Steve Heronemus

Guns Do Kill

Yet again this nation is mourning what most people are calling a tragedy. The hate murders in Charleston were not a tragedy, they were an inevitability, the inevitability of a culture of violence and a cult of gun ownership.
I was unable to complete this post before hearing of another fatal mass shooting. Another movie theater, this time in Louisiana, is witness to the high price of our infatuation with guns. And this time we have to listen to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal say “The best thing we can do for these families is pray for them.” I call B. S. The best thing we can do for these families is remove the ongoing threat to them and all Americans. Remove guns from the general population.

To be upfront, I am not a gun owner and never will be, even though some have labeled me a “target” for my position. That’s right, people have tried to scare me into gun ownership by telling me I am a target if unarmed. Not that I’ve never handled guns,  I shot rifles and shotguns in Boy Scouts and earned a Marksman merit badge, but never hunted and did not grow up in a family where guns or hunting were traditions.

Gun ownership has become a cult. They have an ideology with unrestricted gun ownership as its creed, and the cult’s faithful taunt, bully and bribe (sorry, lobby) any who might question the ideology. The cult’s leadership will not brook any dissent, even from its own members who believe in mandatory background checks. But the nation does have a right and a responsibility to engage in conversation over where gun rights end, so I choose to speak knowing I will get all kinds of verbal abuse.

Guns kill. This is heresy to the cult, but it is truth. 70% of all homicides are caused by gunfire. Guns carry a lethality to a violent incident unmatched by any other personal weapon. Guns confer a sense of power that lead people into violence and the threat of a gun raises the probability of violence in any confrontation. Guns make killing easier, less personal, and cleaner for the perpetrator. Guns are responsible for turning the angry into murderers

Without a gun, George Zimmerman doesn’t have the balls to get out of his car and accost Trayvon Martin. Without the threat of guns Michael Brown and 12-year-old Tarir Rice aren’t killed by police officers. Without the threat of guns, Levar Jones doesn’t get shot for reaching for his driver’s license as he was instructed to do and law enforcement officers wouldn’t have to fear every traffic stop.

After every horrific, inevitable, mass shooting, after every horrific, inevitable, gang murder, the nation cries “Something has to be done”, but nothing is done outside of another rush to buy more guns.  The nation has a right and a responsibility to engage in conversation over where gun rights end, but the cult will not allow it.

I don’t understand how the 2nd amendment came to include gun ownership rights outside of a “well-regulated militia “. That amendment was written when the young Republic was under constant threat of war from European powers and disenfranchised Native American nations, and we have plenty of well-regulated militias in which to serve our country and own a gun – the armed services, Reserves, and National Guard. Private militias that are unregulated have to go. Some of these have purchased surplus armored personnel carriers and mounted 50 caliber semiautomatic rifles in the back of the their pickup truck. The right to bear arms should not extend to the right to have arms bear us.

My opinion is that private gun ownership should be outlawed beyond members of the police and Homeland Security forces. I know this will never happen in my lifetime, so I will compromise. As I see it, legitimate reasons for gun ownership are hunting and marksmanship sports. Neither of these require semi-automatic weapons of any kind, handguns, high-capacity magazines, hollow point or armor-piercing bullets. If you are a hunter, buy your hunting rifle and leave it locked up at a hunt club. If you want to target shoot, leave the guns in a locker at the range.

I could compromise further and allow guns in homes if every gun has a biometric safety and ammunition costs a minimum of $25 a round. We can prevent laptop theft and misuse with fingerprint verification, there is no valid reason guns can’t have fingerprint safeties set at time of purchase. Such a system would reduce illegal gun sales and transfers and it would eliminate accidental shootings by children. Expensive ammunition reduces our risk of mass shootings at the hands of those disaffected and at the fringe of society.

The cult responds, “But shooting these high performance arms is fun.” Sorry, but lots of things people find fun are illegal. After living in Germany, I love driving at speeds well into triple digits. I can’t do that in the USA without the risk of severe penalties.

The cult responds, “But I have to defend my home.” If you are a responsible gun owner, the cult’s training stresses you firearm should be unloaded and in a locked safe. You’re better off calling 911 and barricading yourself in a locked room than making noise getting your gun out of the safe and loading it in a stressful situation.

The cult cries “But if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.” Cute, but not real-world. Experience in Great Britain and Australia shows that outlawing guns makes their price on the black market skyrocket. Outlaws in those countries face prices for Glock 9mm semiautomatics in the $30,000 range.

The cult genuflects and rages “Private gun ownership is the bulwark of liberty against a tyrannical government.” This one’s my favorite. It is usually spouted by people who say they are patriots who love and believe in America, but apparently don’t trust democracy and representative government. Beyond this contorted logic is political reality. A tyrannical government cannot, and has not ever in all of history, gained power without military backing. If people think they can fight M1A1 tanks, Blackhawk and Apache gunships, Tomahawk cruise missiles and Predator drones with their AR-15s are deluded.

And delusions are a psychiatric disorder that precludes gun ownership.