I have a confession to make.
Once upon a time, I was a gun nut. I wasn't planning for the coming apocalypse or anything like that, but I owned a lot of weapons and ammunition for a guy living in a comfy house in central Houston. People could've easily mistaken me for a character from an episode of "Doomsday Preppers," except I didn't own a bunker. Yet.
I could field strip Glocks, 1911s, Kalashnikov style rifles, and AR15s almost with my eyes closed, and went shooting at various Houston area ranges weekly. I'd grown up around guns, and felt comfortable with them. I considered them a normal part of my life.
Then at some point I just lost interest in having a bedroom that looked like an armory, and I started to question why I owned so many weapons. Mind you, this change in attitude was not something that happened overnight, but eventually I started liquidating my large collection of firearms.
Before anyone assumes that I magically turned into some anti-gun hippie crusader, that didn't happen either. I still own a few. But I began to look at attitudes towards firearms in a different way, and a lot of what I saw began to bother me. I began to look at gun culture in America, and my opinions on topics like gun control began to slowly change. These are complex issues, but here are a few reasons that I changed my attitude about firearms.
3. Americans Have Weird Attitudes About Freedom When It Comes To Guns.
The right to bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution, as any gun owner will remind you when a debate about gun control comes up. That's true, and at least in the near future, it's unlikely that the Second Amendment is going to be tossed in the waste bin. A lot of Americans look at their right to gun ownership as a basic freedom, and resist any suggestion that it could be limited in any way. To some of them, the right to bear arms is the only measure of freedom that matters. For one reason or another they seem to believe that without the right to own as many guns as they wish, with few limits on them, they wouldn't really be free.
That's an interesting attitude, because Americans aren't completely free in many ways, and most gun owners don't seem to worry about the many laws and social customs that place limits on other aspects of their lives. I'm not free to walk down the city street completely naked (have no fear folks, that's not something I want to do), yet there are open carry advocates walking around stores with AR15s on their backs.
People willingly submit to rules and limits on their personal freedom in countless ways; it's the price of living in a civilized society without being a huge nuisance to other people. One day I realized that nudity is controlled more tightly than ownership of deadly weapons, and that seemed absurd to me. The right to own guns is a freedom, but it's not the freedom. Not to everyone anyway. That leads me to conclude...
2. Many Gun Owners Believe That They're Powerless Without Their Guns.
Paranoia. That's a word that sums this attitude up, and the deeper into gun culture I got, the deeper that paranoia seemed. I recall going to a gun show years back and visiting a table just in time to overhear the guy behind it complaining about liberals in "Jew York" not allowing handguns in the city, and how we were all going to be disarmed and herded into interment camps soon.
Attitudes like that (or similar ones) are disturbingly common among a small but vocal percentage of gun owners. They seem to believe that the reason a lot of people are in favor of gun control measures is because they don't value freedom and are "Sheeple," somehow rejecting the fact that more and more mass shootings and gun crimes seem to be happening and worry the rest of us.
Some of the hardcore gun owners I met were convinced that America is heading towards an Orwellian future where no one is free and the government controls every aspect of our lives. To many of them, the only thing standing in our evil government's way is their personal stockpile of AR15s. They seem to ignore the fact that if the government went to such an authoritarian extreme, it would have the resources to effectively vaporize any suburban "patriots" who decided to raise an armed resistance against it.
Thinking the government is out to get them is a very simple and fairly stupid way of looking at things, and not something the majority of responsible gun owners buy into, but once I found myself encountering a bunch of those characters, I decided I didn't want to be part of that culture anymore.
1. Guns Are Deeply Entrenched Symbols, And It's Unhealthy.
America has many myths, and guns are important to a lot of them.
We tend to lionize the rowdier aspects of our frontier past, with imagery of gun slinging cowboys dispensing justice from the end of a Colt 45. Movies and video games portray guns as a way to destroy evil doers or eliminate a threat a heck of a lot more often than they realistically portray the type of gun violence that makes headlines in this country nearly daily. I grew up being bombarded by heroic depictions of gun play, and although I knew the difference between reality and fiction, I look at that kind of stuff now and wonder why we're still more concerned with nudity in movies than we are gun violence. That's a really weird and unhealthy way to view the world, in my opinion.
Too often guns are shown to be totems of power, the only way to deal with a conflict, and as a symbol of masculinity. It's stupid. I personally began to feel less powerful whenever I carried a gun. Living in fear while going about my business just made me feel weak and paranoid.
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I would never champion censorship, but it's time more people take responsibility for the violent films and games they allow kids exposure to, because the only way anything will ever progress is through a change in societal attitudes. Shaking one's head in disgust at the latest mass shooting before going to buy the hottest new first person shooter ignores the fact that we all are part of this.
Just last week a TV journalist and cameraman were gunned down on film by another creep who decided to use a gun to vent his frustrations at the world. Just a couple of months ago a racist monster turned his gun on the parishioners of a historic African American church. There have been numerous mass shootings in schools and movie theaters across the country in recent years. Guns aren't going anywhere soon, that is certain. Obama isn't going to take them all (like a lot of paranoid gun nuts predicted), and the Second Amendment isn't going to be negated. A widespread gun ban isn't likely to happen either, so some folks can relax on their plan to finish that bunker they're building.
Most of us don't live in the Wild West anymore, and prefer civilized life, so maybe it's time to look at the reality of gun violence in this country and try to do better. I used to have a huge collection of firearms, and I came to feel that there was no reason for me to have them, and that it merely reflected a toxic personal attitude about guns. While I don't advocate a total ban, and think they still have a place in our society, I also don't think that it's healthy to continue the way we've been going.
Rather than fighting over what the Second Amendment really mens, perhaps it's time we should at least look at where we are at now, and try to look at gun violence and our collective preoccupation with deadly weapons, and figure out a better way to do things. Doing nothing isn't helping, and the body count continues to rise daily.