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Guns And Bullets

The National Gun Issue – Again

By James Donahue

It was after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and long before the 9-11 attack that the gun paranoia swept the nation. Those were the days when militant groups were springing up all over the place, there was talk about the government’s secret plans to take away the guns, and there was a mad rush to buy guns and ammunition in the event of . . . whatever it is that we thought we were afraid of.

I admit that my wife and I got caught up in that silliness. We actually purchased registered handguns and I bought a few long guns, just in case. After moving to the White Mountains of Arizona I worked for a small newspaper at Show Low where we became friends with another reporter and his wife, who were members of a serious militant group. This guy carried a .45 revolver in a holster strapped to his hip and lived in a rural community of people who I swear had gun barrels sticking out of nearly every window.

I think we all thought there was some kind of cataclysmic event about to fall on our heads and we would need those guns in the event of a Mad Max scenario. Of course it never happened.

The conspiracy theories have been running especially wild since 9-11, the shooting of Arizona Senator Gabby Giffords and the people gathered to see her in a Phoenix parking lot, and now the terrible massacre of 20 little children in their school at Sandy Hook.

That last event has triggered fresh chatter both for and against the banning of guns. And because of the "threat" that the government might take everybody’s right to bear arms, there has been a frantic rush of the gun shops. Firearms, and especially those "assault rifles" with multi-shot clips, are allegedly flying off the shelf.

The issue has become as heated as the debate over abortion rights. National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre stirred controversy when he advocated placing armed guards in all of the nation’s schools. And gun rights advocates launched a campaign to deport CNN personality Piers Morgan because of his public remarks about the Second Amendment.

When you think about it, LaPierre's plan to police the halls of all the nation's schools is pretty hard to conceive. The schools are already so financially strapped they are doubling up on classes, closing buildings, and cutting curriculum to balance their budgets. Who is going to pay the salaries of all those armed police officers patrolling the halls? And how many schools get attacked by crazed gunmen every day?

Any way we look at it, the gun problem is a heated issue and the nation appears to stand divided over the right to bear arms or the call to ban sales of these weapons.

But wait. Are critics actually calling for a ban the sale of all guns? If you can stop the rhetoric for a moment and listen to what they are calling for it is only for a ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles like the one used to gun down the students at Sandy Hook. And they have a point. Such rifles with magazine clips that can hold up to 20 to 30 bullets at a time can fire off those deadly slugs as fast as the operator can squeeze the trigger. And it only takes a moment to change clips when you run out of bullets. Those guns are one step short of being machine guns. They are deadly killing machines. They have only one purpose, and that is to kill a lot of people.

Hunters don’t need weapons like this. For a skilled woodsman, one or two well-placed bullets can bring down a deer or other large game animal. Spray that animal with lead shot and you have basically ruined the meat.

The basic problem behind a proposed ban on one type of firearm is a fear that such a law will open the door to similar bans on hand guns, long-range rifles and eventually all weapons. And Americans seem to love their guns.

It isn’t that we love them. We think we need to have them around in case of trouble. Some people keep guns because of a fear of unwanted home intruders. Others are ardent hunters. Still others belong to militia groups and want to be prepared for self-defense in the event of a breakdown of society. And a few believe that they need to retain the right to form public militias in the event of government tyranny, as described in that Second Amendment.

As for this writer, I deplore guns. I have owned them, but have only used them for target practice with friends. I cannot bear to shoot an animal, even for its meat. I doubt if I could turn a gun on another human unless my life is threatened. I am sure that I would defend my family if it became a matter of survival. But I would do this reluctantly. I would be happy if there were no guns. Anywhere. Ever.

I should say that over the years, I have discovered that I am a very good shot. Just in case anybody is wondering.