I go back and forth on this gun control thing. Growing up in rural Texas with a father who hunted and who during the Cuban missile crisis got his rifle out of the closet and got it ready, I favor the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. I cannot imagine that the founders who, however elitist, did not recognize the dangers of new settlers making their way unarmed through the wild forests of a new country. It is nonsense to think that individual citizens cannot protect themselves. And I cannot imagine that anyone would think that citizens cannot use whatever means to defend themselves against oppression. Think Hafez al Assad in Syria and his father, Bashar al Assad, or Joe Arpaio of Arizona for that matter. I am glad Hispanics or Latinos have the Second Amendment as their last resort.
On the other hand, the violence wrought by handguns and the possession of larger weapons really is a wholly different matter. But how do you control the possession of arms so that someone like the shooter in Denver today would not have been able to do the damage he did this morning?
The fact is that no one can control the flow and ownership of guns in the United States today. For other countries that have long enforced strict anti-gun legislation and ownership, the cat is still in the bag – but no so here. Guns have so permeated every level of society that weapons are an institutional characteristic of life. More than 200 million firearms in private hands. The two countries that border the United States – Canada and Mexico – are seeing a rise in the gun cancer that could have been stopped in this country after the Al Capone gunfight era, long after the forests had been conquered. But the country did not take those steps then, and nothing can be done about it now. Yes, background checks and perhaps heavier taxes can help to some degree but it hardly can prevent massacres. Certainly, private automatic assault weapons should be banned — as should be the sale of unlimited guns to individuals. But the cat is now a ferocious tiger with easy triggers.
So what to do? New York Michael Bloomberg wants President Obama and Mitt Romney to address the problem. This is one problem that might not have a full answer. This reality hardly helps the families of today’s victims, including those, ironically, of the military. And it will not help the victims of future rampages.
If I could round up every gun in the country and melt them and build 1,000 drones to fight terrorists abroad, I would be sorely tempted. My father might have overreacted during the Cuban crisis but the larger point is that he would have used his rifle if it had been necessary. Over time, more common-sensical people might inhabit the earth. My father never taught me to shoot his rifle. It ended up with my brother, who rarely uses it.
It is ironic that a student in neuroscience, if that is what he was, is the alleged shooter. More important than trying to control guns long after they have flooded and overwhelmed society, it might be more effective to figure out what synapses fired in his brain that caused him to fire into an unsuspecting, defenseless crowd of moviegoers.
They were not my father’s synapses.