Are Guns Really Us?

Lea Wait here. And, for the record, in case the rest of this post leaves anyone in the dark, I am not a member of the National Rifle Association. At one point in my life I would have said I was against all guns.

I marched for peace years ago. I was one of those mothers who wouldn’t even allow a water pistol in her home. I had to swallow hard when one of my daughters enlisted in the Army and then came home with a medal in riflery. Yes; I was proud of her, and, yes, I’m glad our country has strong Armed Forces. But her career decision was far outside my emotional compass.  

I learned from her. I’ve also learned to have sympathy for those who live in areas where the lives of people and deer have overlapped, to the detriment of both (see Sarah’s post yesterday.) That was also true in the New Jersey suburbs I called home for some years. And I know people in Maine and other states who depend on their guns to provide meat for their families, and do so legally. I don’t begrudge them that right. I even went to a gun range with other mystery writers a couple of years ago to learn how it felt to fire a gun at a target. Not the real thing, maybe. But close enough for me.

Lea, Trying to Look Comfortable (Yes, She Did Shoot It)

But I still have a problem with guns. Handguns, in particular. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I write mysteries. 

I’m also a realist. I know we live in a gun totin’ country. In 49 of our 50 states people can (when they meet legal requirements) carry a concealed handgun. (Illinois is the one exception and probably won’t be for long.) The NRA website says Wisconsin alone just celebrated (!) giving out its 100,000th permit. The February 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin has been in the headlines all spring. In 2010 there were 12,996 murders in the United States, which then had a population of almost three hundred and nine million.  8,775 of those deaths were caused by people using firearms, and, of these firearms, 6,009 were handguns. (These statistics don’t include Florida and don’t fully represent Illinois.)  In the United Kingdom, a country of a little over sixty-one million, there were a few less than seven hundred murders in 2010. The UK has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world; even police officers (except those in Northern Ireland) do not routinely carry firearms.)

Still — and I hesitate to write this — horrible though even one murder is individually, 13,000 murders in a population of almost 309 million is still a tiny fraction. And most people murdered are killed by people they know. Family. Friends. Colleagues.  

Despite these facts, hundreds of thousands of Americans are now carrying guns. What I want to know is: what are all these people afraid of?

As a young woman I lived in Pittsburgh for 4 years; in New York City for 10. I traveled on business, alone, to cities all over this country. For many years I was the single parent of four daughters. I remember sometimes being careful of where in a city I went, and when. I don’t ever remember being afraid. I never thought of carrying any kind of weapon. Nor did I ever suggest any to my daughters.

Four days ago an article on the front page of The New York Times shocked me. Woolrich, an 182-year-old clothing company known for its flannel shirts, jackets and conservative suits for men and women, announced a new “Concealed Carry” line of clothing for “the fashion-aware gun owner.”

These chinos and vests look like normal, every-day clothing. They’re not like hunting garb, or police clothing, or the line of clothing Cabela’s carries labelled “Blackhawk!” No, these are the sorts of clothes you might wear anywhere. Which is, of course, where people who have permits carry their hand guns. Anywhere.

Lea, With First Target

By the way, if you’re in the market for a weapon, Cabela’s, which has a large store in Maine (“the most peaceful state”), gives you a choice of 139 different handguns on its website, from 60 semiautomatic pistols to 14 “Civil War” revolvers. And, for women who don’t want one of the shoulder or belt or ankle holsters they carry, it sells four concealed carry purses, including one called the Gun Tot ‘n Mama. Cabela’s also offers a Blackhawk concealed-carry shirt sporting “profile-disrupting plaid”. It has a “zippered document pocket for discrete carrying of critical items.”  Its longer length and plaid will, “maximize weapon concealment.” (What kind of critical documents will you need to hide in a shirt you order from Cabelas? Your shopping list? Your report card? Is this a fantasy game?)    

When I first started to write this blog, I was going to make it funny. You know — little old ladies with their handguns in their purses. Wall Street executives and bankers having to walk around the metal detectors at work because of the gun hidden in their jacket. 

But then I realized that wasn’t funny. Those things are really happening. 

I can make it all come out right in the mysteries I’m writing. I can even make it sound funny if I want to. But then I think of the Lexington Avenue subway in New York City full of people with concealed weapons. Or a crowd at the National Zoo. Or a mass of emotional people at a sporting event anywhere. 

Now that so many Americans are carrying handguns, for the first time in my life, I’m scared. I don’t care how many metal detectors there are. I’m really scared. And not just for me, living quietly in Maine, in that “most peaceful” state. I’m scared for all of us. I’m scared because something in this country has changed. For some reason we don’t trust each other any more. And I can’t believe that everyone carrying a gun is the solution to that problem. 

In fact, it can only make it worse.

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21 Responses to Are Guns Really Us?

  1. lil Gluckstern says:

    I’m with you, Lea. These are very strange times, and very scary. It’s the distrust and anger that I find so scary.

  2. Deanna says:

    I’m another one with you. I want nothing to do with any guns! With my luck I would shoot my foot! 🙂
    And someone could take it away from me and use it! Not a great idea all of these guns, and concealed at that!

  3. Barb Ross says:

    I agree, too. I have nothing against hunters or hunting (and in fact another column in the Times this week pointed out that a tiny percentage of hunters–or all gun owners for that matter–belong to the NRA.)

    But I disagree strongly with the idea that a gun is an appliance like a washing machine–i.e. that every home should have one. And I too, have lived in Boston and New York and traveled extensively at home and abroad for business. I’ve worked as a bank teller. I’ve fired people who didn’t respond well. And I’ve never felt like I would be safer if I personally had a gun.

  4. Rusty Fairbanks says:

    I enjoyed (for the most part) a career of nearly thirty years in the law enforcement/corrections/legal system (don’t refer to it as the justice system anymore) and carried a sidearm for much of it – sometimes concealed, sometimes not. Never had to even draw it – all in California, btw. Seldom had a partner, but sometimes needed to call for backup or assistance. Now, retired and living in that “most peaceful state”, I know where my revolver is, but seldom carry it. But I understand your fear. I feel it, too.

    We have become an emotional country. There are people and groups across this land who are perpetuating that emotionalism through a lack of tolerance. When it is considered OK for “religious based” people to congregate at military funerals with placards and chants of hate, when talk radio/tv hosts can freely use words of hate and anger and disrespect for law-abiding others who have positions of disagreement, when politican candidates and office-holders can verbally attack those with differing opinions but can’t work together to provide for the common good, when people of religious (or non-religious) factions can loudly proclaim their way is the only “Godly” way – people become angry. And they often take that anger (or position) to the extreme. As though might ever made right. It doesn’t.

    Civility has taken a back seat to advancing agendas, regardless of who gets hurt or is in the way. There is little person-to-person dialogue any more. Agendas and attitudes are communicated via impersonal means – texting, the internet, the media, one-sided commentary. One doesn’t have to look in the face of those being hurt or offended. So when a face-to-face confrontation does come to pass, too many don’t know how to talk out differences – or don’t want to.

    It’s a rats-in-the-maze mentality fueled by hate and my-way-or-the-highway dogmas. Using a gun seems so much easier. It stops the noise – momentarily.

  5. LJ Roberts says:

    The power of the NRA scares me silly. The idea of people being able to carry concealed weapons, even more so. My town has a local newspaper which lists burglaries and the items stolen. It’s astonishing to see how many are rifles and handguns and all I can think is “thank you, you idiot, for giving criminals another gun. Did you a lot of good, didn’t it?”.

    Do I want to outlaw all guns? No. If you’re a hunter or a rancher/farmer, I’m fine with the idea of a single-action rifle or a shotgun. There is no reason why a private citizen needs a semi-automatic or an automatic weapon. There is no reason why anyone, except law enforcement, should ever have a handgun.

    I believe we, in California, still have the “use a gun, go to jail” law–or maybe not–but it needs to be strictly enforced. I should love for this country to have the gun laws of Canada or England. Unfortunately, unless someone can figure out how to change the “cowboy” mentality of this country and rein in the NRA, it will never happen…and innocent people will continue to die.

  6. MCWriTers says:

    Rusty, your point that social media allows us to vent without true discussion is interesting. Freedom of speech is critical to our country — but freedom of speech and discussion must be tempered by what you wisely called “person-to-person dialogue.” Which involves listening as well as talking. It amazes me how in some quarters the words “consensus” and “compromise” have suddenly become derogatory terms. They’re action words. No — we don’t all agree. About almost anything! But what happened to the ideas of “live and let live;” of respecting others’ values; of (to use “corporate speak”) valuing diversity? We are a strong country because we are diverse. Walt Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain Multitudes.”) We have always contained multitudes. We need somehow to regain our respect for their opinions, to understand that our country is stronger because we do not agree on everything, and to move into the future united as a people who may have different beliefs and lifestyles, but who are willing to work together for what is best for the majority of Americans. People who do not fear each other because they think differently. But first we need to listen to each other. And, Rusty, you’re right. We listen to those who think the way we do on social media. We listen to radio and TV broadcasts that reflect our way of thinking. We tune in the politicians we agree with. The more options we have, the fewer viewpoints we have to hear. And when we only see one side of a wall … we fear the other side.

  7. Judy says:

    as a former Mainer (2 yrs in Brunswick area) who has lived in LA & SF and now resides in the Boston area, I have to say that by and large I would agree with you (got arrested in the 60’s trying to stop troops going overseas, hastled my gun-totin, deer hunting cousins)…except for one thing…in the mid to late 70’s I worked in the Century CIty area and faced a long commute back home to Orange County over LA side streets and freeways , often late at night. My employer had us park in a really remote parking lot about a quarter mile from the office, and due to the late hours, I was frequently found hoofing it, audit bag in hand in my high heels back up the hill to the lot in the dark, all alone. MY neighbors on either side of me at my apartment were LA Vice squad cops who were having conniptions about me wandering the streets late at night along in a faily desolate area (after the other office workers were all home enjoying their pot roast). You see, there were these pesky kidnappings & killings occurring (aka the hillside strangler). Their answer to keeping me safe was to get me a decent handgun, drag me off to the range three weekends in a row, for nonstop shooting lessons, until I actually could hit not only the broadside of barn, but th sweetspot on a moving target – and then get me a license to carry a concealed weapon and elict a promise from me to do so whenver I went in to the office. They bugged me enough (having a couple of guys who look like drug dealers drop by and ask to see your office -not just once, but several times-doesn’t do much toward convincing your boss you’re a young upward professional who should be trusted with other people’s money- what he would have thought had he known I was carrying doesn’t bear thinking …). In any case, I’d been dragging the 2 lb paperweight around for about 3 weeks, when one night around11 PM as I was leaving the parking lot, a man came running out of the shadows, broke the passenger window of my car and started grabbing at me. Without thinking , I pulled out the .38, pointed it at him, and starated yelling at him. He laughed and kept lunging so I cocked the gun. He backed off and I sped off. about 4 miles later, I pulled into the W Hollywood Sherrif’s station, still shaking and hysterical. The boys there contacted my neighbors, who came and got me, drove me home and took the gun back with them. While I know it’s illogical, given the circumstances, and they argued long and hard about it, I’d learned a hard lesson – if you carry a handgun, you have to be prepared to use it. I really wasn’t. had push come to shove, I”m not sure I really would have pulled that trigger. That’s what bothers me about the woolrich and cabella storylines. Unfortunately, there seems to be a broad section of the population that has no problem with the thought of blowing someone who looks at them crosseyed away. Are there times when I wish I had a gun. Yep. Like in 1992 when the fool in a pickup chased me down in the parking lot of my office in Brunswick because I’d “cut him off ” at a 4 way stop- had my car door open yelling at the top of his lungs (our security guard intervened). Today, he wouldn’t bother confronting me-he’d probably just take the gun out of his ankle holster and shoot me. but I know I probably wouldn’t pull the trigger unless confronted with a rabid dog- or rabid man with a gun or knife pointed at me – I don’t see many of any of them lurking around my house…although those X@!#@Z chipmunks that are gnawing holes in the walls of my garage…but the bullet holes would be bigger than the chippie holes.

    Pistol packin’ mamas and papas scare the bejezus out of me.

  8. Lea Wait says:

    And those are exactly the folks I worry about too, Judy.

  9. Tony Burton says:

    You know, I am really a very peaceful person. And I can understand how people who live in a very urbanized environment (or at least the nicer parts of one) can get the feeling that handguns are unnecessary, or guns in general are unnecessary. Probably a few of the same folks feel that my Jeep 4×4 is unnecessary… but then, they don’t have to pull a trailer carrying literally a ton of stuff in it, up my 40-degree-inclination driveway for over 240 yards, in wet or icy weather, either.

    I have lived in some good-sized cities: Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Jacksonville, FL. But I grew up in the country, and have returned to it. Here’s the truth: most country folks are good people, just like most city folks are good people. But out here, it can take an hour or more for one of the widely-dispersed law enforcement officers to arrive, if they get there at all. Most malefactors will not wait for the law to come by before they attack you, steal from you, rape you, or commit general mayhem. Here are some cases in point:

    1. About 35 years ago, a criminal eluded capture by the county sheriff in our home county. He had been on the run for most of the night and part of the day. My mother was home, alone, and she had heard about the escape on the radio, so all the doors to their double-wide mobile home were locked. Suddenly there was a pounding on the door, and a snarling, cursing voice demanding to be let in. My mom grew up in the country, and she grabbed the .22 automatic rifle with which she loved to shoot snakes, and warned the man off. He responded by pounding harder, and threatening what he would do when he got in. She shot twice through the door, and he yelped, then ran off into the woods. Four hours later, the sheriff’s deputies caught him. The door would not have stopped him for long, but the idea of my mother’s firearms kept him from entering, harming or possibly killing her, and having a place to hole up.

    2. 1979, Jacksonville, FL. My wife and I had bought a new house and moved in, but did not yet have telephone service. I was in the Navy, and was away for a week on duty. A drunk man came to the door in the middle of the night, pounding on the door, and demanding for “Jack” to let him in. My wife yelled at him through the door that there was no Jack there, that he was mistaken. The man grew more belligerent, and began pounding harder. My wife (the daughter of a law enforcement officer, who knew which end of the pistol was which), jammed her foot against the door, made sure the chain was secure, and opened the door just enough for the drunk to see the barrel of a S&W .38 Police Special pointed at his head. She again warned him off, and he backed away and staggered down the street. No shots fired, but no innocent was harmed, either.

    3. 1980, on a motorcycle, traveling through rural Georgia toward Jacksonville, FL. I was making my way along back roads, enjoying the scenery, when a couple of yahoos in a pickup truck thought it would be fun to harass the biker. They kept creeping up on my tail, then whizzing by me within a foot or so, then slowing down so I had to pass them. Finally I had enough. I locked the throttle and made as though to pass the truck. As I came abreast, I tooted the bike’s horn and displayed my (licensed) sidearm in a warning fashion. They took off and did not return to harass me.

    4. 1989, on a state highway in Georgia. My in-laws were driving along in their little red Honda automobile, when a loud muscle car began crowding them, speeding up, passing them, slowing down, etc. Finally, they forced my in-laws to the shoulder of the road and three toughs exited from the vehicle, one carrying a ball bat. My dad-in-law immediately took out his S&W .357 Magnum, stepped partway from his car, and ordered the young men to leave or be shot. He fired one round into the air. The hyenas decided they wanted easier prey, and left in a spray of gravel.

    In all of these cases, having a gun at hand, and the will to use it, kept innocent people from being injured or killed. In only two of those cases, were the firearms actually discharged, and in no case was anyone hit. (My mom would have hit her target had she seen him, but firing through a closed door puts one at a disadvantage. I have seen her nail a snake from 50 feet. She hates snakes.)

    Proper control of access to guns, whether long guns or handguns, is vital. The killer of Trayvon Martin, in my opinion, should not have had legal access to a handgun. I am licensed to conceal carry, and intend to be that way as long as I am able to pick up a gun and aim it accurately. I have never had to shoot anyone, but I would not hesitate to shoot someone who was threatening me, or those I love. Within my home, there is no place where I cannot have a loaded firearm in my grasp within ten seconds. It’s not paranoia. I seldom think about it. If I have to think about it, then it is probably too late.

    If you feel comfortable enough with the loving kindness of all those who live around you, and the rapid response of well-trained law enforcement officers, to believe you do not need to have a gun in your home, I salute you. But that’s not my situation, and I don’t want those of you who DO feel such comfort to be able to control whether or not I can have my own guns. You know, I don’t feel comfortable with riding a motorcycle without a helmet, and I think anyone who does is an errant fool, but I’m not going to try to pass a law that requires everyone in the U.S. to wear a helmet if they ride a motorcycle. It’s not my place.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Tony Burton

    • Tony Burton says:

      Two more details:

      In incident #1, the criminal was a dangerous felon who had attacked, beaten and robbed at least two people, and was accused of rape. He wasn’t just some traffic offender. After she had chased him away, my mom called the sheriff’s office and told them what had happened.

      In incident #3, I did not wave my handgun around. I merely pointed to it in in its holster, and placed my hand on it. That was all it took.

      In incident #4, my mom-in-law (who was in the car, too) was stroke disabled, and would have been easy prey for the hoodlums in the car. It was not just some macho guy defending his car and pride–it was defending their lives as well as their property. At the next opportunity, my father-in-law pulled off the road and called the state patrol to report what happened.

  10. Like Lea and others here, our exploding gun culture scares me. And yes, those most likely to be killed or hurt are family members, and–too often–the carrier’s gun is turned against him or her. Tony’s right, anyone carrying has to be ready and willing to maim or kill. without a second thought. I’m not ready for that. The NRA has rights to promote its interests like others in the USA — but why are so many listening? The more guns are out there the more frightened we rightly become. And why do we need the right to carry assault rifles and other “heavy artillery?”

  11. Brenda says:

    Tony Burton’s post covers the subject beautifully, a classic, and I hope all read it and post it on bulletin boards and refrigerators for a reread. I will keep it too.

    I will be interested to see how any who disagree after reading his post and seeing what life can throw at you can possibly write good mysteries.

    Tony Burton, your comments explained beautifully why some can ignore the seedier side of life when they have been fortunate and pampered and protected and lived in safe areas (or had good luck). Some HAVE to carry guns BECAUSE others do it and their luck hasn’t yet run out. Some of us live in an area where they don’t know who is armed and who isn’t & so crime hasn’t gotten as out of hand.

    I used to wonder why the right to have semi-automatic weapons was needed, but I have now watched the news enough to see that many who have been tortured, injured, raped or died in riots and attacks on their homes in times of urban unrest (London, Katrina, L.A. Riots just three examples ) might have saved themselves, their homes and their loved ones had they had them. Might just the sight of one of those have saved the senior citizen in London who tried to save people in those riots and was murdered for his efforts?

    My father was once in the car with a pacifist friend on Ramparts Street in New Orleans. Before leaving the car, to my father’s surprise, the friend reached over and got his pistol from the glove compartment. My father indicated he thought he was a pacifist. He said, “I am, but I reserve the right to change my mind.” This man was wise to the dangers of New Orleans decades before others knew how dangerous the place was.

  12. Brenda says:

    A sentence correction in my post should have read: Some DON’T have to carry guns BECAUSE others do it and their luck hasn’t yet run out. In other words, when the criminals think everybody is armed, those who aren’t are being protected by those who are.

    We were once saved from a menacing vicious stray dog by someone who did go to the trouble to have a tiny pistol on him. He didn’t kill the dog, just shot the gun into the dirt and scared it off. (It is actually awful that he did not the dog as it killed a very sweet farm cat shortly after.)

  13. Brenda says:

    I see I did not read all of Tony Burton’s post, not having read the part on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.

    Listening to the whole taper, the 911 operator in the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case clearly caused Mr. Zimmerman to make the unfortunate and tragic decision to follow Trayvon when she told him she needed more information. He had been planning to get back in his SUV. After she realized she was pushing him for more information is when she told him he didn’t have to do that. But by then he apparently thought he did. If Mr. Zimmerman had not had a handgun and had still followed Trayvon Martin he would likely be dead from having his head bashed on the concrete though we would not know of it as head injuries might not lead to death until the clot gets the victim later. Given the look of Mr. Zimmerman’s head injuries he may well not survive very many years as it is. But Mr. Zimmerman is alive today after this unfortunate altercation because he did have a gun & it stopped the head bashing. If Trayvon Martin had not made the tragic decision to attack someone he noted was following him & who happened to be armed he would be alive. It is a tragedy that growing up in such a violent area as he was even unarmed he chose to attack someone who turned out to be armed.

    • Tony Burton says:

      I understand what you are saying, Brenda, but from what I have read, Mr. Zimmerman had a police record that should have prohibited him from having the pistol, or having the license to carry it. I understand the need to protect one’s home, one’s family, and so forth, but it looks like Mr. Zimmerman entered the fray with a chip on his shoulder, as well as carrying a gun he should NOT have been carrying. Even well-armed and trained police officers try not to enter into a situation in a belligerent manner, where the other guy gets backed into a corner and decides to retaliate. If I am wrong about Mr. Zimmerman’s criminal record, I apologize, but that is what I have read.

      If Mr. Zimmerman had not had the handgun, he might not have been so eager to track after this young man, even at the 9-1-1 operator’s request. A gun, like a sword, has two edges. Sometimes, in the wrong hands or when a person has the wrong attitude, it can be bad all around.

  14. Paul Sadler says:

    I’m Canadian, so we don’t have the same history with respect to “right to bear arms”, etc., although we did come out of a revolutionary past of sorts, colony wars, etc. And we do have a strong gun lobby without the NRA logo. But very little support — ever — in our country’s history for handgun possession, just long-guns. Sure, there’s the odd man out in any discussion, but no politicians beating on pulpits, no victims of violence saying “If only I had a gun, I would be safe!”.

    I grew up with guns around…BB guns, 22s, shotguns, 306, etc. and always thought I was rather agnostic towards gun control (except the old saw about “I have a strict policy on gun control — if there’s a gun around, I want to control it!”).

    But while doing some research awhile back, I wanted to know a bit more about handguns and the experience, and I picked up some gun mags. There was a great article where they interviewed an activist who believed passionately in carrying concealed. And, like the story in one of the earlier posts, talked about his experiences in walking through the dark.

    Except his story was downright creepy. He talked about how he liked to go to this specific mall, and would frequently leave later at night, walking through a parking lot to his distant car with little lighting (why, in his example, he didn’t park somewhere else was never clear). Anyway, he liked to carry his first handgun (yes, I said first!) in his windbreaker, in his pocket, while going to his car. However, he also liked to go jogging, and that gun was too heavy to fit comfortably in his jogging waist pack…for that he had a separate second handgun. But, he wasn’t really that happy with those two — too lightweight if someone was returning fire. So in his truck, he had a gun in his glove compartment that was readily accessible, “just in case”. In case of what? I have no idea. But, that too wasn’t enough. He also had a larger gun, something like a .44 or .357 but I seem to recall being augmented somehow for larger calibre, that he kept in his truck, under the front seat, in a lockbox. Yet, still “accessible”, if he had to take cover on the floor of his truck. This didn’t stop him from owning three additional handguns that he regularly took to the firing range, and transported them loaded, cuz they weren’t any use if they weren’t loaded.

    The interview with him was about 10 paragraphs long, describing what he did for carrying concealed, various harnesses, boxes, etc.. And how, on some occasions, he really didn’t feel safe in his truck if he didn’t have all SEVEN handguns with him, loaded and ready for bear. I saved the article, and I intend to use a similar description in a future story.

    But if I had any neutral thoughts about the right to bear arms, in general, or the right to own handguns more pointedly, or even more specifically, to own them and carry concealed, the activist being interviewed convinced me utterly of the exact opposite of his position. I could support someone’s “right” to carrying concealed if somehow I could prevent this complete and utter whackjob from even owning a gun, let alone SEVEN that he carried with him regularly.

    Scared the crap out of me…


    • Tony Burton says:


      I agree about that guy being a whackjob. But there are extremists on all sides of a debate, and that guy sounds like he’s definitely extreme in his thoughts. He also sounds like he has watched WAY too many iterations of the “Death Wish” movies. Ye gads. I, too, grew up around guns: got my first BB gun at age six, and never shot my eye out. I was out in the woods with a single-shot .22 rifle at age 10, and shot my first shotgun the same year (my grandfather’s old 10-gauge that put me on my butt in a heartbeat). I also shot a recurve bow at age 12, and by age 14 I could have killed at a distance just as easily with an arrow as with a rifle… had I wished to do so. I did not wish to do so, so I did not.

      But in my instances (twice with family members being accosted while in their own homes, and twice while in/on their own vehicles and on public roads) I don’t think there is a real parallel.

      None of the people in the true events I talked about, went out looking for “a little action” or anything of the sort. We were all minding our own business, when people with nothing good planned, tried to impose their will on us. A violent felon, on the run from the police, would not have been cajoled into giving up by my mother, had he gotten into the house. The violent drunk may have done more than batter the paint job on the door of our new house, had he managed to enter where my wife was alone without a telephone. The “good ol’ boys” who were playing chicken with me (they in their pickup, and I on my motorcycle) were endangering my life, and perhaps their own. And the gang of toughs who ran my elderly in-laws off the road, and accosted them with a baseball bat in hand, did not do so with love in their hearts. They were looking for easy prey, and didn’t find it.

      I find gun control advocates usually to be those who have not been faced with the sobering reality of being the disadvantaged person in a confrontation. And even with all the people who cry out about the danger of having the gun taken away from them and used against them: please provide me with confirmable accounts of where this has occurred, and I guarantee you that I can find at least five times as many where the gun owning or carrying individual was able to defend him/herself successfully, even if they don’t fire the weapon. Personally, I like those odds better.

      I have NEVER advocated that anyone simply buy a gun, stick it in their purse or car like an amulet, and expect that such actions will drive away crime like garlic with a vampire. If you are going to own a gun, learn how to load it, unload it, clean it, and fire it safely and accurately. Keep it out of the reach of children and/or the mentally incompetent. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do those things, don’t buy a gun, because you will be hazardous to yourself and others.

      One last point, and I’ll shut up: it is an old saw, but bears repeating because it is solid-gold truth–if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. My friends, if a criminal is going to rob a store, kill someone, go on a rampage in a mall, or whatever, they will not let such things as gun control laws stop them. Most states have gun control laws now, yet criminals still manage to get their hands on guns.

      Remember Prohibition? (Not that you are that old, but from your history lessons.) Outlawing booze did NOT keep booze off the street. But it DID vastly enrich the coffers of a lot of gangsters who supplied booze to those who wanted it anyway… and the booze they supplied was often very unsafe and even poisonous. But people got booze if they wanted it, even though it was against the law.

      Remember when abortion was completely illegal, in all 50 states? It worked, didn’t it? Not one abortion ever occurred! (That was sarcasm, in case you didn’t catch it.) Abortions still occurred, even though illegal, and for the most part the abortions were conducted by incompetent, unqualified individuals, and the actions endangered the lives of the mothers.

      If handguns are made illegal, here’s what will happen: the handguns that already exist will triple or quadruple in value, and will probably be bootlegged for the money they could bring in… keeping criminals supplied with handguns AND money from the sale of both real and home-made weapons. But law-abiding citizens would not be able to buy handguns.

      If you have read anything about resistance movements, or the street gangs of the Fifties here in the U.S., you realize that necessity is the mother of invention, and guns are produced from the most unlikely of materials. For example, a zip gun is made with a car aerial, a rubber band or strong spring, and something to hold the device… maybe a carved piece of wood wrapped with tape. Many street gang shootings were conducted with zip guns. I have a little book in my desk that I acquired long ago, published by the U.S. Army, that describes in excruciating detail how to make explosives, incendiary devices, and weapons, from common materials found around the home or farm. The same book is now available on the Web, I believe. So, there would be a lot of homemade pistols being turned out, just as there was a lot of bathtub hooch, and a lot of backroom abortions conducted by the untrained… and those pistols would be just as unsafe, if not more so.

      The point is, making handguns illegal will not keep them out of the hands of criminals. I honestly believe we need a licensing system that is as comprehensive as the one for driver’s licenses. If you want to carry a handgun, you must submit to a test and show that you know how to use the handgun properly. You must have a criminal background check run on you. You must have the permit/license on you at all times that you have the handgun. The license should be given “full faith and credit” by any state in which you travel, just as your driver’s license is. You should be required to show your verifiable license if you wish to buy a handgun or ammunition. If you ever are convicted of a felony, you should be divested of any guns in your possession, and your license revoked.

      But just as with a revoked driver’s license, it would not be foolproof. Lots of people with revoked driver’s licenses, still drive. Lots of people who don’t really know how to drive, have licenses. Even with these problems, though, I believe such a system would be better than what we have now.


      Tony Burton

  15. Tony Burton says:

    Oh, and yes, I have multiple handguns, but probably not for the same reason as the whackjob in your story.

    I have a .22 semiautomatic pistol similar to the one I shot when I was on a U.S. Navy pistol team. I use it for plinking, shooting rats and varmints, and so forth. It’s a “fun” gun.

    I have a .38 Special revolver that is a simple, basic handgun and easy to use. It is kept in a drawer by my bed.

    I have a 9mm parabellum semiautomatic that I carry for personal defense.

    The rest of my weapons are long guns, for hunting.

    Oh. I also have a CO2-powered BB pistol that I use when the .22 pistol would be dangerous for shooting at varmints (i.e., when they are close to my car or house.)

  16. D. T. Hardy says:

    I have quite a few guns (more than I can easily count). I fear no one, simply because this area is quite peaceful. They are simply fun to have and to shoot. I’m an attorney, and carried in the days when I did land fraud cases (the deputy county attorney who did that work had a bodyguard), but not these days.

    I am sure many of my neighbors have the same, and I have no fear of them. Nor of my primary care doc, who has a submachine gun (legal here, with federal papers). He was, btw, a conscientious objector who went to jail during Vietnam. Why would anyone assume that I or my neighbors or my doctor own guns out of fear, and then in turn fear us entirely reasonable folks?

  17. Tony Burton says:

    D. T.,

    You see, that’s a good point. When I first shot a gun, it was for the fun of it. The first gun I bought, was not for self-protection, but for hunting and fun shooting (clay pigeons.) I have fired full-auto weapons, both in the military and for fun, at a shooting range, though I have never owned one. Shooting is good, basic fun, and requires honing skills to get good at certain aspects of it (wing shots of flying things, etc.)

    It was not until much later in life that I began to realize that there were unsavory elements in the world who might wish to harm me, and started looking at firearms as a way of protecting myself and those I care about. I certainly didn’t start acquiring firearms as a way of providing myself an arsenal against evil people.

    There are many, many people who own guns (both short and long guns), who shoot them for the pure enjoyment of it. As I said, I was on a pistol team in the U.S. Navy, and that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

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