Saturday, January 17, 2009

Clinging To Our Guns

by Ben Small

In anticipation of an Obama swearing-in ceremony, America has been buying guns in unprecedented numbers. Of course, Obama-phobia isn’t fully the explanation. Americans feel threatened; they’re afraid. Gang and drug warfare are on the rise, as are home invasions, and in some cities, like Chicago, which is setting murder records, only the cops and bad guys have guns. (Ordinary people aren’t supposed to defend themselves in Chicago. Mayor Daley won’t permit it.)

But there’s no denying the Obama effect. Overnight, prices of AK-47s skyrocketed, in some places as high as 200%. Same with AR-15s and other weapons carrying more than ten rounds. You may remember the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban. That didn’t do much to stop the proliferation of serious weaponry. It was a joke. Yes, magazines were limited to ten rounds. But there were no limits on how many magazines one could carry.

Several articles have appeared about surging guns and ammo sales across the nation, and the gun stores I’ve visited have been packed full of purchasers eager to beat expected new anti-gun measures. Barack Obama has said he supports gun control, and his legislative record backs him up. Yes, there was the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, but that victory for Second Amendment gun rights was by a one vote margin. Change a judge, and it’s a new ballgame.

But something else, too is driving the buys. A different fear.

Mexican drug gangs are storming our border, shooting up border towns and killing police officers and border guards from El Paso to Tucson to San Diego, and of course, their Mexican counterpart cities. And the Latino gangs that support these drug lords, like MS-13, are spreading across our lands like an infection. MS-13 is in Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, El Paso, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and other cities as well.

Just last Halloween in Tucson, my home turf, three teenagers in three wrong places at three wrong times were shot down, two of them killed. All three were students at Sunnyside High School. Three normal kids with bright futures, students of a friend of mine. One of these kids, a young girl, was at a party. Some gang-bangers tried to crash, and an argument ensued. Later the bangers came back. They shot up the house from their car. The girl, inside dancing with friends, died.

My teacher friend says the kids know the ropes. You’re sitting at a stop light and a car pulls up. Someone in the other car flashes a gang sign. You’re not in a gang or you’re in a different gang; you don’t respond or you give the wrong sign.

That's disrespect.

Bang, bang, you’re dead.

Amazing. Imagine being a teenager today...

A few weeks ago, my wife and two of her friends took their Concealed Carry Class and submitted their permit paper-work. The class was jammed. The instructors said classes have been packed for more than a year; they're struggling to keep up with demand.

Now these are ordinary citizens. Not gang-bangers, not criminals. You can’t get a concealed carry permit if you’re a criminal. Nor can a criminal buy a gun – legally. But criminals don’t have any problem getting guns, all kinds of guns, even automatic weapons. They just smuggle them in from Mexico and spread them around the gangs. The guns that are terrorizing Chicago aren’t guns held by law-abiding citizens; they’re gang guns. No gun ban is going to stop that trade. Only law abiding citizens are denied the means to protect themselves in Chicago.

Our growing security anxiety is fueled by several very real concerns: 1) fear that our institutions are breaking down; 2) fear that wealth re-distribution policies will heighten tensions; 3) fear that anti-gun measures will limit purchases by law-abiding citizens of weapons and ammunition; 4) fear that like the L. A. riots after the Rodney King beating and the looters and marauders during and after Katrina, there will be roving gangs of looters and predators following any future catastrophe or breakdown of food delivery, power supply, energy or social order; 5) fear that terrorist or gang or drug lord raids within our borders will increase; 6) fear that our borders are so porous, we have no ability to stop drugs or the growing illegal gun trade, and 6) fear that the police cannot adequately protect us.

A Harvard study a year or so ago examined the effectiveness of strict gun control measures worldwide. The study concluded that those jurisdictions that have the more severe gun limits, have higher crime rates. Look at Chicago or Washington, D.C. Indeed, Britain, which completely banned most guns many years ago, has seen violent crime rise since.

Already, some silly measures have become law, and are being considered elsewhere. Like the California law that requires every handgun sold by 2010 to imprint on its cartridge identifying marks traceable to the gun. This law was passed last year by the California legislature and signed by the Governator despite no proof that such technology exists or would be effective. In fact, a study by the University of California at Davis, showed that such technology does not work. And what about revolvers? Their cartridges are carried away with the gun.

Imagine how easily you could be framed. Go to the gun range, fire your weapon. Someone picks up your brass and leaves it at a crime scene.

Boom. You’re in jail.

The gun industry has reacted slowly to the California measure, although at least one manufacturer has decided not to sell guns to police or anyone else in California if this law remains in effect. A few other manufacturers are considering similar actions.

So called “assault” weapons are defined very loosely. The term is usually described as semi-automatic weapons, those that don’t have a rotating cylinder feeding a bullet to the chamber. Banners claim these weapons aren’t used for hunting; they're only used to kill people.

That's not true. On either front.

Varmint hunting is popular these days. Rats, prairie dogs, coyotes, they're fair game in many areas. And semi-automatic weapons, both pistols and rifles, are popular choices for hunting them.

I've owned semi-automatic weapons for over ten years, and I don't hunt.

I haven’t killed anybody.

I shoot paper, lots of paper. I compete in paper-shooting contests. Fun stuff, shooting in competitions, part of our American heritage. Sergeant York, an American hero, used to compete in turkey shoots. So do I, but my turkeys are paper, and they’re taped over cardboard.

And what’s wrong with that? Good clean sport. Nothing gets killed, and only a few pieces of paper and cardboard are damaged. The paper, bullets and cartridges are all recycled.

Shooting is green.

So who gets hurt by me owning a gun... or several?

Semi-automatic weapons fire one bullet at a time, just like revolvers do. Yes, magazines for these guns may contain more bullets, but some revolvers shoot as many as eight rounds, and there are speed loaders available. Speed loaders facilitate a revolver rate of fire not far slower than a semi-auto's.

Pick up any gun magazine; there are many from which to choose. Check out the ads. Yes, they may scare you. But remember, these are the guns the good guys, law-abiding citizens, are buying. They're used for self defense and for sport. A gun ban won't stop gangs from getting guns. Criminals don't file for concealed carry permits, and they don't buy their guns in U.S. gun stores. You bump into a bad guy at the wrong time and place, and the only thing between you and the coroner may be your ability to defend yourself.

The bad guys may have machine guns. And sometimes, grenades.

Back in Connecticut, a Revolutionary War cemetery adjoined my back yard. Stones dressed with flags mark the war's graves. In those veterans' days, every home contained a gun.

We may return to that notion.


Morgan Mandel said...

What you've mentioned is a scary scenario. Innocent kids and adults dying for no reason. Unfortunately, it's not in a book of fiction, but really happening.

I don't have a gun, but understand why people feel the need for them.

I see no problem with registered guns. Like you say, the bad guys don't follow laws anyway, so they'll do their own thing no matter what.

Morgan Mandel

F. M. Meredith, author said...

Where we live--the foothills of the Sierra--everyone seems to own guns. Personally, I don't, but my husband has what he feels he needs.

Because there are predators who hunt house dogs and cats, chickens, and even cattle at times, you'll hear gun fire when someone is protecting his or her home.

New Years Eve it seems everyone has to make sure his or her guns still work.

The fear of terrorists may be more on people's minds than we realize. After all, we've heard over and over that they plan to kill anyone who doesn't worship as they do--which is the majority of us.

Also heard from a Homeland Security person that the bad guys are already here, living and working among us. Also scary. More scary to me than gangs.


Annay Dawson said...

Your wrote a very well crafted piece as well as a moving one. Living in the southwest as I do I understand the changing populations and for the first time in twenty some years of teaching I will get to go to my very first gang informational meeting. But guess what, I only teach in the primary grades. I also have to let you know that one of the sixth graders at the school, father was a gang banger, has also got it figured out and figured out how to stay away from that life. Let's just hope he makes the good choices as he continues to grow up.

Dana Fredsti said...

Excellent post, Ben. I am for gun ownership - just would like to see a little more care in the registration process.
I'm so glad I grew up when I did and am not a teen today...