OPINIONS & ISSUES
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GUN CONTROL: WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Conservative commentators, along with the NRA and other opponents, are quite vocal in their ridicule of the advocates of gun control.  "The problem is people, not guns!"  "Guns don't kill people; people kill people!"  These are the frequent slogans mouthed by those resisting any limitations on the possession of firearms.

The difficulty with such clever syllogisms is they are so universal in their application.  "The problem is people, not nuclear weapons."  "Nuclear bombs don't kill people; people kill people."  "The problem is people, not drugs."  "Drugs don't kill people; people kill people."  One could go on at length applying such thinking to the situations of society.  And not only are they so universal, they are so true!

People are the problem.  They have lain at the heart of 98 percent of the difficulties facing humanity -- for the last 10 thousand years or so!  Though religion has sought for so long to curb human violence and hatred and greed, such realities persist in inhabiting the human psyche.  And the NRA and other conservatives are so right in insisting that gun control will never solve such problems.  But then, no thinking person ever claimed gun control would.

Human violence and the consequences of such violence are fated to be with us for a long time.  But while human violence may not be eradicated, its consequences certainly can be alleviated.  Reducing the consequences, not removing human violence, is what gun control is about.  Human violence will occur regardless, but far better a few black eyes and blooded noses than a dozen school children slaughtered and scores injured and traumatized.  Clearly, gun control will not solve the "problem," if the problem is human violence.  But it can radically reduce the power of human beings to inflict terrible and fatal consequences upon others.

The deeper answer is an ending of the American love affair with guns, the extraction of guns from our lives.  But such seems well nigh impossible, so deep is our obsession.  Removal of the constitutional right of the citizenry to possess firearms is something no politically savvy politician would ever propose.  Yet such is an obvious solution to the excessive "fire power" we now face.  And why not?

Truly, firearms have little place in modern, almost 21st century, civilized societies.  We no longer hunt for our food supply; the local supermarket takes care of that.  The ability of the lonely "minute man" to defend us from tyranny exists only in movie fantasies.  One has only to check out the fire power of helicopter gun ships, or the consequences of Waco or Ruby Ridge, to realize how fanciful such scenarios are.  And as for defending oneself and one's family from thieves and robbers, one has only to consider the number of self-inflicted wounds and family members shot to realize one is better off without that kind of "protection."

Hunting as a sport is enjoyed by many; removing hunters' guns might be "unthinkable."  Yet, one has to cast a questioning eye on those whose idea of a pleasurable pastime is killing other living things. One wonders if the step from killing ducks and deer to killing guys and gals might not be rather small.  Even target shooting doesn't seem so innocent when one considers that many "targets" consist of the silhouette of a human head and torso.  At what are we truly shooting -- in our secret fantasies?

The military and the police obviously require firearms of all kinds.  A few isolated ranchers and similar folk may need a rifle or two to protect their livestock -- though often traps are more effective.  But for most of us firearms ought to have no place in our lives.  True, if such came to be, half the movies and the evening television shows would become "unreal."  But then we wouldn't need the V chip either.
       July 12, 1999                                                         --- Richard W. Kelley
[Reprinted with permission of author.]