A PR Plan for Gun Owners - Reasonable Gun Owners
There were guns in my home when I was a kid. They weren’t sealed in a safe; there were no trigger locks on them. I knew where they were at all times and I knew which drawers held the bullets, too.
As far as I know some of the guns – rifles and shotguns – might have even been loaded. Maybe not. No one ever thought much about it. The guns were for hunting, an activity I shared with my dad maybe once or twice a year. Perhaps in a blue moon we’d take the guns out for some target practice but usually that was a prelude to a hunting trip.
I don’t recall exactly what brand of guns they were. I remember an old bolt action .22 with a scope. That was my favorite (I was a little kid). But there was also a .30-06 cartridge (probably a Springfield), a Remington .44 carbine with a lever action, and big 12-gauge double barrel shotgun that would bruise your collarbone when you blasted it. There was a handgun or two around at various times, as well.
I don’t recall being particularly fascinated by the weapons. And this was the era of unrelenting TV westerns and WWII shows – Gunsmoke, Maverick, Sugarfoot, Rifleman, Wagon Train, Bonanza, Laredo, Big Valley, Rawhide, Combat, Rat Patrol, 12 O’Clock High and on and on. There was a gunfight or war battle every 10 seconds on TV in those days it seemed. Yet I don’t remember making a connection to the violence in those shows to the hunting weapons standing in the bedroom closet.
When hunting with my dad I doubt the gun I held was ever loaded with more than two or three bullets, if any. On the off chance we saw a deer or a bird, you’d likely get a just a single shot off if you were lucky. After you missed your target, which was usually, you’d have plenty of time to put another bullet in the chamber or cartridge.
The guns held no more significance for us than the fishing poles my dad also kept close by. They were tools for specific purposes and most of the time we didn’t give them any thought. I was far more interested in the stack of Playboy magazines that he also stored in that closet.
Something changed after I left home (and I don’t think I’ve touched a gun since). The glorification of guns began. Yes, Hollywood, TV, the media had a hand in it but the biggest factor was the National Rifle Association’s transformation at about that time from a quaint gun safety organization to a politically motivated lobbyist for gun manufacturers. Coupled with its public relations campaign to elevate the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment to a sacrosanct individual moral entitlement (which, of course, it’s not) with one unalterable interpretation, no discussion about gun violence can include anything about gun control. In fact, the mere mention of gun control inflames paranoiac fear that the government is coming to take away your guns – despite the fact there’s never been a hint of any sort of government confiscation.
The NRA’s responses are always the same. The solution to gun control efforts: buy more guns. The solution to the epidemic of gun violence: buy more guns. Remember, the government is coming to take away your guns so: buy more guns.
Unfortunately, a significant number of lemming-like gun enthusiasts and sports shooters fall for this corporate propaganda and are apparently unaware that the NRA gets a financial kickback on the sale of every weapon and ammunition sold in the US. Instead of training their distrust and paranoia on corporate America, they turn it to the real America, convinced they have a moral and legal obligation to stockpile weapons of all kind in order to prevent possible and theoretical tyranny. (How they are going to defend themselves against atomic weapons, drones, and B-2 bombers is never clear, nor exactly how the separation of powers and Democracy would be successfully disbanded. We have the government we voted for, after all).
Meanwhile, those favoring more gun control don’t do themselves any favors by painting all gun owners as whack jobs (not especially a difficult thing to do when you have characters like Wayne LaPierre and Alex Jones as the spokesman for the gun owners or when you can easily find videos like this).
The little secret neither side concedes is that gun ownership in this country has actually declined from a peak of 51 percent in 1977 to about 36 percent now. (The NRA doesn’t want you to know this because it shows fewer people are buying guns, and the control advocates don’t talk about it because they want you to think gun ownership is increasing.) Also largely lost in the debate is that gun-related homicides in this country have also been on the decline. Although the numbers have been trending up slightly since 2002, the total last year was more than 30 percent lower than the peak in 1993. Is there a connection between falling gun ownership and falling homicide rates? We don’t know. The NRA says fewer guns won’t mean fewer homicides but some figures seem to belie that fact.
Virtually silent in this protracted debate are law abiding gun owners – hunters and sportsmen and sportswomen – who believe in reasonable efforts to restrict and regulate gun ownership. We need to hear from them.
If they were to organize, here’s a list of what they should demand:
Regulate semi-automatic and military-style weapons the same way automatic weapons are regulated. You didn’t know it was legal to purchase machine guns and automatic weapons in some states? It is. It’s not easy but it can be done. No one’s right to bear arms is impinged. No guns are banned. No guns are confiscated. We are simply dedicating ourselves doing all we can to help keep these weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
Require gun owners to carry liability insurance for the firearms they own. As my friend Scott Lehigh recently wrote in the Boston Globe, “Such a requirement would literally put a premium – a market premium – on gun safety and sanity.” The more lethal the weapon, the higher the premium. Hunters and sportsman who want bolt or pump-action guns would pay a nominal feel. Those desiring more sophisticated weaponry would have to pay a higher premium. The requirement would immediately close the gun show sales loophole and probably prevent the mentally unstable from legally acquiring guns. Again, no Second Amendment privileges are taken away. Law abiding citizens will be able to purchase and own guns just as before.
Clips and magazines that hold more than 10 bullets would only be available at shooting ranges and sports clubs. There is no need for anyone to have big clips and magazines sitting around the house. Make all the arguments you want about defending your home from intruders but if you can’t stop or slow an intruder’s progress with 10 shots, you’re probably not going to be able to it with 20 or 30 or more. There’s only one reason to possess these large clips: to kill the maximum number of people in the minimum amount of time.
Even my dad, a proud gun owner, could get behind these proposals.