I have never been a gun enthusiast. I have difficulty thinking of the circumstances that would prompt me to have a gun in my home. Even when I was in the Marine Corps I thought of firearms as expensive, pain-in-the-ass-to-maintain tools. But I understand my friends who are gun enthusiasts. I get it. Anyone who’s ever nestled his cheek against a high powered rifle or felt the satisfying metallic clack-clack of pulling back a slide gets it. You don’t have to be a carpenter to appreciate a good power drill. But let’s stop pretending that this – a concrete appreciation for firearms – is what many on the right are talking about when they talk about gun rights in the United States.
When describing gun rights many on the right use phrases that conjure up images of hardy pioneers, staring through musket-sites at wolves threatening the homestead. Phrases like “rugged individualism” or “self-determination.” These phrases don’t describe gun rights; they describe an idea of what it means to be American. An idea that has nothing to do with whether or not it should be legal for a civilian to own armor piercing bullets or a military grade semi-automatic rifle. I read my conservative friends’ comments on Facebook – abhorring gun control laws in any shape or form – and realize that they’re not talking about guns; they’re talking about culture. A culture that equates one’s opinion of Jesus, abortion and guns with one’s patriotism. A culture that feels assailed by liberal wolves closing in from the coasts.
Americans are far too familiar with the type of tragedy that took place a few days ago in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. We are also all too familiar with the way our national conversation goes in the aftermath of such events. We quickly move from shock & revulsion to resignation & acceptance. But right now, with the elections over, we have a moment to make meaningful legislation that might save lives in the future. People with a concrete appreciation of (and by extension, respect for) firearms should understand the necessity of being inconvenienced to buy them – federally mandated mental health and legal screening (for both purchasers and their co-habitants) would be a good start.
Let’s seize this moment.