The Peaceable Kingdom
Recently I received two letters from a gun advocacy group. Actually, except for the first paragraph, it was the same letter twice. I have no idea how I got on their mailing list since I have never owned a gun, never expressed an interest in owning a gun, and can visualize no future in which I might want to own a gun.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not anti-gun. I believe with all my heart that responsible people should be able to own guns for legitimate purposes. On the other hand, I am also committed to the idea of keeping guns out of the hands of those who use them to murder innocent victims.
Columbine should have been enough.
Sandy Hook should have been enough.
But they weren’t. There are still individuals and groups who believe that any law which restricts gun ownership in any way will lead to having all guns confiscated—something which is absolutely impossible. Unfortunately, these individuals and groups have enough political power to block the passage of rational laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who are a danger to themselves and others—laws favored by the majority of Americans.
I would like to share my answer to the letters I received. I had hoped my response might have opened a dialog with the advocacy group. It didn’t happen. Please feel free to respond. Only when we can debate this issue in rational and meaningful ways can we hope to find a solution that will allow gun owners to pursue their constitutional right to own guns while protecting innocent people from being victims of gun abuse.
I read your letter—or should I say letters—with amusement. I found it interesting that, apart from the first two paragraphs, the letters were identical. I would have expected more originality from someone in your position. I am also amused because I am not a gun owner, nor a supporter of gun rights the way you interpret them. I have no idea how or from whom you got my name.
I do agree with you that responsible adults should have the right to own guns. This right is not under attack as you so vehemently insist. The Constitution undeniably gives you and others the right to own guns, and no one is trying to grab yours. It is proof of the level of your paranoia that you feel your gun ownership is under attack.
I know that part of your standard argument is, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people”—and, of course, that is correct. I would hope, however, that you would admit guns kill people more effectively than most other weapons. Otherwise we’d be arming our soldiers with swords and spears.
That efficiency lies at the heart of the major problem with gun ownership in this country. Easy access to guns means easy access to killing. Too many dangerous people find it too easy to get their hands on guns. A recent article in our local paper documented this fact. Since Sandy Hook there has been an acute increase in gun incidents and deaths in our nation’s schools. The article identifies this increase as part of a larger problem. There are 86 deaths from bullets in this country on an average day. These include suicides, which are more prevalent in homes where guns are present. I’m sure you will tell me that none of the current or proposed gun laws would have prevented these deaths—and you may be correct. I expect you might also feel that a certain amount of collateral damage is acceptable as long as your rights are protected.
If you had any sense of history, and if you had any compassion for the people whose lives have been affected by gun violence, you would find a way for your organization to work with those who are trying to find sensible solutions to the problems caused by guns. You would realize that you and your co-enthusiasts are part of the problem. Instead, in the face of overwhelming evidence that something must be done, you continue to parrot the same old tired lines. You should be ashamed of yourself for maintaining an adversarial position rather than working with those trying to find a reasonable answer.
At some point you will likely tell me that if it’s criminal to own a gun, only criminals will have guns—and that statement is correct as far as it goes. It is impossible, however, that the simple act of owning a gun will ever be criminal in this country despite your assertions to the contrary. (I would be glad to reason this out for you, and am surprised you haven’t reasoned it out for yourself.) More important is the corollary: If everyone is free to carry a gun with no restrictions, then criminals can do so. The streets of Memphis provide an example. Since Tennessee has adopted an open-carry law, Memphis has become a much more dangerous place to live. Gun violence has increased many fold in the past few months.
I am sorry that you, your organization, and other gun rights groups cannot see how damaging your stand is to your own cause. The reaction to your adamant insistence on your position has already begun. Recently, in New York City, 1,000 people marched to call attention to gun violence, and to urge that a solution be found. Lest you dismiss this number as inconsequential, I assure you it is only a start. The time is coming when the rational citizens of this country will realize they possess the untapped power of the majority. When that happens, the result will be much more draconian than if you had had the foresight to be part of the solution rather than such a great part of the problem.
Kenneth L. Sipley