Published DateTo the editor,
"I finally bought a gun the other day! Yesterday bought a lot of ammo! Beware liberals and zombies!"
So went a recent Facebook post by a friend I'd known some years ago in South Korea where both he and I taught English. Not once during the time that I knew him did he ever talk about politics or guns. Now that I've returned to America, this is the guy I used to know as Big Chris from Oklahoma who liked to lift weights, teach and enjoy traditional Korean liquor.
"What's happened?" I thought as I added his pro-gun stance to all the other rhetoric I've come across since the gun debate took central stage following the Newtown, Conn. shooting. He'd bought a gun and ammo like the many other Americans who are flocking to gun shows and shops these days, buying up all they can before the guns supposedly get taken away by new legislation (or whatever nefarious measures the "government" implements to deprive people of firearms).
It's so insane that a guy I know who's getting ready to open a local gun shop can't even get the necessary supplies because the industry can't make them fast enough. One gun industry trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, reported that there were more than 2.2 million background checks in December, an increase of more than 58 percent from 2011.
As someone who grew up in New Hampshire then moved abroad after college, I'm confounded by the gun culture here. The arguments for all-out gun proliferation and ownership come across as nonsensical and sophomoric much of the time. Just in this paper over the last few weeks I've read numerous fear mongers warning of the downfall of the country or referencing the Constitution or some historical figure who demanded we all have guns (more than 200 years ago). And, as always, there are the slippery slope fallacies that claim any regulation will lead to a complete disintegration of the Second Amendment.
I sit and wonder what the Founding Fathers or Patrick Henry or Abe Lincoln would think of an AR-15, of high-capacity magazines, of armor-piercing bullets, of these gun circus-shows where people need dollies to get all their ammo to the car. What would they think of an ad that says, "This awesome round houses enough power to penetrate the thickest car doors, commercial steel doors and most objects up to 1/4'' steel plate"? Would they reject and ridicule attempts to limit the extent of weapons and ammunition available? Would they condemn the current administration's moves to reign in what, at least in my opinion, has gone beyond any rational or Constitutional "right" to keep and bear arms?
How far can it go? According to the National Institute of Justice, as of 2009, Americans owned 310 million guns. That's roughly one per-person. Furthermore, a 2011 Gallup poll showed that 47 percent had at least one gun in their home. Not surprisingly, U.S. has the world's highest per capita gun ownership rate — Yemen is second, at less than half America's. And after this current frenzy of purchases those dizzying numbers are sure to grow (if we even know who has all the guns).
But many gun control opponents have a knee-jerk reaction to anything —anything— that would impose any more regulations on guns. This obstinate attitude baffles me and flies in the face of mindfulness and prudence. No citizen needs a Bushmaster assault rifle with a 30-bullet clip. Nobody. No one should be able to buy a gun without a background check — these gun shows need to face serious universal background check regulations.
And, in my opinion, there should be a national gun buyback, similar to what Australia implemented in 1996 after a series of shooting sprees, which called for the return of specific assault rifles. Seems to me that the gun companies who are currently raking in money should help support such a buyback, along with the NRA lobby which could reallocate congressional money to the buyback.
Moreover, the research, rumination and discussions must continue. There is no magic bullet to solve this national emergency yet that is no excuse for not trying. As President Obama said on Jan. 16, "Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try." All of us have that obligation (even Big Chris).
John M. Rogers