
© Tony Bender, 2014
You can read more about Tony Bender and his writing at www.tonybender.net.