Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Well, it's time again for the Great Gun Debate, so here we go. The tragic shooting of 32 people a few days ago brought this timeless argument out into the open again. On one side, we have people who are dismayed by the fact that the United States leads the world in gun deaths....other than Iraq or Afghnistan....and by the fact that every Joe Schmo is armed these days, both at home and in his vehicle.

On the other side are those who proclaim the Second Amendment protects their gun ownership, that it is an American freedom, a civil right, and that even if guns were to be outlawed, criminals and lunatics would still get them to commit their murders and their mayhem.

The staggering fact is that the gun used by the Korean student to kill 32 people at Virginia Tech was one that fired at least 30 rounds without reloading...and then could be reloaded in a matter of seconds. Friends tell me that some guns can fire up to 100 rounds of ammunition. Somehow this seems like overkill, unnecessary, over the top. But other friends claim these weapons are used in Gun Competitions and as collector's items, so should be available to the public.

My friends also say that they feel gun ownership is a great responsibility, that they handle their guns with care, and are always aware of safety matters when it comes to their arsenals of weapons.

However, on the distaff side, I believe we have all heard the braggarts who openly boast that they will quickly blow away the "summabitch that tries anything on my property."

It isn't the fact that he wants to protect his property that is frightening. It is his evident gusto and the feeling that he relishes the prospect of using his gun to prove his manhood.

I have weighed both sides of this issue and have decided there is no answer. Everyone is right. Everyone is wrong. Guns kill. Without guns, there would be fewer deaths. However, guns can also ward off deaths. They can protect. And, no matter how much we ban guns, there will always be guns around....some of them in the hands of criminals, some of them in the hands of troubled mental cases, like the Korean student in Virginia.

My father owned guns and hunted at every opportunity. When he got to be very old, it was felt that he needed supervision on family hunting trips and this task was left up to me, which was like asking the blind to lead the blind. Pop and I would scramble through the woods, falling over stumps and stumbling through the brush, select a tree and sit there for hours, waiting for our prey to come into view.

One day a deer did wander into our clearing. It excited me so much to see this beautiful phantomlike apparition that I called out in delight. This, of course, scared the deer away, so Pop had no chance to try out his marksmanship. That was fine, because his gun wasn't loaded. Bud had made sure of that before we started out that morning.

When I was young, I saw Walt Disney's version of Bambi. I wept my way through the entire hour and half of the movie. No heart could be hard enough to avoid tears when Bambi, just a young deer, calls out "Mother! Mother!" after that fatal bullet took her down. Her warning words..."Run, Bambi, run!" remain in my heart as though engraved in stone.

I haven't had much heart for deer hunting since I saw Bambi. I can't eat venison, even though my family chowed it down. At those times, I go out for a hamburger...which I realize is absolutely ridiculous. Cows love life, too! But Bambi wasn't a cow, you see, so there is a difference.

No, I am not fond of guns, but I realize they will always be a part of American life. We will also have the residue from guns....the mass murders, the workplace shootings, the school shootings, the drive by shootings. If we have the guns, we have to accept the violence that comes with them. But, one thing is for sure, the attempt to separate and label children...."this one acts strangely and may become a serial killer" is very wrong and should never be allowed. We are no more equipped to single out serial killers or possible shooters than we are equipped to fly without airplanes, and these allegations, if false, could certainly ruin young lives.

My heart aches for the victims in that Virginia shooting, and I grieve for the parents, who must have felt they had tumbled into an aching hell. This horrible crime was followed on television for more than twenty four hours. At the same time, in Iraq, each day brings similar numbers of the dead. Today, there were 170 people killed...according to one news source. Our media will report this, but there will be no grieving. The president won't speak, the media will give it a few minute's time. It has become mundane, commonplace.

This is the danger we face, when deaths and disaster are run-of-the-mill. We hear of millions dying in foreign countries, all manner of atrocities, and we then go on with our lives, shopping, cooking, cleaning, typing, building...whatever our days consist of doing. We have become immune to tragedy in far-off lands, but react with horror when it is closer to home. We should realize that an Iraqi parent or an African parent feels loss as strongly as we do. One life is as precious as another.

I can't help in the Gun Debate, because it is beyond my capabilities. It is one of the issues that Americans will be arguing about centuries from now, if we exist that long. Like Global Warming, it will take extreme chaos for any minds to change.

However, remember one thing. Thomas Jefferson, struggling over the words of the Constitution, had only the British, bears and Indians to threaten him when he wrote the Second Amendment....and his gun had only one round of ammunition. If he could ward away all of this with just one round, why do we need 100 rounds to protect our homes?