Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'll Keep My Gun, Thank You

Every time we have a shooting tragedy, such as the one in Arizona, we hear the same predictable responses. The gun-haters scream that we need stronger gun control laws;  the gun-lovers shout that every citizen should be encouraged to exercise their right to carry a concealed weapon.

I am a liberal, sort of, but I have a loaded handgun on the table beside my bed and another in the kitchen. I drew my weapon once when two young gang-bangers flanked me in a lonely mall parking lot. I was sure they intended to mug me. Would I have shot one of them if they hadn't seen the pistol in my hand and gone flying in the opposite direction? You bet I would, having been taught by my then-boss, the county sheriff, never to draw a weapon unless you're willing to pull the trigger.  It seemed to me that two young guys versus one plump, old, gray-headed woman with a gun made the score just about even.

Generally, we liberals are kinder and more generous-hearted about assisting the unfortunate than conservatives but if anything, we can be even more patronizing about those to whom we feel superior. Mika Brzezenski is the most perfect example. She'd be absolutely self-righteous about inflicting her views upon me "for my own good". Cigarettes? Horrifying! Fast food? Awful! Soda pop? Despicable! NASCAR? Well, actually, I've never heard her mention NASCAR (as a matter of fact, Morning Joe never mentions NASCAR) but I assume she'd be o-so-condescending about anyone who loves a sport that involves gas-guzzling un-green machines. And guns? Well, needless to say, in Mika's world only elites would carry weapons.

Would either the liberals' views or the conservatives' views toward guns have prevented the tragedy in Tucson? I don't think so.

Banning guns doesn't mean no one has guns. It is trite but true. If guns are outlawed, only those willing to break the law will have them. You would even force people like me, who are mostly rules-followers, to skirt the law, (just as I smoke in my car in the hospital parking lot in defiance of a regulation I consider over-bearing). Even if gun sales were outlawed tomorrow, there are already enough weapons in this country that there would continue to be a thriving underground for the foreseeable future. Would a strict gun control law have stopped Jared Loughner from obtaining a weapon? Not likely.

But encouraging citizens to carry concealed weapons wouldn't have helped either. Barring a steely-eyed off-duty law enforcement officer, most of us who might have had a weapon in pocket or purse would never have gotten it together quick enough to stop Loughner from emptying a clip. It takes a period of time for your brain to analyze what's going on and then to decide if you have a clear shot at the perpetrator. By that time, it's all over - six dead, 13 wounded. React before you have the complete picture and you might do more harm than good.

Neither side has the answer but it doesn't matter anyway because we're more interested in scoring points from our opposing philosophical foxholes than in actually trying to solve the problem (which may have more to do with treating mental illness than it does with guns).

In the meantime, while the debate goes on, I plan on keeping mine.