First off, I don’t really tote my gun much. And I do have more than one. In fact I have three: two rifles and a pistol. They rest quietly in the closet, disassembled, no good to anyone but me. I don’t fear for my life and have no plans to keep a firearm beside my bed, ready to shoot intruders. I detest the National Rifle Association. They are everything the media says about them and worse. They are a shill for the gun and ammo manufacturers and appear to have no real regard for citizens. But none of that is why I am writing this post. I am writing this for liberals and progressives and moderates and conservatives who don’t own guns or have never been around guns much and don’t understand them, and certainly don’t understand the broad range of reasons for gun ownership. I am writing this as a liberal gun toter who hopes to help his “side” make better arguments for restricting gun ownership. Even more to the point, I want to get my liberal friends to stop making arguments that are so incorrect that the NRA loves you to say them.
Those of us who argue for greater restrictions on guns are on the right side of common sense, history, practical application of reason, and civilized society. We have the better case and the better argument. Yet we are losing, still. And not just because the NRA pumps millions and millions of dollars into the reelection campaigns of gutless and greedy politicians. The real reason why the reasonable opposition to unrestricted gun ownership is losing the war is because so many people who want to restrict gun ownership simply don’t know what they are talking about. And why should they? By definition they don’t own guns. Never have and never will. So they continue to build arguments that, in the eyes of the gun owners, makes the good, intelligent, enlightened side look like it has no clue. Now, if that offends you, I apologize. But it is true. And it’s time we started making better arguments and got rid of the really uninformed statements we have been bandying about. So let’s look at some arguments that are simply and factually incorrect.
“Guns only have one purpose–to kill.” Do you think Wayne LaPierre hears that charge and trembles at the mighty weight of its accusation? Hardly. He laughs because that statement plays right into his hands. That kind of statement benefits the NRA because the NRA knows what most gun owners know, and most non-gun owners don’t seem to know, and that is this–guns are most often used for target shooting. The kind of target shooting that gets a family out of the house together and up into the forests and hills. The kind of outing that gets the kids off the video games and away from the TV and off the phone and off the couch. I know because I went shooting with my son yesterday. This may not be your cup of tea but it is the cup of tea for a lot of Americans. Good, honest, educated, informed Americans. Americans who have a long tradition of responsible gun ownership and gun related recreation that harms nobody and no thing. The point is that gun owners have many, many reasons for owning guns. When anti-gun fanatics–yes there are fanatics on both sides–righteously and passionately claim that “guns only have one reason…to kill”–we demonstrate a serious ignorance of the many other reasons to own them. At the same time we insult every law abiding gun owner. Whenever that claim is made the NRA aims their marketing railroad directly at the moderate gun owner who thinks background checks just might be a good idea and they repeat the question for you: “Is that what your gun is for? To kill? People?” And since the answer is a resounding “No” they then take the opportunity to remind that moderate gun owner that the real fanatics and the real extremists and the real ignorance is coming from the anti-gun folks. So quit using this argument. It makes you look like you’ve never owned a gun before, because you haven’t, but you don’t have to be ignorant. Ignorance insults the very gun owners you need on your side to shut the NRA up.
“We have to get rid of automatic weapons!” If you have said this or accepted someone else saying this because you don’t know the difference between an automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon, do some reading. (This diary is a good start.) Automatic weapons are weapons that fire continuously when the trigger is held down one time. When you let off the trigger the shooting stops. Semi-automatic weapons fire once every time the trigger is pulled. To fire more than one bullet, one must release the trigger and pull it again. This can make for rapid shooting but not nearly as rapid as an automatic weapon. In general, and in most locales, automatic weapons are highly restricted, even illegal. Every time the uninitiated refers to a semi-auto weapon as an automatic weapon, the very gun owners we need on our side, those very gun owners who really don’t care much for the NRA, simply stop listening to us and turn their collective attention back to…the NRA. To them it is more proof that the ”anti-gun nuts” have no idea what they are talking about. Gun fanatics and extremists use this anti-gun ignorance as proof (and yes it is proof) that we don’t know what we are talking about. We may be entirely right in our moral points. We may be entirely right in our desire to restrict gun ownership to responsible persons. We may be entirely right about everything else we say. But when we mis-identify auto- and semi-automatic weapons, we lose the argument in the eyes of every gun owner we might have swung over to our side. Get it right.
Stop arguing with gun owners who say, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” because it is true. Partly. Guns and bullets and the people who use them kill people. And since people are in the equation, as admitted by the gun folks, let’s start using their own argument that in nearly every case (yes, there are rare cases of freak accidents) a person was irresponsible, or stupid, or mentally ill, or angry, or drunk, or committing a crime, or whatever…but a person had a finger on the trigger. That is the very reason for restricting gun ownership. Yes, gun fanatics, you got this one right. And incredibly wrong at the same time.
Anyway, I got to thinking about this because yesterday I shot up a couple of boxes of .17′s, and .22′s with my son. We set up some empty water bottles in the snow at the end of a mountain road with a good hill as a backdrop for safety. We made sure nobody was anywhere around us. We had a great time. I got to hang out with my son and we talked about his job and mine. We solved half of the world’s problems and left the other half for later. When we finished, we picked up the bottles and our brass and headed home.
Next up, assault weapons and extended clips…